"Location, location, location." Although you've likely heard this quote from Harold Samuel referring to the three things that matter in property and real estate, it's also an important factor in switching to over-the-air (OTA) television. As you're setting up your equipment, you'll find that where you live — and where you've sited your indoor or outdoor antenna — has a major effect on what channels you'll be able to receive.
In cities, you may be closer to the towers that broadcast OTA signals from the major networks. On the other hand, large buildings and mirrored skyscrapers may make reception a bit challenging. Meanwhile, in rural areas, you may end up being far away from the source of these signals, and you may also experience obstructions, such as mountains or valleys that lie in the way.
In the suburbs, though, you should experience fewer challenges. You may not have too much trouble finding a signal near you — simply point your antenna in the direction of your city. I live in northwest Chicagoland about 10 miles from the city border, which means I simply need to point my antenna to the south and east to get the channels I want.
If you're in a similar situation and looking to reduce your costs with an OTA setup, here are the best antennas for you.
Best TV Antennas For Suburban Areas
The first thing you need when deciding to switch to OTA television for your entertainment needs is an antenna. These are not only affordable, they'll reduce your entertainment costs significantly — without having to deal with the cable and satellite companies. But since location is so important in siting your antenna, you'll also need to make sure your antenna is exactly right for were you live. You may not need as much range as a rural household would, but you'll want something high-quality that can grab the stations you want.
Channel Master FLATenna+: This popular and attractive option includes the FLATenna indoor antenna plus a MicroAmp indoor antenna amplifier. It's designed to increase channel reception and signal quality, with easy installation to boot. Available for about $56 on Amazon, it's well-reviewed by customers who live in the suburbs and who are within 30 miles of their closest towers.
DigiWave Panel UHF Outdoor TV Antenna ANT2088: Although this is listed as a wind-resistant outdoor product, customers have had plenty of luck mounting this compact antenna themselves in their attics. It's compatible with digital tuners, TVs and DVRs, and receives high-definition signals from broadcast towers as far as 70 miles away. It costs $50.95 on Amazon.
Winegard Platinum Series HD7694P Long Range TV Antenna: Get ultra-HD VHF and UHF digital TV signals within a 45-mile range — and some up to 65 miles away — with this high-performance outdoor antenna, which comes with an app that uses augmented reality to show you where nearby towers and obstructions are. It's available for $165.35 on Amazon.
Antennas Direct Clearstream 2V TV Antenna: If you live under 60 miles away from your closest broadcast towers, this might be the antenna option for you. It features multidirectional elements that allow you to get UHF and VHF reception even if your location isn't idea. You'll get the antenna, a 20-inch mount and hardware, plus instructions, for $81.02 on Amazon right now.
Common Antenna Problems In The Suburbs
The nice thing about living in the 'burbs is that, with your proximity to a major market, you're likely to know pretty much what direction you need to point your antenna without much help. However, that doesn't mean your reception will always be perfect.
Big cities and their adjoining areas include plenty of obstructions, from tall skyscrapers and power lines to cell towers. Tall trees can also cause signal loss. If you live in an area that gets large amounts of fog, heavy rain or snow, weather can affect your reception because the broadcast signal will reflect or scatter off drops of moisture. High-pressure conditions may also lead to service interruptions.
And while geography and the associated climate of your region counts, other factors may play into your antenna problems. The appliances and LED lightbulbs in your home can also cause interference. So can the very construction materials that make up your home.
Yes, it can be frustrating trying to understand what you need to do to get better reception, but here are some general ideas that may help.
Get Better Reception
If you're concerned that you're not getting all the channels you should, or not getting good-quality signals, the first thing you should look at is the location of your antenna. Placing your antenna may require some trial and error, but in general you want to get it as high on your house as possible, facing the direction where the signal from the broadcast tower is coming from. If you're dealing with an indoor antenna, a second-story or attic location — preferably near a window — is ideal.
The type of antenna you purchase is another aspect you can easily change, provided you've taken precautions and purchased one with a no-hassle return policy. Some antennas, whether multidirectional or directional, may work better than others. Consumer Reports notes that, in its latest antenna tests, its testers were unable to predict which product would perform well in a given location, so it recommends buying a few and seeing which one works best.
It also helps to rescan your channels occasionally. That's because the weather or other conditions might be different than they were the last time you scanned, allowing you to get more channels than you did previously. Some broadcast networks may have also added subchannels, which you'll be able to access with a new scan.
But if that doesn't help, you can also invest in an amplifier. These are designed to boost TV signals more effectively so you get clearer audio and video. However, amplifiers aren't perfect; they can also pick up noises and distribute them at a higher level as well. So, these work best with signals that are already fairly high-quality, and your mileage may vary.
Working through these TV antenna problems has its rewards, though — you'll be able to watch all the free television you want, on the cheap. For those in the suburbs who have succeeded in ridding themselves of expensive TV entertainment fees, the hassle may be well worth it.
Watching free, over-the-air TV with an antenna is simpler than you may think. In many cases, you can take an antenna out of the box, connect the cable to your TV, run a channel scan and voila! You have dozens of local channels to surf.
The number of channels you can access and how clearly they come in is based on a number of factors, including your distance from the point of broadcast towers, the type of antenna you have and where it’s located in your home.
Not sure what kind of antenna you need? Take our simple quiz to help narrow down the options. You can also find a general list of recommended antennas here.
Pair your antenna with an OTA DVR device to record your favorite shows
Did you know you can use an antenna similarly to how you watch cable? Ditch the costly subscription fees, but keep the cable capabilities (record, pause, rewind and fast forward) with an OTA DVR device. Here are the products we recommend:
Tablo DUAL 128GB Over-the-Air [OTA] DVR: Record up to 80 HD hours and stream up to two free broadcast channels from your HDTV antenna simultaneously.
Tablo QUAD 1TB Over-the-Air [OTA] DVR: Record up to 700 hours and stream up to four free broadcast channels from their over-the-air HDTV antenna simultaneously.
By Helen Lee