How do I Choose the Best Outdoor Antenna?

Mary Elizabeth

Since mobile antennas on vehicles are outdoors by definition and the location of antennas on portable devices is controlled by where the user takes them, the term outdoor antenna almost inevitably refers to an antenna that is permanently set up and fixed in position. In addition, it is most frequently used to indicate the placement of an antenna when there is the possibility of using the device with an indoor antenna, otherwise the location of the antenna would not need to be specified. An outdoor antenna is generally for radio or television reception, networking, or wireless extension, and when you are choosing an outdoor antenna, it is important to look for the an antenna appropriate to the device it will be connected to.

A digital TV signal can usually reach set antennas up to 70 miles away from broadcast towers.
A digital TV signal can usually reach set antennas up to 70 miles away from broadcast towers.

When you plan to purchase an outdoor antenna, you may plan to mount it on the roof of a building, on an exterior wall, through a connection in an attic, on a balcony, or on a freestanding tower. In mounting outdoor antennas, a rule of thumb is for users to seek a line of site to the transmitter, and it’s also generally best to mount the antenna as high as possible. The location is an important consideration, both for figuring out what type of antenna will work best and be safest in the chosen spot and also to make sure that it will be safe and won’t violate any legal restrictions or regulations. Zoning ordinances are able to restrict outside antennas for considerations of appearance, safety, and capability with regional land use. In addition, condominium association covenants and agreements related to historic preservation may also impact where you are allowed to place an outdoor antenna and how big and tall it can be.

An outdoor antenna may be prone to weather damage.
An outdoor antenna may be prone to weather damage.

There are many different types and models of outdoor antennas. For example, an outdoor antenna for television may be a VHF (Very High Frequency) antenna, a UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) antenna, a combined VHF/UFH antenna, or an HDTV antenna, alone, or in combination with the other two types. Some are a flat design that is omnidirectional, while others are directional and may be the type that is called either Uda-Yagi, Yagi-Uda, or simply a Yagi antenna; dipole — the type that looks like rabbit ears; or a dish antenna, which is a parabolic antenna. For radio, an outdoor antenna may be for Satellite Radio reception, for FM radios, AM/FM/HD, or other combinations. Whatever type of antenna you’re seeking, you should consider the various models available.

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Discussion Comments

If you're buying an outdoor television antenna, perhaps the best thing you can do is to talk to someone local who knows what they are doing. A lot of antenna manufacturers use so many marketing buzzwords that one would think they could receive broadcasts from as far away as Europe with their powerful, super duper antennas.

The local guy who deals with antennas and TV reception, however, will know what will work in your area and what will not. Outdoor antennas are expensive, but installing one takes some work and you want to get it right the first time.

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