You don't need a subscription television service when you can receive crisp, clear high-definition images broadcast free over the airwaves and enjoy them on your HDTV. Although it's not difficult to get these channels with a large rooftop antenna, if you live in an apartment or condominium you might need to resort to an indoor model. These antennas face specific challenges from being indoors, so proper selection and installation are paramount in receiving the signals you expect.
Broadcast Tower Locations
You need to determine your physical address relative to local broadcast towers. Resources like Antennaweb.org, representing the National Associations of Broadcasters and Consumer Electronics allow you to plot your address on a virtual map. This data translates into a color code that you use to match to the packaging on antennas in stores. For example, yellow indicates the need for a small omnidirectional antenna, perfect for indoor use. Red and blue inform you of the need for a medium directional antenna, requiring more precision in aiming the array. Following these codes makes it easy to narrow down choices based on size and appearance without having to worry about whether the array will function as expected.
Brick, drywall and plaster can all reduce signal strength. Whenever possible, indoor antennas should be placed next to a window or sliding glass door, preferably on the side of the structure facing broadcast antennas. If you purchase a weather-resistant design, you can place it on a deck or patio to reduce interference, stabilizing it by attaching it to a pole in a concrete-filled bucket, if you can't attach anything to the building. If you aren't getting all the channels you should be as indicated by AntennaWeb or another reputable source like TV Fool, look into amplifying the feed. Blocky or broken-up images also indicate a problem.
Amplifiers and Preamplifiers
Preamplifiers are used to counter long coaxial cable runs leading from the antenna to the television. Also useful in fringe areas, preamps should not be used if the antenna is close to the tuner, which may overload the signal and hardware. Amplifiers are often packaged with small indoor antennas, used to compensate for the relatively small surface area of the antenna. Amplifiers also help in situations where the signal is split multiple times, since each split results in a 3-decibel reduction in strength.
Directional or Omnidirectional
Directional antennas are perfect in those cases when broadcast antennas are clustered tightly together in relation to your home or business. Omnidirectional units grab stations in a wider swath, but are usually less powerful. Directional antennas are recommended whenever possible due to their resistance to multipath, caused from large trees or buildings reflecting the signal. You'll know this is happening because the image appears to break apart and stutter. However, it's wise to conform to the color coding provided by the Consumer Electronics Association, as their extensive research has already designated the right antenna type for you.
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