Should you use an outdoor antenna?

In almost every case, the answer is “yes.” Outdoor antennas will bring in a stronger signal than indoor antennas, often because they’re bigger. Even so, the very same antenna will be able to capture about twice as much signal when placed outside. The very construction of your home absorbs and reflects some signals, making antennas placed indoors less effective.

What’s so special about outdoor antennas?

There’s nothing magical about an “outdoor antenna.” You can use an “indoor” antenna outdoors, although it might not hold up to the elements very well. You can use an outdoor antenna indoors, although some of them tend to be pretty big and you might not really have as much tolerance for that as you thought.

An outdoor antenna is going to have a little more weatherproofing but technically both outdoor antennas and indoor antennas are the same.

When should you use an outdoor antenna?

There are a few ironclad cases when an outdoor antenna is a must-have. For example:

When you’re 50+ miles from the broadcast tower

Outdoor antennas, by virtue of their size, are going to pull in stronger signals. It’s not that a bigger antenna will automatically perform better than a smaller one. In order to perform well, an antenna should be a perfect fraction of the waves it’s trying to receive. For example, the waves for channel 7 are about 6 feet long. A perfect antenna for channel 7 would be 6, 3, 1.5, or .75 feet long. As the fractions get smaller, the antennas work worse. A smaller indoor antenna won’t work as well as a larger outdoor antenna for that reason.

When your building blocks all the signals

I have bad news for some homeowners. There are building materials that almost completely block antenna signals. Most forms of brick fall into this category. Metal, used for some temporary structures, blocks TV signals really well.

If you’ve found that you just don’t get great signal indoors, try an outdoor antenna. You’ll be surprised how well it works.

When should you use an indoor antenna?

There are a few cases, though, where an indoor antenna is really the better choice:

You live close enough to the towers that it’s not a big deal

If you live within about 15 miles of the broadcast towers and have a clear line of sight, there’s really no need for an outdoor antenna and you can save the expense.

It’s not safe to get up on the roof

No one wins if you get hurt. If your roof’s in poor shape, or if you’re in poor shape, then remember, it’s only TV. Don’t kill yourself for it.

Because you aren’t allowed to use an outdoor antenna

According to federal rules, you are allowed to put an antenna up to 39″x39″ outside in a private space, and the HOA or condo board can’t stop you. The trick is that you need a private space that makes sense. It has to be a patio or courtyard with a clear line of sight or it’s not really worth it.

Unless one of those conditions seems like something you need to consider, you’re really better off choosing an outdoor antenna and mounting it securely. Solid Signal has a wide variety of antennas and mounts for almost every situation and we’ll even give you a free recommendation on what antenna’s best!

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 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.