Do Indoor TV Antennas/ Aerials Work?
I have decided to write this article as it’s something that I get asked frequently, do indoor TV aerials work? The short answer to this is sometimes they do, sometimes (more often) they don’t. I'm sure that you have all head stories of someone getting their TV reception from an old coat hanger or a screwed up piece of tinfoil, but this is rarely the case. In this article I discuss the pros and cons of receiving your TV via an indoor set top TV aerial, hopefully answer any questions that you may have and suggest some things that could potentially improve your TV reception from a set top aerial. Lets begin.
Outdoor TV Antennas Work Better
First things first, outdoor TV aerials work better than TV aerials. If this wasn’t the case, all TV aerial installers would do would be to drive around plugging set top antennas in, tuning the TV in and be on our way. In fact, you probably wouldn’t need an installer at all as this is something that most people could do themselves. There are various reasons why installing TV aerials high up and/ or on roofs is a better idea. The antenna itself would be above nearby obstructions that could block the TV signals from the land-based TV transmitter and by installing the aerial, high up on the exterior of the property the aerial itself would be further away from nearby sources of electrical interference that could cause signal pixelation. The obvious main downside of having to install a TV aerial high up outside is that it's a skilled job, you will most likely need to contact a professional and if the building is very large it may not be possible to do the installation off ladders, meaning a scaffold or cherry picker/ elevated platform may be required.
Loft Aerials Next Best
If you can’t for whatever reason, install a TV aerial on a roof/ chimney or high up on a wall. The next best compromise would be install the aerial itself within the loft/ attic of your house if you have one. A set top style TV indoor TV aerial could be placed inside your loft, but it would make much more sense to install an outdoor TV antenna inside the loft and screw it into one of the beams. Loft TV aerial installations can still be hit and miss as the signal would need to pass through the roof and it wouldn’t necessarily be high enough to completely nearby houses which could also block the signal. That being said, the loft is usually a better place to receive TV signals that inside your house beside the TV.
When Do Indoor TV Aerials Work?
An indoor TV aerial only really has a hope of working in strong or very strong signal areas. I mean if the main TV transmitter for your area is right across the road from you, it will most likely be fine for a reliable TV reception. They also have a better chance of working in upstairs bedrooms rather than downstairs lounges/ living rooms, owing to the additional height. It also helps if the transmitter is aligned with the same side of the house as to where you will be installing the TV/ aerial which would limit the amount your property itself blocks the signal.
Why Do Indoor TV Aerials Not Work?
Indoor TV aerials usually fail because where the TV aerial itself is being installed is not in a place where the TV signals will be very strong. Sometimes the antenna is placed in a position where there is no signal at all. This is because inside the house, the walls of the house themselves will impede the signals as well neighbouring buildings. If installed behind the TV, the TV itself could be blocking the signals. If you live in a weak or moderate signal area, I wouldn’t suggest even trying an indoor TV aerial, not even the amplified ones. It will be a waste of time, energy and money.
Nearby Electrical Interference
There is so much potential electrical interference in todays wireless world and many of these have the potential to ruin your TV reception. With a TV installed indoors closer to all of these, it is more likely to fail as a result. Things like WIFI routers, mobile phones, ignitions, baby monitors, nearby traffic, thermostats and many more can all cause inference on televisions. In fact, I’m sure many of you have seen a TV signal fail just before a mobile phone rings. This used to create a very recognisable sound and lines across the TV screen in the old analogue days, with digital it will just distort the picture, cause TV image break-up, and loss signal
Amplified Indoor TV Antennas
Some of the better models of indoor aerials will have built in amplification, to give the signal a “boost” to improve the strength before it enters the TV. This is a tacit admission that installing TV aerials indoors is not the best idea, as you shouldn’t need an amplifier for the majority of outdoor installations. That being said, set top aerials with a built in amplifier could help improve a poor TV signal. This is because there is a minimum signal strength for TV reception, and the addition of the amplifier could just help tip this over the edge to an acceptable level. Indoor aerials with a built in amplifier require a mains electrical connection too to power the amplifier part of the aerial, whereas ones without amplification do not. Many amplifiers come with an adjustable signal gain which can be helpful to try different levels of amplification. I have seen some indoor antennas that advertise up to 35dB gain on the TV signal, you should never need this level of amplification to feed one TV, if you do. The signal just isn’t there to begin with. It’s worth noting, that with amplification you do not get something for nothing. It’s not some magic wand that will repair a poor TV signal, but they may just help if you’re slightly below the minimum signal strengths. I recommend reading my previous blog, 'do TV boosters work?'
Adding an Amplifier
If you do not have an amplified indoor TV antenna. You could just install a set top amplifier between your aerial and the aerial input on the TV. If you have a long length of coax between where you’re siting the aerial and the TV, an indoor amplifier could be used to overcome signal losses over the cable length. If the indoor antenna has been sited in another room because you get a better TV signal there, rather than beside your television, a masthead amplifier could even be used as it’s best to amplify signals before cable losses.
Strongest Indoor Antenna
Antennas themselves will sometimes be described as being the “strongest” or one that offers the most amount of channels. These to me sound like sales pitches to describe an amplified TV aerial or a high gain aerial. I hope by now, you have understood that the most important factor which will affect the TV reception is the location where the aerial is installed, not the aerial type. A basic antenna installed in a good location for TV signals, will nearly always trump and state of the art high gain aerial installed in a poor location.
Indoor Aerial Works Fine For Some Channels/ Missing Others
As different channels are transmitted and received on different frequencies, you might find that some Freeview channels work fine in one location and others do not. With Freeview we are concerned with the reception of groups of channels called multiplexes each on different frequencies. This is usually about six groups, but it called be as much nine. You may even need to move the antenna in different positions depending on the service you wish to receive. This is obviously not practical in the long run and may even drive you mad!
Tips For Improving Reception From An Indoor Aerial
If you are having troubles with the installation of an indoor antenna. There are a few things you can try before you bin it, or better recycling, or better still return to the shop you purchased it from for a full refund. Please note, that may need to retune the TV after trying each of the below.
1) Try siting antenna higher up or in a different location. TV signals bounce around and there may be a random spot than can receive a stronger signal than where you currently have the antenna sited.
2) Try adjusting the alignment. Try pointing the antenna indifferent directions. You do not necessarily need to point directly in the direction of the transmitter. You may find, that a stronger signal can be received from a signal bounce if there are buildings in the way blocking the signal path.
3) Try siting it near a window. Glass has less of an attenuating effect of the TV radio-waves than brickwork. You may find that abetter signal can be obtained nearby a window.
4) Try installing an amplified model/ higher gain model or add an amplifier. If you have a very weak signal, TV signal amplifiers can sometimes work better than they should. Adding an amplifier may help towards creating a reliable signal.
5) Try in another room in your house. If you can get the aerial to work in another room of your house, that is half the job done. All that would be required would then be to get a coaxial cable fitted between your TV and antenna.
6) Just give up and get a professional to install one. At this point you’ve probably wasted a lot of time and energy. Consider installing a TV aerial or satellite dish instead.
Indoor Antenna FAQ
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