Are bigger TV antennas better?

I recently moved to a new house that doesn't get very good TV (or radio) reception.  I have been living with an old set of "bunny ear" antenna for a while, but that is just not cutting it here.  I went to RadioShack and got the biggest "indoor" antenna they sell , but it is only marginally better.  I really only watch 1-2 hours of TV a week, so I don't want to spent a fortune on this, and I especially don't want to pay a monthly fee to the cable folks...
So what are my options?
1. Get a bigger "outdoor" antenna and mount on roof (ugly, hard)
2. Get a bigger "outdoor" antenna and mount inside (would that work?)
3. Give up my last 1-2 hours of TV a week and blog instead?
4. Wait for them to start streaming TV over the web like they do radio...
5. other ideas?
Comments (25)

  1. Dean Harding says:

    Antenna design is somewhat of a black art and bigger does not necessarily mean better. the only thing I can really recommend is to try different antennas and see if you get better results. You could also try getting a signal booster/amplifier (e.g.

    Other than that, an outdoor antenna will outperform an indoor one almost any day of the week, you can mount them inside your roof, if there’s enough room, which’ll at least mean there’s not a big ugly antenna on your roof.

  2. Either blog more (you’re not missing anything), or go watch it at a friend’s house.We actually wait till shows come out on dvd (full season) and get it through netflix .

  3. haacked says:

    Either blog more (you’re not missing anything), or go watch it at a friend’s house.We actually wait till shows come out on dvd (full season) and get it through netflix .

  4. 1. BitTorrent.

    2. An attic-mounted external antenna. Use "" to figure out how to aim it best for your area.

    3. A PC-based HDTV tuner (like the FusionHDTV3) combined with (2) above.

    4. Once you have good reception, get a ReplayTV or TiVo. Something about actually having something interesting to watch will solve your lack of TV-watching skills. 😉

    5. DISH Network is cheaper than most cable packages.

    6. Most cable providers have a "basic basic" service < $15/mo that will get you clean local feeds and a few extra channels. I have mine bundled with RoadRunner service.

  5. Daren Thomas says:

    Check out

    haven’t seen the site myself, but I just read a blurb in the newspaper about this: P2P applied to PayTV. You can search online for currently streamed shows (provided by users with PayTV) and join the fun!

  6. Its all about placement Brad. The design plays into it somewhat, but a giant arrow looking TV antenna can get worse reception than a little pair of rabbit ears on the TV is not placed and positioned correctly. I would play around with the direction and positioning of the antenna before putting more effort into purchasing a new one or looking for other alternatives.

  7. Philip Rieck says:

    Clearly blog more.

    If you blog an additional 1-2 hours per day, the average competence of .net developers around the world would increase markedly.

    Mounting inside can work great. But as others have pointed out, reception from an antenna is all about three things; location, location, location. (Or placement and orientation.)

  8. Steve Hiner says:

    I bought a decent sized external antenna from Fry’s Electronics for about $35. I opened it up and just set it on top of the insulation in my attic pointed in the general direction of the TV broadcast antennas in my area. The reception isn’t perfect but it’s FAR better than the amplified rabit ears I was using. Since I didn’t actually mount the antenna the installation was incredibly easy. One of these days I’m going to go back up in the attic and aim it a bit – maybe suspend it from the trusses using rope or prop it up on something.

    It was $35 well spent. Now BeyondTV gets good enough reception to archive the shows I like.

  9. Ken says:

    An antenna that is a fraction of the wavelength of your signal is ideal, so a 50 MHz signal will be received very well by a (c / 50 MHz) = ~6 m antenna (obviously an unrealistic size for most), but a 1/3 wavelength antenna would work pretty well, too, and only require ~2 m of real estate.

    Within this constraint, bigger is better. There are also differences between even and odd fractions (in terms of the signal bouncing back and forth on itself), which I’m not sure affect TV signals, but could affect some modulations.

    The problem is, TV signals occur on such a wide variety of frequencies, any particular length is a compromise. One that is 4 ft long might pick up one station better than a 3 ft antenna, but the 3 ft antenna might do a better job on a different station that you care about.

    It also matters what kind of issues you are having with the signal. If it is simply weak (fuzzy picture), getting a stronger signal (bigger antenna or amplifier) might solve the problem. However, if the problem is ghosting, a stronger signal won’t necessarily solve the problem.

    Ghosting is caused by the signal bouncing, usually off nearby buildings or trees, and overlapping with itself a few microseconds later. Placement is sometimes a good fix for this, moving the antenna around or even rotating it can help ghosting. As can cutting down the offending tree. Placing the antenna as highly elevated as possible is also very good for this (a few feet probably won’t matter, but putting it on top of your house will). A yagi antenna is also very good at reducing ghosting, but it is also pretty directional. That’s usually ok, but if you live between two cities and want to pick up TV stations from both, it may not get both simultaneously.

    HDTV over the air is fairly resiliant against a weakish signal, but ghosting hurts it quite a bit. If OTA HDTV is a concern of yours.

  10. Mark Levison says:

    Blog more there’s almost nothing on the TV anyway.

  11. In general, with antennas, bigger is better, but location is pretty important as well.

    You might want to head out to, which *attempts* to customize the recomendations based on where you live.

    Signal amplifiers are mostly useless. For antennas, what you usually need is a better signal/noise ratio, and amplifiers don’t give that to you.

    For cable applications they can be useful.

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