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Find HDTV broadcasts in your area and the required TV antenna type

Update: While the method elaborated below is still perfectly valid, we suggest using a new and much more powerful tool we have launched recently. TV Antenna GeoSelector will show you the TV stations available in your area and will also make an automatic antenna suggestion based on the analysis done for your location. It will also display the TV reception reports filed by other living in your area. Wanna know what antenna works best for others in your city? Check it out!.

Naturally, the TV antenna type you need depends on the distance from the broadcasting towers and on the environment the antenna will be installed in. In close proximity to the towers you can get away with an indoor tv antenna. If you want to pick up signals from more distant tv stations an outdoor tv antenna is required. The larger the distance is, the more powerful antenna is needed. In general, more powerful antenna means bigger size and/or higher directivity (or antenna gain). Omni- or multi-directional antennas can be used at small to medium distances from the towers provided that there are no big reflective "ghost" producing structures near your location. In remote areas, even big multi-directional antennas can not provide adequate performance. In those areas, directional tv antennas should be used. If big reflective structures (tall buildings, mountains in rural area, etc.) are present in your area, using directional tv antenna is a good idea due to its ability to suppress "ghosts", no matter what the distance is. Last, if you are very far from the broadcasting towers and the signal is really weak, you may have no choice but to complement your outdoor tv antenna with a pre-amplifier.

So, the question you should ask yourself is what broadcasts are available in your area and what are reception conditions with respect to each one of the broadcasts you are interested in. We are going to answer that question shortly. But first, we need a terminology to qualitatively describe the reception conditions of a particular broadcast in your area. Reception conditions are specified by a color code. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) defined seven color zones - Yellow, Green, Light Green, Red, Blue, Violet and Pink. Yellow zone is the one where reception quality is the best, pink zone is the toughest. Each color zone has an associated tv antenna type that the CEA recommends to use in this zone. CEA classification applies to outdoor tv antennas only.

What we are going to do now is to check what OTA broadcasts you can expect to pull in your location and what is your zone color with respect to the available broadcasts. AntennaWeb is a wonderful resource to do that. Just go to AntennaWeb, enter your ZIP code, address (not necessary) and submit the form. Here is an example of what I have got searching for the zip code 78703, Austin, TX.

tv antennas austin

Put attention to the following data (in red circles):

So what antenna would you choose in 78703, Austin, TX? Life is easy there. Many broadcasts are yellow, others are green or light green. Small omni(multi) directional antenna is what I would choose. If I didn't want union network (UNI) in light green area, I would even go for an amplified indoor antenna.

Well, that was a piece of cake... Let's see a more difficult case. Suppose you are in Collinwood, Tennessee. That's what you've got

tv antennas tennessee

With anything less than a large directional tv antenna all you can hope for is UPN. One network only. With a large directional antenna you can pick up signals in the blue area. Cool. You may watch ABC, NBC, CBS, IND and PBS. But there is a problem. We see in the compass orientation column that ABC, NBC and CBS towers are located in a different direction from your locatoin than IND and PBS towers. Bad news. You can't aim your directional tv antenna at both sites at the same time. You need two directional antennas if you want to watch all broadcasts.

Few additional tips:

  1. It is a good idea to upgrade AntennaWeb recommendation by one level up. Antenna performance is hard to predict, there are may be specific reception difficulties with your location that AntennaWeb doesn't take into account. If AntennaWeb suggests small tv antenna go for a medium size, if it suggests medium directional antenna go for a large directional one. Price differences are usually very small and it is better to be on a safe side.
  2. Color area coding apply to outdoor tv antennas only. And the recommendation you get from AntennaWeb is always for an outdoor antenna. However, if you are located in a yellow or green area, there is a good chance an indoor tv antenna, or better, an amplified indoor tv antenna will work well for you. Give it a try if you have one.

Once you know the broadcasts, the color zones and have an idea which type of tv antenna you need, you can proceed to HDTv Antenna Labs search and compare prices engine in order to find a suitable antenna model, read product reviews and find the best deal on the net. However, if you have a bit patience you may find it is useful to follow our guide step-by-step.

Go to Step 3: When indoor TV antenna rocks (or sucks...) --->