If you’re just getting started as a cord cutter, or you’re thinking about becoming one, you are probably wondering about the type of equipment you need. For the most part, picking out a streaming player is a relatively simple task; but deciding which antenna to buy is a bit more difficult. The one question I hear most from my readers is: “Should I buy an indoor or outdoor antenna?” After all, network channels like ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS are some of the most-watched on TV.
It’s a difficult question for some, and for many more it stops them dead in their tracks. But with a little foreknowledge, picking out the right OTA antenna can be a lot easier than you may think; and today I’ll show you how–let’s get started!
First we’re going to briefly examine the differences between indoor vs. outdoor antennas.
Indoor antennas are typically smaller and less powerful than their outdoor cousins; with a range of about 30-50 miles. Companies like Mohu and Winegard have been able to transform the design of the old rabbit ears of yesteryear, into sleek and inexpensive devices that resemble paper thin pieces of plastic more than a traditional antenna.
Indoor antennas are typically good choices for people who live in apartments or condos where they can’t install a rooftop antenna. They’re also good choices for people who live near broadcast towers. We recommend placing them as high as you can in your home. Windows are great choices for placement as well, because they minimize interference from anything in the walls.
Looking for an indoor antenna? Here are a few we recommend:
On the flip side, Outdoor Antennas are usually placed on top of roofs or garages, and are much larger and more powerful than the indoor antennas. They also cost more; usually priced somewhere north of $100. Outdoor antennas typically have a range between 60 and 100 miles; depending on the surrounding area.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why anyone would not just go with an outdoor antenna, since it’s the most powerful, right? Well, the problem is that for many, their home is not best suited for an outdoor antenna or it is simply not needed due to close proximity to a local TV tower.
That said, outdoor antennas are best-suited for people who live farther out from towers, usually in rural areas, and those who want harder to get channels like the CW. They can also be better options for people who may live closer to towers, but have obstacles around their home that obstruct antenna signals.
A few recommendations for outdoor antennas:
Deciding on an Indoor or Outdoor Antenna
- The first thing you need to do is evaluate your living situation. If you’re in an apartment building or have a Home Owners Association with strict rules, then odds are an indoor antenna is your only option.
- The next thing you need to do is figure out how close you live to a broadcast tower. TVFool.com and AntennaWeb both offer a free TV Signal Analysis where you can enter your address and see what direction your OTA signals are coming from, and how far away they are. If you’re less than 30 miles away from a broadcast tower, then an indoor antenna could be all you need.
- Now if you live out in rural area, or you’re just too far from an OTA broadcast tower (30+ miles), then an outdoor antenna is your best bet. When looking up your address you may notice that that you’re getting signals from multiple directions; and if this is the case you should consider buying an omni-directional antenna.
Indoor or Outdoor Antenna: Making Your Purchase
Deciding on an OTA Antenna is easy, as long as you know what to look for. Just make sure you are aware of your living restrictions, and your proximity to a broadcast station. If you keep those two things in mind, picking the right antenna will be a breeze. And don’t forget to check out my guide on the best OTA DVRs so you can record all that programming you’re receiving from your new antenna. You also may be interested in my guide that shows you how to connect your antenna to multiple TVs in your home.
Other Ways to Watch Local Channels without Cable
While you may be trying to decided between and indoor or outdoor antenna, there are other ways to watch local channels without cable. We have a detailed write up on it in our local channel guide here. And if you’re interested in subscribing to a live streaming service as a cable replacement, you’ll be interested in one of these articles below:
Are you having trouble deciding whether to get an indoor or outdoor antenna? Sound off in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to help you out!