In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, things like Netflix, IPTV, 4K, and even 1080p HD didn’t exist. If you wanted to watch television, you simply went out and purchased a cable plan through one of the few providers out there. Luckily today, we have more options than every before! In this article we’re going to do a deep-dive into something known as over-the-air antenna TV.
Over-the-Air Antenna TV is technology that, believe it or not, has actually been around since the 20th century. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry, because you’re about to find out everything you need to know. Plus, if you’re curious about adding an over-the-air antenna to your home, you’ll find links to the best quality products on the market.
So let’s expand your mind a bit, and take a look at everything over-the-air television has to offer.
What is over-the-air antenna television?
If you already have your hands full with 4k, IPTV, and cable, get ready to make some room for over-the-air antenna television (OTA TV). You’ll definitely want to know how this type of service can save you thousands of dollars every year on your cable bill.
So how does this type of television work?
Believe it or not, it is actually quite simple. Instead of paying for thousands of channels you likely don’t use anyway, you can utilize an HD equipped antenna to pick up your local broadcasts.
From there, all you need to do is connect the antenna to whichever device you decide to use. Simple enough right?
While you might have to sacrifice a few channels, you’ll find that OTA TV will have most of the channels that you’ll need. The quality of the channels you receive also tends to be higher, because most cable providers have to cram hundreds of channels you don’t use into a single bandwidth. If you know anything about downloads or wifi, you know that this can put a huge damper on the quality of your streams.
Plus, you probably pay for a few subscriptions like Netflix right? So at the end of the day, what are you really missing?
A bit of history you should know to help you understand OTA TV
You want to hear a fun fact? OTA television used to be widely popular, but when it was first introduced, the technology was just not quite there yet. This meant that the quality tended to be fuzzy, choppy, and in some cases nonexistent. The solution? Cable television. Cable television was a great solution, because you no longer needed an antenna to process the incoming content.
For many years, cable television was the cornerstone of the average household. The service provided was extremely crisp (for the time period), and made it easy to obtain plenty of channels. For the first time in history, people had more channels than they could handle.
Of course this was great for a decade, but then technology slowly started to catch up. Streaming services were able to provide specialized high definition content, and television providers became less reliable. While you had access to more channels, you had to deal with higher prices. The once revolutionary cable box slowly started to grow inferior.
Plus, cable television is restricted bandwidth wise, which means the addition of more and more channels actually ended up harming the content’s quality. Not good right?
Why OTA TV made a come-back you’ll want to take advantage of:
This led to a return of OTA television, and the antennas grew even stronger. Now, you have the ability to watch all of your local channels at literally no cost. All you need to do is pay the upfront cost of the device, and make sure you have a decent range. Luckily, there are plenty of towers you can utilize in 2019. Some of the smaller devices can also cost you as little as $30.
Believe it or not, if you can pick up a signal it’s either there or it’s not. Now that HD is widely popular and easy for signals to handle, there is no such thing as fuzzy when it comes to OTA television anymore.
While cable television is still great if you need all the channels, you’ll find that an over-the-air antenna might be the replacement you need to save money on your next cable bill. Most mainstream manufacturers sell them, and you can find them for less than $100 on Amazon. Pretty interesting right?
Now that you know how OTA TV works, let’s take a look at how you should choose an over-the-air antenna.
How to choose the right over-the-air antenna
The main problem with OTA TV is the antenna. Many people have a horrible outlook on antennas, and that’s for good reason. They used to be poor in quality, and completely unreliable. Luckily, this is no longer the case. Let’s take a look at some fool proof ways to find the right over-the-air antenna for you.
AntennaJunkies.com TV Station Locator Page
Finding the right over-the-air antenna is going to be about your preference, but it’s also going to be about your location. At the end of the day, location supersedes preference, so we’ll be touching on that aspect first.
If you want to find the best over-the-air antenna, you’ll need to do a bit of research. Luckily, this is not a very daunting task. The best place to start is right here on our TV Station Locator for Antenna page. From here you can enter in your zip code (don’t worry it’s never saved), and allow you to determine what local broadcasts are in your area and which direction the TV towers are located with respect to your location.
Check out this YouTube video that covers this tool and how to interpret the results:
Why location is key
If you want to know if OTA TV is right for you, you’ll need to know what you have access too. This generally comes down to the area that you live in. For example, if you live in a busy city, you’ll likely have access to more channels. This is due to the fact that a city is a hub for entertainment, and you’ll be able to tune into plenty of streams.
This is the opposite if you live out in the country, or an area that is very far away from a metro area. While this doesn’t mean you’ll be left in the dust, it just means that you’ll might need a much larger over-the-air antenna. If you fall into this category, be sure to check out my article, best antennas for rural areas.
If you’re looking for popular news networks and sporting events, OTA TV is much more advantageous if you reside in a metro area. Plus, you’ll likely be able to utilize a much smaller antenna.
Hopefully at this point you’re starting to notice a trend. The closer you are to a heavily populated area, the smaller antenna you’ll need to acquire the type of content you need.
So depending on where you are, or what you’re looking for, you should do some research before you dive right into any specific over-the-air antenna. So let’s talk about some different categories of antenna that you may be looking for: Omnidirectional Antenna vs. Directional Antenna.
If you live in an area where you’ll be receiving broadcasts from multiple directions, you’ll want an antenna that is equipped to handle streams from multiple sources. This is essential, because you don’t want to miss out on any crucial channels when you only get so many to begin with.
A great omnidirectional over-the-air antenna (that made our top 10 list) is the View TV. The View TV is inexpensive, and provides a huge range that you’ll fall in love with.
Some great features of the View TV include:
- 360 degree rotation to pick up any single
- Mounting kit
- A range of about 150 miles
- 4k streaming capabilities
- Remote control
- UHF and VHF capabilities
- A huge range of channels between channel 1 and channel 69, depending on your area
If you want to learn more, you can check out the View TV on Amazon here.
If you’ll be receiving your broadcasts from one direction, you’ll want to use a directional antenna. This works best for those of you that reside in metro areas, because you’ll likely be getting all of your content from one location. A directional antenna is great here, because you won’t have to worry about any interruptions in your signal.
The Mohu Sky is a great product if you’re looking for the ability to change direction with ease, and you’ll find that it gets the job done across the board.
Some great features you’ll find in the Mohu Sky include:
- A range of about 60 miles
- 4k streaming capabilities
- Mount kit
- 30 foot cord
- Attic capabilities
- Weather and storm resistant
If you want to learn more about the Mohu Sky, you can check it out on Amazon here.
Now that you know the basics, here is quality over-the-air antenna you can get started with:
UHF or VHF: What’s the difference?
If you’ve been looking into over-the-air antenna television, then chances are you’ve heard the phrases UHF or VHF being thrown around. So what are they? And how do they influence your antenna?
Think of it this way
If you’re looking to access lower numbered channels (1-14), then you might want to opt for a VHF antenna. VHF antennas are excellent at picking up lower channel frequencies. The opposite goes for UHF, which is more geared towards higher channel frequencies.
Now you might be wondering, what about both?
While they do have over-the-air antennas that can handle both frequencies, you’ll find that going with a specific antenna is your best bet.
Plus, if you’re looking at UHF antennas, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re not bad at picking up VHF signals If you’re within range of some local broadcasts.
So why is this important?
Knowing which over-the-air antenna you have, frequency wise, is crucial to ensuring you have access to the channels you’re looking for. If you want to watch channels like Fox, ABC, and NBC, you should be looking into VHF frequencies (those channels typically tend to fall between 2-11 depending on your area).
You should also keep in mind that every location is different. The channel numbers in Dallas would be different than channel numbers in New York, so make sure you use a guide like TV Fool to determine which over-the-air antenna you’ll need.
Most antennas sold today will be able to pick up both UHF and VHF signals. If you’re more interested in UHF antenna, a great over-the-air antenna is the RCA Outdoor Yagi, 4K Antenna. Want one that can do both? Check out the Antennas Direct Clearstream 4Max UHF/VHF Antenna. Of course, we’ve done many reviews here on AntennaJunkies, and both these antennas made the short-list of the 10 Best Outdoor HDTV Antennas.
The indoor over-the-air antenna
Now that you know the basics of OTA TV, let’s take a look at why you might want to go with an indoor antenna. Indoor antennas are best suited for those of you who live in a metro area, or have a smaller living space with no outside access.
Do indoor antennas have less quality?
One of the common questions most people have in regard to antenna size is whether or not the location will sacrifice quality. While it won’t impact the quality of your stream, it can impact the ability for you to gain access to certain channels if you’re not in range. This is due to the fact that most indoor antennas start off with less range than their outdoor counterparts.
How should I mount an indoor antenna?
If you’re going to go with an indoor antenna, you’ll find that they’re a bit more forgiving to install. The size of indoor antennas tend to be smaller, which gives you more mounting options in general. You’ll be able to mount these antennas in convenient locations, which means you can get creative with your options. Plus, at the end of the day, they tend to be much easier to install opposed to the outdoor antenna.
What are some challenges I might face with an indoor over-the-air antenna?
If you’re worried about facing challenges with an indoor antenna, don’t stress too much, because you’ll be able to get great quality with a few pointers.
The biggest challenge with an indoor antenna is going to be interference. Regardless of where you are, you’ll find things like metal, other wifi based electronics, and the general location can all place a damper on your over-the-air antenna.
The best way to avoid these issues is to be careful with your location. If you’re in an apartment building, you’ll want to mount your antenna as close to a window or the outdoors as much as possible. You should also try to be as high up as you possibly can. Check out my article on How High Should You Mount A TV Antenna.
So when it comes to using an indoor over-the-air antenna, you’ll want to make sure you mount it in a place that doesn’t tend to have too much interface from other devices.
If you’re looking for a great indoor over-the-air antenna, the Mohu Leaf is one of your best options. If you know anything about over-the-air antenna TV, you know that Mohu makes a great product. The Mohu Leaf is no exception, and comes packed with plenty of range. You’ll also have little to no issue mounting this antenna due to the compact size it brings to the table.
Some of the key features you’ll love about the Mohu Leaf are:
- A range of about 50 miles
- 4K streaming abilities
- You can change the color or paint it to fit in with your room
- 10 foot cable
- Materials considered to be military grade
- Small 30 inch size to fit in well regardless of the location
If you’re looking for an all around useful OTA TV antenna, you won’t be disappointed by the Mohu Leaf.
If you want to learn more, you can find it on Amazon at here.
The outdoor over-the-air antenna
If you’re somewhere that is far away from a metro area, or a homeowner, an outdoor antenna might be a great option for you. Typically, they tend to have better broadcasting capabilities and range, so you won’t have to worry all that much about your location.
Why go with the outdoor option?
The beauty of an outdoor antenna is that the size and range is not limited to a confined space. When you utilize an outdoor antenna, you’ll tend to have much less interference, and you’ll be able to utilize any tower that’s in range.
Outdoor over-the-air antennas are excellent for homeowners, because you’ll be able to mount them in your attic, on your roof, or onto the side of your home. You’ll find that you’ll mounting might be difficult, it is definitely worth it for the better overall signal. You’ll be able to tap into towers that are over one hundred miles away, pretty handy right?
What challenges does an outdoor antenna come with?
Just like the indoor antenna, you’ll find that the outdoor antenna can come packed with its own challenges. Luckily, none of these challenges have to do with the strength of your signal.
The main issue comes down to mounting, because it can be a little tedious.
While you might get a bigger and better antenna, you’ll find that mounting it is going to be a little harder. Get ready to breakout the ladder, because you’ll need to do some manual labor if you go the outdoor route.
At the end of the day, picking a location is also difficult. The best practice is to have the antenna angled towards the towers you’ll be using, so you want to mount it accordingly. Make sure you set aside a few hours, because this process can become quite daunting.
Another issue with outdoor antennas is foliage. Nature has a way of getting in our way sometimes, and in this case, nature can definitely be a pest. If you’re in an area that is densely populated by trees or other foliage, you’ll find that your signal might be in and out.
While the outdoor over-the-air antenna install process might be daunting, the fruits of your labor are definitely worth it. You’ll get less interference, and a much better signal strength.
If you don’t want to drill holes in your roof, or go through the hassle of climbing a ladder, you’ll find that many outdoor over-the-air antennas can be mounted right in your attic space instead.
If you’re looking into outdoor over-the-air antennas, a great recommendation is the Clear Stream 4 HDTV. This outdoor over-the-air antenna comes packed with a solid design, an easy to use mount, and it can even be used in attic spaces.
Some key features in the Clear Stream are:
- High definition streaming
- Easy to use mount
- Compact design
- A range of about 70 miles in every direction, due to its multi directional capabilities
- A warranty on all of the parts
- An F connector at 75 ohm
If you want to learn more, check it out on Amazon here.
Methods for mounting your over-the-air antenna
Unfortunately, not all over-the-air antennas come with the right tools for a proper install. You’ll find yourself scratching your head, and wondering how on earth you’ll end up installing your antenna. This is especially true if you’re utilizing an outdoor over-the-air antenna.
If you’re worried about the woes of mounting, don’t worry, because there are plenty of options on the market to help you out. Let’s take a quick look at some great additional mounting options for both indoor and outdoor over-the-air antennas.
What mounting hardware to consider for an outdoor over-the-air antenna?
Before we get into the individual products, you’ll want to take a look at where you’ll be placing your antenna. If you’ll be utilizing your attic, you first need to determine if it is a large or small space.
For a large space or attic
If you have a larger attic space, you might want to opt for a pole or rotary mount. These mounts are great for attics, plus they’re relatively inexpensive. If you’ll be using an attic space, you should also be aware of the labor you’ll need to do. So make sure you have a drill handy in case you need to drill holes for your cord.
A great pole mount for your attic is the Antop adjustable attic mount.
For a smaller attic
If you have less space in your attic, there is absolutely no need to worry. You’ll find that it is just as easy to mount your antenna if you utilize a clamp mount, or even an L-mount. Plus, believe it or not, these options tend to be very inexpensive.
Here are two great options to take a look at:
What about mounting options for my roof?
Mounting an over-the-air antenna on your roof can be quite a daunting task, and if you don’t have the right mount, you’ll be stuck watching cable. When it comes to mounting an over-the-air antenna on your roof you’ll need to consider if you’ll be mounting on brick, the side of your home, or right on your shingles.
Regardless of where you’ll be mounting, make sure you’re aware of the leg work that is involved (drilling, grounding, adjusting).
If you’re looking for a great way to mount your over-the-air antenna to your chimney, you might want to go with a Channel Master product. They offer an array of different mounting options, and you’ll definitely be impressed by their chimney mount. The bracket is forged from strong steel, and can handle anything that the elements may throw at it.
Here is a very good and inexpensive chimney mount on Amazon.
Tripod roof mounts
Tripod roof mounts offer a great range of options, and they’re typically made of strong steel. Usually you’ll get some pretty good height capabilities out of these mounts, and they’re designed to hold your antenna’s mast. These mounts tend to work best on a shingle based rooftop, and come with preset holes to guide your drilling. They might seem like they’re unsteady, but you can’t go wrong with a steal based product.
A great rooftop tripod mount to look at is the Skywalker Signature Series Heavy Duty.
A Universal J-mount
If you’re looking to mount your antenna to the side of your house, or even on your roof, a Universal J-Mount might just be your best option. They typically come with a wide range of mounting clearance, and can fit most large over-the-air antennas as well. Some clearance can even reach 20-30 feet.
A great J-mount is the Winegard DS-3000 J-Mount.
What about a rotary mount?
If you’re looking to gain more control, and maneuverability, you might want to look into a rotary mount. A lot of these mounts come waterproof, and will provide you with a remote to customize your antenna’s direction to ensure you receive the best signal.
Typically, these types of mounts allow you to rotate your antenna in a full circle as well. If you’re looking to pay a bit more in price, you’ll find that you can’t match the abilities that a rotary mount will provide you with. Pair this mount with the locator tool found on our TV Station Locator for Antenna page, and you definitely won’t be disappointed.
As shown in the image above, the Channel Master CM-9521HD is among the best rotary antenna mounts on the market.
What about mounting hardware for an indoor over-the-air antenna?
Don’t worry, if you have an indoor over-the-air antenna, you’ll still have some pretty good mounting options. In most cases, any clamp based mount will definitely do the trick.
For a more indepth article on indoor antennas and indoor antenna mounting, be sure to check out my article, how to install an indoor TV antenna.
What if I have a balcony?
If you have a condo or a balcony based apartment, there is no need to feel left out. Make sure you check with your landlord first, but you’ll find that there are plenty of great mounts out there for your balcony.
These mounts also tend to be smaller in size, but you’ll find that they most certainly still pack a punch. You can even find mounts that change direction as well, so if you have a balcony, you’re definitely in luck.
A great balcony mount is this balcony hand-rail mount assembly. This mount actually attaches right to the hand-rail of your balcony.
Common channels you’ll find with an over-the-air antenna
When it comes to watching OTA TV, you’ll find that there are plenty of channels to tune into depending on your location. In this case, location is everything. If you want to find a proper channel guide, Local Antenna TV Listings page can be an excellent resource for you to use.
As mentioned previously, you can type in your zip code on our TV Station Locator for Antenna page to discover what channels are available in your area.
Depending on your location, you’ll find that OTA TV generally has some of your favorite networks like:
- Global (Canada)
- CTV (Canada)
- TVO (Canada)
- Local news networks
- Local sports networks
How to locate over-the-air antenna towers
As mentioned previously, location is everything. If you want to make sure you have the ability to stream OTA TV, you’ll need to know where the broadcast towers are located. This is absolutely essential when it comes to choosing the right antenna.
So how do I find towers?
If you want to find towers, you’ll need a locator tool like the one found on our TV Station Locator for Antenna page. This page and corresponding website will provide you with a comprehensive map that will show you all of the locations you need to know.
You’ll be able to find towers in your area, and the locator can definitely help you channels and the nearest towers. The good news is that most of these locator services are totally free to use, and the maps are generally color coded. Easy right?
Over-the-Air Antenna TV – Recap
Regardless of your needs, you’ll find that an over-the-air antenna is more than capable of handling them. OTA TV tends to have plenty of channels, and has great capabilities now that HD streaming has become much more popular.
While cable used to be the future, it is slowly becoming a thing of the past. OTA TV is the new wave, and you need to be on it if you want to save money.
Whether you want to save money, ditch your cable boxes, or just don’t feel like sifting through hundreds of useless channels, OTA TV is definitely a solid bet in 2019.
The days of paying high cable bills and useless channels are over. There is simply no need to spend that kind of money when you can have what you’re looking for without having to pay a bill each month. The technology behind the over-the-air antenna has become excellent, so making the switch should be easier than you may think.
OTA TV is here, the question is, are you to make the switch?
Now that you’re an expert on everything over-the-air antenna TV, I recommend you check out some of the other great articles here on the site. Once you cut the cable-cord there’s no turning back…and believe me, you won’t want to! To get you started, here are a few articles that may be of interest to you:
- Best Outdoor TV Antennas for Rural Areas
- How To Test Your Antenna Signal: TV Signal Strength
- How to Connect Multiple TVs to One Antenna
- What Is The Best TV Antenna Signal Booster
- How To Properly Ground A TV Antenna
- The 10 Best Outdoor HDTV Antennas
- The Best HDTV Antenna Setup Right Now!
- How High Should You Mount A TV Antenna
- 7 Ways To Boost Your HDTV Antenna Signal!
- TV Station Locator for Antenna