What to know about TV antennas before making a purchase

Did you know you can watch TV for free? With an antenna, you might be able to get 30+ free HD, high-quality channels without having to pay a monthly streaming or subscription fee. Over-the-air (OTA) television allows viewers to access content with two simple devices—a TV and an antenna. Major networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, ION and and Fox broadcast everything from local and national news to sporting events to dramas and more. Sports fans will love how blackouts aren’t an issue with OTA TV, and without the need for compression or buffering, the picture won’t experience pesky delays.

You May Get More Channels Than You Think

If you thought you were getting lots of local channels through your streaming or satellite services, you might be pleasantly surprised. There’s likely a whole lot more local programming via OTA than you thought. 

The Picture May Be Better Than Cable Or Satellite

OTA TV offers both high-quality picture and sound and part of this is because it requires lower channel density than cable TV. Plus, it will keep getting better. 4K OTA video (ATSC 3.0) is already being made available in some areas of the country and will continue to grow in accessibility. Along with ATSC 3.0 comes the ability to watch broadcast TV on your smartphone.

The Cost of Indoor vs. Outdoor Antennas 

Antenna cost will depend on what type of antenna you need. Indoor antennas typically cost between $20 – $40, while outdoor antennas average between $60 – $150. Indoor antennas are quick and easy to set up and can even blend in with your decor. Outdoor versions require a bit more care during installation and need to be placed either on the side of the house, on the roof or in the attic. Regardless of which one you choose, reception quality will depend on the home’s distance to your local broadcast towers and if anything is blocking the signal along the way like buildings, tall trees or mountains. If you’re unsure which type of antenna to buy, try using our handy guide. 

Directional vs. Omnidirectional Antennas — What Do you Need?

There are two main types of antennas when it comes to signal reception: directional and multidirectional. Directional antennas are also referred to as standard antennas and can pick up signals from a single direction. Omnidirectional antennas can receive signals from all directions. An omnidirectional antenna is beneficial for those who live between broadcast towers and can pick up signals from both.

Not Handy? Someone Else Can Install Your Antenna For You

While indoor antennas don’t require special tools, outdoor antenna installation may require the use of a ladder and you have to take into consideration some safety measures — like making sure you don’t come into contact with power lines. If you choose the route of professional installation, it may cost a few hundred dollars, but if you end up canceling other subscription services, you may make that money up quickly. 

Miss Cable Or Satellite Conveniences? Just Get A Few Additional Accessories

You might be thinking, I thought OTA TV was free?! Yes, it is. But you may want to boost your signal with an amplifier or get an OTA DVR like TabloTV that can record your shows so you can watch them later. Some DVRs require a minimal monthly subscription service to access all the device’s features. This additional optional device may be well worth it to you to have the added convenience at your fingertips. 

If you’re contemplating getting an antenna, we urge you to go for it. With less expensive indoor varieties costing as little as $20 and many big box stores having great return policies, we think there’s not much to lose!

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