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, have you cut the cable TV cord yet?
This, of course, is when you get rid of pricey cable and satellite subscriptions and turn to streaming services for entertainment.
Cord-cutters usually rely on streaming services like Netflix or Hulu and cheaper TV streaming packages from Sling TV, PlayStation Vue or YouTube TV.
If you choose to join the cord-cutting trend and become a cable cutter yourself, you'll have to add an over-the-air TV antenna, also called an HDTV antenna, to your setup.
An HDTV antenna will allow you to pick up local channels, and several others, that will let you watch live TV for free. You might be surprised by how many free channels you can pick up with an HDTV antenna. You won't believe how much free programming you can actually watch for free without a cable or even an internet connection.
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. FOR FREE!
When you hear the word antenna, you might think of old-school rabbit ears that struggled to give you fuzzy reception. Those days are long gone! All TV broadcasts are now in digital, always delivering a crystal clear picture if you're in range.
But getting all the available channels in your area can be tricky. If the TV broadcast towers are miles away from your home, having your antenna in the right position is crucial for maximizing your reception.
Don't worry, we're here to help. Here are useful tips to get the best possible reception with your indoor TV antenna.
1. Check for the available channels in your area
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 strength with a tool like AntennaWeb from antenna.org.
Just enter your ZIP code and our tool will show you all the networks and their channels, their distance, band, heading (direction) and signal strength relative to that ZIP code.
Keep in mind that your home's 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. On the flipside, if you live in an elevated area, you might get strong signals even from a distance.
2. Pick the right antenna based on your geography and channel availability
Once you get a good idea of channel availability based on your location and geography, it's time to decide what type of antenna you'll pick. There is a wide variety of HDTV antennas available out there and you want to make sure you pick one that's right for your needs.
First, 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, then consider getting an omnidirectional or multidirectional antenna. These types of antennas don't favor any particular direction but they do give up reception strength in exchange for their farther reach.
If your desired channels are all coming from one direction, then a directional antenna is the better choice. These antennas have generally better reception and range than comparable omnidirectional antennas.
Next, check your favorite channels' bands (UHF or VHF) and make sure that you're picking an antenna that's capable of both. Note: Most HD antennas available now are better at picking up the higher UHF channels than VHF channels (1-13).
Additionally, based on the broadcast tower distances from your home, consider getting an amplified antenna to improve your reception. If the broadcast towers are located 50 miles or more away from your home, then amplified antennas can help your TV receive more of these distant channels reliably.
Note: Amplified antennas also help if you're splitting the signal to several TVs or running a long cable from the antenna to your TV.
In most cases though, an unamplified antenna should be good enough in most major areas.
3. Install and position it for the best reception
Once your chosen antenna arrives, the fun starts. It takes only two simple steps. Anyone can do it. And if you need help, you can call us here in Phoenix and our reps will help you out!
Remember the rabbit ear twiddling we did back in the day to get the best possible picture minus the fuzz and the snow?
Well, with digital broadcasts, it's all or nothing, you either get a perfect picture or a blank screen. (Well if you have a weak signal, you'll get an unwatchable, choppy, pixelated mess.)
Installation is easy
Just screw the coax cable into the back of your TV like a normal antenna, and hook up the power (if the antenna is amplified). The setup shouldn't take more than five minutes and then you can sit down to watch your favorite channels and shows.
Scan for channels
After plugging it in, have your TV scan for the available channels. It varies by manufacturer but do this by going to the TV's Settings menu then look for an option called "Tuner," "Auto-Program" or "Auto Scan."
Place it in an elevated position
It'll take a bit of trial and error to get the most out of your antenna's reception but try putting it at an elevated location. The higher your antenna is and the fewer the obstructions (including buildings, thick walls, and mountains), the better your reception will be.
If you live in an area with good enough 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, a fireplace, or stick it high on a wall to lock in a better signal.
Position it near a window
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 door or window screens. Try putting your antenna at least 6 feet away from metal.
Still struggling with your antenna's reception due to distance? Then you may need an outdoor multidirectional antenna instead. These types of antennas work best when installed way up on a pole outside your home for best results.
4. Our picks for the best HDTV Antennas you can get right now
Antennas have come quite a long way since the metal bunny ears we used to attach to our television sets. There are several sleek, discreet designs that fit different needs. Here are some of the best indoor models from Amazon.com.
ClearStream Eclipse Indoor HDTV Antenna
With a customer rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars and based on over 2,000 reviews, these ClearStream antennas are arguably the best indoor antennas around. They grip to your wall or window for an easy install and they have different ranges. Due to their clever design, these antennas can receive signals from every direction. Not only are they reversible (black or white), you can also paint them to match your home's decor.
Winegard makes several antenna models for indoor or outdoor use. The two models pictured above are sleek, reversible designs that will fit discreetly behind your TV or against your window.
The more affordable option is the FlatWave FL-5000 Digital Indoor HDTV Antenna. It looks very similar but the range is up to 35 miles. It has a 15-foot connection cable and provides an HD picture quality.
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 don't live in an area with good reception then the Mohu Curve 50 TV Antenna is the right Mohu model for you. It's not reversible but it does have a whopping 50-mile range. It can lay down or stand upright near your TV or you can mount it to the wall. The connection cable is 16-feet long and it provides a 1080 HD picture.
If you want a device that's easy to hide then you'll want to purchase the Mohu Leaf Metro TV Antenna (bottom right corner of the photo above). It's the smallest, most discreet device they sell so it will fit in tight spaces. It has a 25-mile range and comes with a 10-foot connection cord. It's also multi-directional and reversible.
5. Electric equipment nearby could be interfering with your TV reception
Lastly, test it! Unplug all computers, DVD players, stereo equipment, etc. Even fluorescent lights can cause problems. Unplug all of your TV connections except for power and the antenna and then re-test. If you see a better signal, 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.
Learn how to save money by ending your cable subscription and going direct to HDTV.
Our Cut the Cord guide provides the information you need to make an informed decision regarding cable alternatives that best suit your interests and lifestyle, as well as the hardware needed to make the switch. This guide provides you with the pros and cons for the major online video services, as well highlighting the positive and negative attributes of the all the popular hardware, such as Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, SkyStream and more.