How to Improve Your HDTV Antenna Reception

By Craig Lloyd on April 20th, 2017

If you’re lucky, you can place your TV antenna wherever you want and get crystal-clear HD channels over the air for free. However, most of the time you need to go through a little trial and error to get everything working properly.

There are a lot of factors that affect a TV antenna’s signal, so if it looks like your TV is constantly glitching and lagging, you’ll likely need to make a few adjustments.

Use the Right Antenna

First, you want to make sure that you have the right antenna for the job, and you’ll want to make sure that it has enough range to reach the TV signals in the first place.

For instance, if your antenna has a 25-mile range, but the broadcast signals are 30 miles away, the antenna isn’t going to be able to grab any channels no matter what you do. If you’re not sure how far away the broadcast signals are, you can use TV Fool’s signal locator to find out this information. From there, you can see whether or not your antenna is strong enough to reach those signals.

Furthermore, you need to make sure that your antenna can grab the right frequencies. Broadcast signals are transmitted over two different frequencies: Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF), so it’s important that the antenna you end up using supports the frequency that most of your channels use. This information can also be found using TV Fool’s signal locator.

You can check out our antenna guide for more info on finding the right antenna, but if your first one doesn’t work, return it and try another. Sometimes it takes a few tries before you find the perfect antenna for your location.

Location, Location, Location

The fewer obstructions, the better, which is why the location of your antenna matters. Ideally, there needs to be a direct line of sight between your antenna and the broadcast towers, but this usually isn’t feasible.

With that said, try to at least stick your antenna in a window or mount it to a wall somewhere around the perimeter of your house. That way, you’ll have the least interference possible from stuff around your house. If you mount your antenna somewhere deep inside your house, there’s a greater chance that walls and household objects will block the path of the signals.

Point It In the Right Direction

If placing your antenna in a random window does the trick, then that’s great. However, if you’re still having problems receiving a clear signal, you might need to also think about actually pointing your antenna in the direction that the broadcast signals are coming from, which you can also find out using TV Fool.

This means that if the broadcast signal towers are located northeast of your location (demonstrated in the graphic above), then you would want to place your antenna in the northeast corner of your house and point the antenna in that direction (if it’s a directional antenna).

Sometimes this alone can make a huge difference, especially if your original location was on the opposite side of the house from where it needs to be.

Mount It As High Up As Possible

If you have an indoor antenna and a two-story house, try to place the antenna on the second floor so that it’s as high up as possible. Again, you want the antenna to have as direct a line of sight with the broadcast signal towers as you can, and this can help accomplish that.

If that still doesn’t work, then you may want to consider getting an outdoor antenna and mounting it either on the roof or a chimney stack. Not only will this get your antenna as high up as possible, but there also won’t be any interference from walls and other household objects.

Consider an Amp or Pre-Amp

If you live out in a rural area where broadcast signals are far away, you might consider getting an antenna that comes with an amplifier (like this one), which boosts the antenna’s strength in order to reach out even farther and grab signals that are a long way away.

Keep in mind, though, that if broadcast signals are close by, using an amplifier won’t necessarily make the signal stronger, but instead can overpower the signal and make it worse. So be sure that you only use an amplifier if you absolutely need to.

As for a pre-amplifier (like this one), these are used when the coaxial cable between the antenna and the TV is too long—the signal degrades the longer the cable is. A pre-amplifier gives the signal a little boost before it travels through the coaxial cable so that the quality is still good by the time it reaches your television. These are great to use if the cable is anywhere over 50 feet or so, and most outdoor antennas will have them built in.

Images from Daniel Oines/Flickr, ajmexico/Flickr

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.

  • Published 04/20/17
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