Putting up a TV antenna is one of the best steps you can take toward breaking your reliance on pay TV and saving hundreds of dollars a year. Most areas of the U.S. have access to between 50 and 100 TV stations broadcast over the air for free.

As a bonus, they’ll make your big-screen TV shine. Over-the-air TV signals are typically compressed less than cable or satellite broadcasts so pictures will appear either the same quality or better.

All of the major broadcast networks now transmit in high-definition and in some areas test broadcasts for the new ATSC 3.0 standard are also underway. Those transmissions could eventually mean 4K broadcasting.

So, here’s how you go about choosing the right antenna for you.

  • Determine which channels are available where you live
  • Choose which channels you want to watch
  • Check the rules on antenna installation where you live
  • Figure out which type of antenna you need
  • Select the antenna

Which channels are available on an antenna?

Your first step is figuring out which channels are available where you live and of those, which ones you want to watch.

To do this, head over to TV Fool. It pairs the FCC’s broadcast TV database with topographical maps to give you a pretty detailed estimation of which signals will reach your house and how strong they’ll be.

Enter your house address in the search box, hit enter, and you’ll get something like this in return:

tvfool Martyn Williams/IDG

A screenshot of the TV Fool website showing television reception in San Francisco.

That chart above looks pretty complicated, but it’s really not. The strongest signals are at the top and weakest at the bottom. Keep this page open in a browser tab.





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