While there has been a trend in recent years of cord-cutters parting ways with their cable companies, these same folks tend to have a slew of streaming services that they subscribe to every month. While each service costs pennies on the dollar compared to a full-fledged cable bill, two or three subscriptions can add up.
Instead of subscribing to streaming services, you could be pulling in free TV channels from the airwaves around your home. The best outdoor TV antennas require only a small investment of time and money, so, in little time, you could be saving money on cable and subscription services, while watching your favorite channels in HD quality.
While you may be skeptical, outdoor TV antennas really do work and are a great alternative for your entertainment needs. They can pull in a range of channels, including local, national, and public broadcasting. They’re also relatively easy to install, either by enlisting the help of a handyman or doing it yourself—provided you don’t have a fear of heights.
- BEST OVERALL: Channel Master EXTREMEtenna CM-4228HD
- BEST VALUE: PBD Outdoor Digital Amplified Yagi HDTV Antenna
- UPGRADE PICK: Channel Master Digital Advantage Antenna CM-2020
- BEST COMPACT: Antennas Direct Clearstream 4V TV Antenna C4-V-CJM
- BEST LONG-RANGE: Five Star Outdoor Digital Amplified HDTV Antenna
- BEST MOTORIZED: PBD Digital Outdoor TV Antenna
- BEST FOR ATTIC INSTALLATIONS: GE Pro Outdoor TV Antenna, 29884
- BEST APP SUPPORT: RCA Outdoor Yagi HD Antenna, 4K 1080P
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Outdoor TV Antenna
Before you start shopping for the best outdoor TV antenna for your home, there are several considerations to keep in mind to ensure that you choose the most suitable model for your situation.
Location and Building Structure
Both your home’s location and construction can have a lot to do with choosing the right outdoor TV antenna. For instance, if you live in a city, you’ll have different factors to contend with than if you live in a remote valley, far from a broadcast tower.
If you live in a city, you might not have to worry much about your antenna’s reception. What might be a factor, though, is your HOA or historical society’s rules on outdoor antennas. Many of these organizations don’t want your antenna to be visible, so you’d be better off choosing a model that you can mount inside your attic.
If you’re on a large parcel of land in a remote valley, you’ll have to worry less about your antenna’s appearance and more about reception. If this is the case, you may need to use a tall antenna pole to lift the satellite as high above your home as possible. The higher it is, the better your chances of having strong reception.
Antenna Size and Height
When shopping for the best outdoor TV antenna, understand that size and height can be important factors in how well the device will work. The signal waves that antennas pick up can be blocked by large obstructions like tall buildings, mountains, and even large depressions in the ground. If you’re receiving poor reception, it might be due to a blockage between you and the broadcast tower.
In this case, you can purchase an antenna that is larger in size or increase the height of your antenna. A taller antenna is more likely to pick up a quality signal and improve your reception. This is especially true in a valley. However, larger antennas can pick up weaker signals, so they also have their benefits.
If a standard cable isn’t available in your area, signal range is, by far, the most important factor when choosing the best outdoor TV antenna for your needs. For those located a short distance from a broadcast tower, an antenna with a 70-mile range is more than sufficient. If you’re nowhere near the closest broadcast tower, a short-range antenna could be useless. Instead, look into an antenna with a 150- to 200-mile range for optimal broadcast quality.
Keep in mind that while you can purchase a signal amplifier as well, they don’t improve your antenna’s reception. They simply make up for the quality and signal loss that occurs between the antenna and the TV. With that said, signal loss could be the actual problem—not the reception the antenna is receiving—so note signal amplifiers as a potential solution.
Controversy swirls around whether HD capability actually matters much to the quality of your TV programming. Regardless, most of the outdoor TV antenna manufacturers claim their products offer HD capability. For this reason, it might be worth considering, if only as an indication of capability.
In today’s TV broadcasting, antennas receive a digital signal, which means you either have a channel or you don’t. If you have poor reception, you won’t see a fuzzy picture; instead, your screen will display a “no signal” message. So, if your antenna has HD capability, your TV picture should be crystal clear, or HD-like quality, in most cases.
If you’re not interested in dialing in the perfect reception but would rather purchase a set-and-forget style antenna, an outdoor TV antenna that is omnidirectional may be the best choice for you. These antennas don’t need you to point them directly at a broadcast tower for the best possible reception. They’re round, like a disc, and have antenna elements throughout the disc to draw reception from any direction.
Beware that many omnidirectional antennas have shorter ranges than directional antennas. This style might be an option only if you’re relatively close (less than 100 miles) to a broadcast tower.
While it’s possible to connect more than one TV to your outdoor TV antenna, there are several factors to consider. It usually works well to use a splitter to divert your antenna’s signal to connect to two TVs; however, it can be difficult to divert the signal to more than two TVs if your antenna doesn’t support dual connectivity.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase a coaxial splitter, if one is not included with the antenna you purchase, to take advantage of dual connectivity. Despite the word “dual,” it is typically possible to split the signal among three or more separate TVs using a coaxial splitter.
If you’re experiencing issues with your outdoor TV antenna’s reception but you’re within range and pointed directly at a broadcast tower, it could be an issue with cabling.
A TV signal travels from the source to the TV through a coaxial cable, and not all coaxial cable is of high quality. Coaxial cable is available in various grades, with RG-6 being sufficient for standard TV reception and RG-11 being the best for an HD signal. Regardless of whether you subscribe to the HD signal mindset, using HD-ready coaxial cable will provide the best pathway for your antenna’s signal to travel to the TV.
It’s worth noting that you can add a signal amplifier as well in this scenario. While you might think an amplifier is increasing your antenna’s reception, it’s actually just improving the quality of the signal from the antenna.
Ease of Installation
There’s a reason why antenna installers are paid well: It’s not always easy work. If you’re particularly handy, there are outdoor TV antennas that are likely to be well within your capability to install and set up. Most kits provide the necessary hardware to bolt your antenna to a pole, though few come with the actual pole.
Choosing an antenna that can be installed by yourself can save quite a bit of money, even if the pole must be purchased separately. Consider first installing antenna brackets on your home or roof and then installing the antenna and pole as a unit, rather than trying to secure an antenna to the end of a long pole while you are 30 feet in the air. Safety and convenience are both worth planning for.
Our Top Picks
The best outdoor TV antennas are available in a range of sizes and capabilities. Some have incredibly long ranges, which are great for residents of remote areas. Others are compact and less obtrusive to the eye. Whatever your needs, consult this list of top picks that reflect some of the best outdoor TV antenna models on the market.
Channel Master has been around since the beginnings of TV antenna technology. The EXTREMEtenna CM-4228HD outdoor TV antenna is a product of all those years of research and innovation. This HD satellite has a 180-degree field of view and can pick up channels within 80 miles of a broadcast tower—including UHF, VHF, FM, and HD signal—so homeowners cutting the cord for the first time don’t have to sacrifice their favorite channels.
If you’re installing this antenna, additional parts are required. This kit doesn’t include the pole (more appropriately referred to as the mast) or the brackets required to mount it on the side of a home.
If you want to try over-the-air television without a large investment, check into the PBD Outdoor Digital Amplified Yagi HDTV Antenna. When calibrated toward a broadcast tower, this outdoor TV antenna has a 120-mile range, which is ideal for residents of remote locations. The antenna picks up VHF, UHF, and HD broadcasts, with a built-in amplifier that helps to provide the best possible audio and video quality. It ships mostly assembled and ready to install.
This PBD antenna includes the brackets required to secure it to a pole, though you’ll have to supply the pole yourself. It’s also worth noting that the higher you can mount the antenna, the more channels you’ll receive. While this is true for all antennas, lower-end antennas, in particular, need to be installed as high as possible for the best reception.
When a manufacturer provides a range claim for an antenna, sometimes it oversells the product’s capabilities. However, that’s not the case with the Channel Master Digital Advantage. This 100-mile range antenna picks up UHF, VHF, and HD channels provided it’s lined up properly with a broadcast tower. The large size (almost 8 feet long) and quality components ensure that this antenna provides a clear broadcast to your TV.
While most antennas do not come with a pole, this antenna also doesn’t include a coaxial cable. You’ll need to purchase a cable to complete the installation process.
When it comes to providing the most capability in a small package, the Antennas Direct Clearstream 4V Antenna delivers. This compact outdoor TV antenna measures less than 30-inches wide and about 20-inches tall, and the kit includes the mounting pole and brackets for easy installation. The Clearstream 4V has a 70-mile range and picks up both UHF and VHF frequencies. This antenna will also pick up HD 1080i channels where they are readily available, without an extra amplifier.
This model includes the parts needed to mount it to your home, but a coaxial cable to wire into your home’s TV system must be purchased separately.
Five Star’s outdoor digital amplified HDTV antenna is equipped with the wiring and hardware to hook up to five TVs—a nice feature for larger homes. This antenna even includes a J-pole for mounting it to your roof. It provides a 200-mile range when installed with a relatively clear line-of-sight to the broadcast tower and picks up UHF, VHF, and HD frequencies where available. It also has a built-in 360-degree motor to help find the best signal direction.
Since this kit is so comprehensive, it does come with quite a few parts and hardware. It requires a bit of assembly, so if you’re looking for a kit that’s ready to go out of the box, another option may be more suitable.
You might not want to fiddle with tiny nuts and bolts when assembling an antenna. This PBD Digital Outdoor TV Antenna features easy-to-assemble parts that snap onto the antenna body for a relatively quick set up. It also offers a 360-degree motor, making reception adjustments at the touch of a button possible, either on the control box or with the paired remote controller. The antenna provides a 150-mile range and includes both a J-pole for easy mounting and a coaxial cable.
One issue of concern is that the remote controller for the motor could potentially use the same frequencies as your television remote. If that’s the case, you’ll have to find a way to block the controller’s remote sensor.
This antenna from GE is powerful enough to install in your attic, keeping it out of the sight of guests, visitors, and passersby. The GE Pro is a great option for heritage homes that have historical societies overseeing any modifications. The antenna offers a 70-mile range and includes the necessary parts to install in your attic or on your roof, if you so choose. It picks up HD broadcasts, working with both UHF and VHF frequencies.
While the kit includes the parts required to install this antenna in your attic, you’ll need to purchase extra gear for hooking it up to several TVs, including an amplifier/splitter combination and coaxial cables.
One of the most challenging aspects of cord-cutting is the proper alignment of your antenna. RCA’s outdoor TV antenna uses a free smartphone app, the RCA Signal Finder, to help locate the best signal for your area. The kit includes the mounting brackets, power transformer, and snap-lock elements for easy installation. This antenna also has a relatively small footprint, so attic installations are not out of the question.
While this RCA antenna includes almost everything you need to get started, it doesn’t come with a coaxial cable. You’ll have to purchase your own to connect this reliable antenna with your TV set.
Tips for Using an Outdoor TV Antenna
You can make sure that an outdoor TV antenna improves reception and quality of broadcasts by following a few tips.
If reception is an issue, try using a longer pole to lift your antenna higher above your home. The higher you can install your antenna, the more likely you are to pick up better reception. It’s sometimes easier and safer to bring the entire unit to the ground in one piece, swap the antenna onto a longer pole, and then reinstall it as one piece.
If your TV has a signal gauge, you can use it to determine the location of the best quality signal in your area. As you reposition the antenna, the signal gauge on the TV will adjust accordingly when you point it in the direction of the strongest signal.
You can also use a broadcast tower transmitter map to determine the location of the closest towers in your area and, thus, the direction in which to point your antenna. Keep in mind that the closest tower may not be the best tower if it is blocked by mountains or other obstructions.
- Try using a longer pole if reception is an issue.
- Use your TV’s signal gauge to reposition your antenna with best results.
- Use a transmitter map to determine the location of your local towers.
FAQs About Your New Best Outdoor TV Antenna
If you’re still unsure about how your antenna works or how to locate the best reception, consult these commonly asked questions and answers about outdoor TV antennas.
Q. How does an outdoor TV antenna work?
TV broadcast towers transmit VHF and UHF signals through the airwaves. Your outdoor TV antenna intercepts those signals and sends them to your TV. Your TV translates those signals into the audio and video you see on your screen.
Q. Can I put an indoor TV antenna outside?
Indoor TV antennas may work outside, but they’re rarely water- and weather-resistant enough to sustain outdoor conditions. It’s best to use an outdoor-rated model as it will be more robust and more powerfully transmit the signal back to your TV.
Q. How do I get the best outdoor antenna reception?
To locate the best reception, you need to point your antenna at the strongest transmitter in your area. You may also need to raise the antenna higher in order to capture the strongest signals if you live in a valley or a depression.
Q. Does aluminum foil boost antenna signal?
Technically, yes. Aluminum foil on your antenna increases the conductive surface area, allowing your antenna to capture more signal. With that said, it’s unlikely that wrapping your antenna with aluminum foil will work past the first strong windstorm.
Q. Can I install an outdoor TV antenna myself?
You can definitely install it yourself as long as you’re comfortable with heights. Installing an antenna will require either climbing a ladder or climbing onto your roof in most cases, unless you live on a mountain or hilltop facing the broadcast transmitter tower.