Although it's never a poor idea to get a large antenna as high as possible on a rooftop, that's not always practical nor possible. Quality indoor antennas mount to walls and flat surfaces without the need for a mast, using amplification and smart design to mitigate their comparatively small surface areas. Using a compact digital antenna is a great way to receive quality high-definition television without costly monthly subscription fees.
Indoor antennas come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most appealing to those concerned about living room aesthetics might gravitate toward those antennas that are flat and square or rectangular in shape. Some are thin enough to mount directly to a wall or even stick to a window, ideally one facing broadcast towers. Others resemble the small UHF arrays found on larger rooftop antennas, made more compact and reasonably attractive. These commonly sit atop a TV stand or the television itself. Models such as these are often more directional, requiring more precise aiming to get the most from the greatest number of stations.
Need for Amplification
Because most indoor antennas are small in stature, they often require amplification to pull in the most signal. Not all are amplified, but the ones that are use a separate power supply and require installation reasonably close to an AC outlet. These small amplifiers sit inline between the antenna and the television or tuner, applying a certain amount of gain. Although amplifiers neither allow access to out-of-range stations nor replace the need for proper alignment, without them many indoor antennas are severely limited in their capabilities.
Aiming and Orientation
Websites like AntennaWeb (link in Resources) provide detailed steps not only for selecting your antenna, but also for how and where to aim it. After you enter your address and estimated antenna mounting height, the site guides antenna selection via color coding. Matching this color to the color on the retail packaging of the indoor antenna helps get you closer to receiving all the channels you can.
Tips and Tricks
Using an indoor antenna is fraught with built-in reception challenges, so you need to maximize placement. These challenges are presented by brick, stucco, metal structural elements and even large appliances. Placing the antenna as closely as possible to a window is preferable to setting it directly adjacent to a television in most cases. By using a little more coaxial cable, you may be able to install the antenna in the garage rafters, taking advantage of increased height and thinner walls. An additional advantage to garage installation is that it gets this less-than-decorative instrument out of your living room. Remember that fluorescent lighting and tools plugged into AC power -- both often located in garages -- are detrimental to signal. While you adjust your antenna, remember to allow enough time for the antenna and tuner to acquire the signal prior to evaluating whether the position is effective. Try to find the spot where maximum signal is attained without having to constantly move the unit.
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