The first subject to address is TV antenna range.
Range in miles is the claimed ability of a particular television antenna to receive a signal from a particular distance. Many antenna manufacturers do this stating range in miles. This however can be very misleading. Here's why, antennas can receive TV signal from a much greater distance over flat open terrain, versus hilly or densely wooded terrain. Some manufactures may exaggerate their claims, by using the words up to ____ miles. Most manufacturer range in mile claims are based on fairly good reception conditions, some claims are totally exaggerated but never are the claims made under the worst conditions. For an example, one manufacturer claims their antenna can receive TV signals to 150 miles away. Claiming an antenna range of 150 miles is nothing more than marketing hype.
I think Ken Nist says it best on his website at hdtvprimer.com/ANTENNAS/comparing.html He says "Antenna marketing is a racket in that the less honest you are, the more antennas you sell. (Nobody goes to court over a TV antenna.) Gain figures published by antenna makers are mostly useless, except maybe for comparing antennas by the same maker".
So be aware of claims that seem to good to be true.The fact is no matter what antenna is in use don't expect range in reception of more then 60 to 80 miles under normal conditions..
The gain figure of a particular TV antenna is much more important than range in miles but even this figure can be overstated and manipulated by the manufacturer depending on the test procedure. There are good reputable manufactures out there that try to give you some basis to make your decision. However, understand that most gain data is exaggerated for the purposes of selling a particular brand antenna.
Here are some factors that effect the distance a TV signal can travel.
1. Not all TV stations are created equal.
At our home here in Ithaca, MI. we receive numerous channels from many different directions. One example is from Cadillac Michigan. The two Cadillac TV transmitter's are according to fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/ 78.6 miles from our location. Channel 9 has a strong signal and a tall transmitting tower and we consistently receive their signal nearly perfect day in and day out. Channel 33's transmitter is located within a short distance of the channel 9 transmitter. Channel 33 broadcasts a weaker signal and has a shorter tower, we receive their signal poorly, sometimes so poorly we can't get it at all. Two channels, same distance, same receiving antenna, different results because of the elevation of the transmitting antenna and the frequency and output power of the transmitter.
2. How high is your TV antenna?
The curvature of the earth plays a role in how far a TV signal can travel, so do hills and to a lesser extent trees. TV signal is best received when the broadcast antenna and the receiving antenna have what is called a line of sight. Sometimes line of sight isn't possible there may be hills or other obstructions in the line of sight so an antenna larger then the range in miles indicates may be needed. It's always better to over buy the antenna rather then under buy. This is especially true with digital reception. Installing in the attic is another reason to buy up rather than down. Antennas installed outside perform better then those installed inside.
The higher the receiving antenna is installed generally the better it will perform. For best results the antenna should be installed above your roof line or facing away from the house in the direction to the transmitters.
3. Is it windy at your house?
Believe it or not I ask this question when I'm helping someone choose a TV antenna, no I'm not crazy. Wind and TV signal travel across the earth in a similar manner. For an example, if your home is surrounded by a dense forest you would have very little wind compared to a home in the middle of an open field. Which location do you think would get better TV reception, the one in the open field with more wind of course. The same goes for homes surrounded by tall buildings, hills or anything that can block TV signal. A few trees around the neighborhood has very little effect on TV reception.
4. Do you look down on everyone?
Do you live on a hill? If so your reception should be very good. Some time ago a customer called me on the phone. He wanted to inform me that the MS 2000 he had purchased from our company wasn't working good at all. I had the customer run through some troubleshooting procedures and could find nothing wrong. I finally ask him where he had installed the antenna and he replied, "oh it's on top of the TV in the basement", elevation does matter. Examine your elevation in comparison to the terrain surrounding your home. When you're driving home pay attention to the terrain. Sometimes changes in elevation are so small and gradual they go unnoticed. Sometimes you can even be living on a hill in a deep valley and not even realize it.
5. The bottom line
"Range in miles for the most part is useless, without you the consumer having some knowledge of TV signal behavior. Beware of false claims that seem to good to be true with a low price to match. Excellent TV reception can be achieved in over 98% of the United states with the proper equipment. Next page: Which TV Antenna works best?
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