By Don Lindich
Week 35, 2016
Q. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, ZIP Code 94087. What outside antenna do you recommend?
-M.G., Sunnyvale, CA
A. No matter where you live, a large, directional outdoor antenna with a rotor (to turn it towards the desired station) is the ultimate in performance. You will get strong, effortless reception and you can tune more channels with it, too. Some may view this as overkill since a smaller indoor antenna may suffice for most viewers, but going big is advice that never fails for TV fans who want the best.
Unfortunately, a large outdoor antenna may not be practical or even possible for many people. No matter who you are or where you live, AntennaWeb, an online tool provided by The National Association of Broadcasters and The Consumer Technology Association, will help you find an antenna well suited for your particular location and viewing needs.
Go to antennaweb.org and look for the button that says, “Click Here to Start.” On the next page, enter your full street address and click, “Submit.”
This search will provide a list of stations available for your area, along with a color code for each. The color code corresponds to the antenna type you will need to tune the station, based on the distance and terrain. For example, it may be easier to tune a station that is 50 miles away if the land between you and the station is flat, than a station that is 35 miles away if there is a mountain in the way.
The color codes start at yellow, which is for a small, multi-directional indoor antenna, to pink, which is a large, directional outdoor antenna mounted high in the air with a powerful signal pre-amplifier.
Entering your zip code provided good news for you and other Sunnyvale residents. You can tune a total of 31 stations, providing a maximum of 103 separate channels, depending on the antenna type. That is a lot of television!
A yellow-coded indoor antenna will provide 18 stations and their associated sub-channels. This is more good news for you and your neighbors as this is the smallest, least expensive antenna type available. A Channel Master FLATenna should be able to tune them for you.
Going up to green, an amplified multi-directional indoor antenna, will provide 4 additional stations, bringing you up to 22 stations total, along with any sub-channels they provide. The Amazon bestseller 1byone Amplified HDTV Antenna is $30 including 10 feet of coaxial cable. This will provide the bulk of local programming for most viewers in your area.
The red code is a medium-sized, directional outdoor antenna. This will adds another 6 stations, bringing the total up to 28. The next step up is blue, either a medium-sized directional antenna with a pre-amplifier or a large directional antenna without a preamplifier. This will yield 2 more stations, for a total of 30. Finally, a violet antenna setup, a large directional antenna with preamplifier, will tune the final station, KFTY in Middleton, California. KFTY is 97 miles away from you.
As you can see, there are diminishing returns once you get an outside antenna, and in your case going to the very largest size only provides one additional station. Even so, if you are going up on the roof anyway, why not just do it right and do it once? The investment will pay off for decades to come. A $149 Winegard HD7798P antenna combined with a $69 Channel Master CM-7777 preamplifier will be really hard to beat. A rotor will cost about $100 additional, and I recommend professional installation. www.winegard.com
The violet-coded Spectrum Antenna Motorized Outdoor HDTV Antenna SP-615 is a great value. It has a built-in rotor with remote control for only $109, and overall the reviews are positive. www.spectrumantenna.com