The Right Antenna Makes All The Difference!
In step two we are going to delve into choosing the proper antenna for not only your home but your mounting situation as well. You’ll find that there are no lack of antennas out there, big ones, small ones, rectangular ones and ones that make you look like you’re still in contact with the home world. Anyway you look at it though this is an important decision and armed with the information you got in step one and helpful customer reviews you’ll be able to make a great choice.
Now because I think we can learn from mistakes of others I’m going to delve into my major mistake when I was choosing an antenna. You see I kind of live out in what we affectionately call the pucker brush, but the good news is that in Washington state you don’t have to get too far outside the major cities to be in the pucker brush. Because I live in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains I assumed that I was going to need the biggest damn I could find. Wrong assumption on my part!
So what I did was buy the 6 foot plus antenna that had more elements on it than some of the stuff NASA uses. What I didn’t know was that there are four separate antenna farms that serve my area and the antenna bought was directional. This means that unless I pointed it at the antenna farm I wanted the signal from the other farms was fuzzy or lost. Of course I didn’t find this out until I had the thing mounted in my attic space. No easy task I’ll tell you.
Once the revelation hit me that I had a directional antenna I went on the search for an omnidirectional version. What I wound up with was a rectangular flat panel antenna with dual elements that from the time I plugged it in got great signals. Now of course this antenna was combined with an amplifier, but we’ll talk about that later. So let’s move on to the different types of antennas you’ll find out there.
When I say small antennas I’m talking about the tabletop indoor versions of antennas such as the old rabbit ears we’ve had around since television was first invented. Believe it or not these are still available but now in the digital version. My suggestion is that unless you are very, very close to your antenna farm, ignore these. I’ve tried one version that was called The Leaf and it had some pretty spectacular customer reviews, but when hooked up to my television set it produced maybe a quarter of the channels available and all of them were pretty crappy looking.
These small antennas are relatively inexpensive though and if you live in an apartment in an urban area they might just be your ticket. You can always give one a try and if it doesn’t work out, return it in good condition and move up in size.
You will find these antennas in both omnidirectional as well as directional models and if you discovered that you have one antenna farm in your area a directional antenna may be a great choice. If you’re like me though and have more than one antenna farm and they are separated by a fair amount of arc then forget about the directional antenna and concentrate on the omnidirectional. These midsize antennas are good generally to around 40 miles from the antenna farm.
We do have a caveat though about distances. Yes it may say it’s good for up to 40 miles but this is also dependent on where you will be mounting the antenna. If you’re mounting it outside under the eaves of your house or on a mast, then yes you’re probably looking at a good 40 miles barring any of the other obstructions.
A popular way to mount these antennas though is in the attic space your house. You know that forbidden place that has all the insulation in it that you never want to enter. Say what you want though, this is a great place to mount an antenna. Think about it for a minute, it’s dry and there’s no wind, so two of your great destroyers of antennas are eliminated. The problem is with the different construction materials you don’t know how much of the signal is going to be blocked so always err for the larger size antenna.
Some people might disagree with how I’m going to break this section down but I’m going to put the larger omnidirectional multi-element antennas into this category with the really big directional antennas. I’m doing this because recently a new type of omnidirectional is that the market and it’s a multi-element model and they can produce some pretty amazing results, at least they have for me.
Let’s start out with the really big directional antennas. These antennas can be good for up to 120 miles from your antenna farm, but don’t be deceived by the size of the box they come in. These antennas assemble in multiple sections and can be well over 12 feet in length. If you’re out a long ways from your antenna farms though a large directional antenna is definitely going to be needed. You can even possibly add an antenna rotor to center it on multiple broadcaster antennas. More about antenna rotor’s later.
The larger omnidirectional antennas, which in a lot of cases simply double the amount of elements on the medium-size versions, can be good up to 70 miles from the transmitter. When combined with an amplifier, these units can produce some amazing television viewing. In my case 95% of the time the signal comes through crystal clear even with the crappy weather we have most the time here in the Seattle area. You can tell I like these larger omnidirectional antennas can’t you?
Let’s talk about antenna rotators.
A new trend I see popping up is to take directional antennas and slap an antenna rotator on them and then call them multidirectional. I guess as long as the antenna rotator continues to work it is multidirectional, but if that antenna rotor ceases to operate its now directional. In addition a lot of these antenna rotors are absolutely crap and they may have you on the roof or mast replacing them in short order. Another big minus to these is that if you have multiple televisions in the house you may be fighting with someone over which way they want the antenna pointed. Just sayin!
These are my personal opinions and I know somebody is going to object, but here we go.
- You should only be using a small antenna if you’re very close to your antenna farms and if you do use one make sure it’s multidirectional. Good news is most of them are cheap and if it doesn’t work, return it and move up in size.
- Medium-size antennas can be great if you’re closer than 40 miles to your antenna farms, but only use directional antennas were you have one antenna farms to deal with.
- Larger sized antennas do it all and if you want to make sure that you’re going to get a good signal always err on the side of the bigger antenna. The same advice as with medium antennas applies here for directional versus multidirectional with one caveat. If you’re more than 70 miles away from your antenna farm definitely consider using a large directional antenna, possibly adding an antenna rotator.
Let me say this again I do not like antenna rotators! A good portion of them are crap and although some of them have wireless remotes they generally cause more problems than they solve, especially when they break.
Definitely consider mounting your antenna in your attic space if it’s available. It’s dry and there is no wind to deal with as well its maybe having a source of power available for an amplifier. More about this in step three.
Always, always read the customer reviews attached to any antenna you’re going to buy. You will be surprised how any times you’ll find somebody in a situation really close to yours and you can just copy what they did. One suggestion though, you will run into whiners that had something go wrong and then just went off the deep end in their review. Take those with a grain of salt, a big grain.Tom