Cable TV prices have skyrocketed over the years, with many people feeling forced to pay outrageous prices to get live programming and specialty channels. But times have changed dramatically and now many are asking how to cut the cable TV cord.
This is when you get rid of pricey cable and satellite subscriptions, and instead turn to streaming services for entertainment. Not sure which service is the best fit for your viewing preference? Tap or click here for our popular streaming site comparisons.
Cord-cutters usually rely on more affordable streaming services and packages, so when you cut off cable, you cut off basic channels, too. Thankfully, if you still want those channels, you can just invest in an HDTV antenna. No, the latest antennas don’t have rabbit ears. Here’s what to look for.
What’s an HDTV antenna?
An HDTV antenna allows you to pick up local channels, and several others, for free live TV. You might be surprised by how many free channels you can pick up with these antennas, so it’s definitely worth the initial investment.
With an HDTV antenna, you can pick up over-the-air (OTA) broadcast channels such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW, PBS, ION and many others. Many of the most popular television shows, along with sporting events and local news, are broadcast on OTA television in High Definition.
Nowadays, all TV broadcasts are in digital format, meaning you always receive crystal-clear pictures — if you’re within range. Getting all the available channels in your area can be tricky.
If the TV broadcast towers are miles away from your home, you’ll need a few tips and tricks to maximize your reception. But first, learn what’s available in your area.
1. Check for available channels
Before you shop for a TV antenna, make sure you first survey your home’s location for all the available channels and their corresponding signal strengths with a tool like AntennaWeb. Tap or click here to see how it works.
Just enter your ZIP code and AntennaWeb will show you all the networks and their channels, their distances, bands, headings (directions) and signal strengths relative to your home.
Keep in mind the surrounding landscape plays a big part in your antenna selection and channel availability. If you live in an area surrounded by hills, mountains or even buildings, your reception may be poorer than what these tools indicate. But if you live in an elevated area, you could get strong signals, even from a distance.
2. Pick the right antenna
Once you get a good idea of channel availability based on your location and geography, it’s time to decide what type of antenna is right for your home. But how do you know which one is best?
All antennas have distance ratings, so make sure you get one that covers your home’s distance from the broadcast towers. Typically, the shorter the range, the cheaper an antenna will be, so weigh your options carefully.
If there are multiple channels coming from different directions, consider getting an omnidirectional or multidirectional antenna. These types of antennas don’t favor any particular direction and they exchange reception strength for a farther reach.
Try the 1byone 720 degree omni-directional reception TV antenna, which has a range of 150 miles.
If your desired channels are all coming from one direction, then a directional antenna is the better choice. These antennas generally offer better reception and range than omnidirectional antennas.
Consider the Amplified HD digital TV antenna and signal booster. It is a long-range antenna that reaches 120 miles and supports 4K 1080p, Fire TVs and Fire Sticks.
Next, check your favorite channels’ bands (UHF or VHF) and make sure you’re picking an antenna that’s capable of both. Most HD antennas available now are better at picking up the higher UHF channels than VHF channels (1-13).
3. Install and position it for the best reception
Once your antenna arrives, the fun begins. The best part? It’s so easy, anyone can do it.
Remember the rabbit ear twiddling we did back in the day to get the best possible picture? Well, with digital broadcasts, it’s all or nothing. Enjoy a perfect picture or blank screen. But if you have a weak signal there is a chance you can get an unwatchable, choppy pixelated mess.
Installation made easy
Just screw the coax cable into the back of your TV like an old fashioned antenna and hook up the power (if the antenna is amplified). The setup shouldn’t take more than a minute or two, then you can sit down to watch your favorite channels and shows.
It’ll take a bit of trial and error to get the most out of your antenna’s reception so try putting it at an elevated location first. The higher your antenna is, and the fewer obstructions (including buildings, thick walls and mountains), the better your reception will be.
If you live in an area with good reception, you can even stick a flat antenna on the back of your TV. If not, try putting your antenna on top of a bookshelf or fireplace, or stick it high on a wall to lock in a better signal.
Putting it beside a window also works wonders. You can also place it near a door or a similar opening to get the best line of sight to the nearest TV towers. Try experimenting with your placement — even a single inch can make a big difference!
For the best possible reception, avoid metal objects like doors or window screens. Try putting your antenna at least 6 feet away from metal.
Still struggling with your antenna’s reception? You might need to install a multidirectional antenna way up on a pole outside your home for better results.
After plugging your antenna in and moving it to a high, interference-free location, have your TV scan for available channels. It varies by manufacturer so you may need to read the user manual. Already threw it out? Tap or click here to access online manuals.
In general, most antennas work when you go to the TV’s Settings menu and look for the option called Tuner, Auto-Program or Auto Scan. If your antenna is in a good spot, it will connect and automatically show channels. If not, you’ll have to keep moving the antenna around.
4. Our picks for the best HDTV Antennas you can get right now
Antennas have come quite a long way since the old day. There are several sleek, discreet designs that fit different needs. Here are some of the best indoor models from Amazon.com.
With a customer rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars, these antennas are arguably the best around. They grip your walls or windows for easy installation and they have different ranges.
Due to their clever designs, these antennas can receive signals from every direction. And not only are they reversible (black or white), but you can also paint them to match your home’s decor.
Winegard makes several antenna models for indoor or outdoor use. This one offers a 50-mile multidirectional range and comes with a mini coax cable and USB power cable with a 110v adapter.
Before he started creating commercial antennas for the public, the founder of Mohu developed antennas for military vehicles. Mohu sells several highly-rated antennas, accessories and bundle packages.
If you want a smaller, simpler antenna that still offers a strong signal, try this paper-thin, reversible and paintable 4K-ready HDTV antenna.
5. Time for a test run
Lastly, test it! Unplug all computers, DVD players, stereo equipment, etc. Even fluorescent lights can cause problems, so unplug all of your TV connections except the power and antenna. Then retest. If you see a better picture, start turning the other equipment on one at a time to see what’s causing the interference.
If there’s a lot of electronic equipment near your TV (Wi-Fi routers can be a big problem), you might want to use a longer cable for your antenna so you can move it further away or even into a different room.
Ready to cut the cord? Tap or click here to check out my eBook on how to get FREE HDTV and cut the cable. It’s time to ditch the dish!
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