How do you know if you need a VHF antenna?

This is a BIG antenna. Not only that, it will pick up any kind of TV broadcast there is, plus FM channels, for about a 50 mile radius. It’s super-duper, but it’s also pretty huge — 84 inches long (that’s over two meters.) It might be the antenna you need.

On the other hand, take a look at this antenna:

Click the image for more information.

It’s about one-third the size and one-third the price, and it will also pick up channels from 50 miles away. Why is one antenna humongous and one much more reasonably sized?

The larger antenna picks up VHF signals.

Back before TV went digital, almost all of the network channels in big cities were on VHF. It was mandatory in most cases. However, since the digital transition, almost all stations have moved up to UHF because you get better range with less power. (Confused about what the difference is between VHF and UHF? Check out this article.)

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it used to be to see if your local stations are actually in UHF. The PSIP system means that even though you think you’re watching channel 4, you could actually be watching channel 36. That’s a good thing because it helps you remember where your favorite stations are, and if the station changes transmitters, you just need to rescan for channels.

So, that’s where the internet comes in. We prefer sites like to help regular folks aim their antennas, and their reports also tell you the “real” channel as opposed to the “virtual” channel. If the real channel listed is 13 or lower, that’s VHF.

Check out the TVFool report for your area. Chances are there is at most one VHF station, maybe even none. One goal of the digital transition was to eliminate all VHF broadcasting, but it didn’t quite happen. There are bound to be a few VHF stragglers out there, but ask yourself — do you really watch anything on that station? Wouldn’t you like to save a few bucks on the antenna instead?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.