Choosing the Right Digital Antenna for Rural Regions

Television reception in rural regions is difficult with analog signals and often worse with digital. Finding the right antenna for these areas is challenge that requires a little research to reduce the chances of buying the wrong device.

Rural regions are often far from the nearest television tower or translator. Known as “fringe” or in some cases, “deep fringe” zones, these areas often rely on huge outdoor antennas, amplifiers, and other devices in order to achieve a decent analog signal.

The digital transition means many of these households, especially the ones who rely on small, cheap antennas, will be left without any reception, since digital signals are more difficult to receive. Finding the right antenna and equipment to keep your signal takes time, patience, and a little research, to increase the chance that your new purchases are helpful.

To determine the strength of the signal around you (and what stations the government projects you will receive) visit dtv.gov and enter your town and state or zip code. You’ll be able to view the list of stations near your area with available signals, as well as the signal strength. A click of the mouse will show the distance of the nearest tower or translator.

The fewer stations listed (or perhaps none at all) means you’ll need a strong antenna to receive any signal. At antennaweb.org, you’ll find some suggestions for purchasing the right antenna for limited signal strength. Antennaweb and other websites use the reception color wheel to determine what kind of antenna is necessary: the two colors defining hard-to-reach places are typically pink and violet. Antennas and other equipment are often “color-coded” using this chart, with yellow and green being the easiest, blue the third most difficult region.

Since blue is the standard for hard-to-reach signals, and therefore the strongest antenna class available, you’ll most likely be purchasing one along with an amplifier. Popular brands for receiving digital signals include the Winegard brand, which makes heavy-duty outdoor antenna with traditional VHF/UHF combined capacity. Terk’s antenna line includes both powerful indoor and outdoor models, which many viewers have used successfully to achieve digital and high-definition signals. Reviews on Amazon.com and several digital tv forums such as the AVS Forum may help you determine what brand or model is right for you. Try to choose a company or seller with a good return policy, in case you decide the model you purchase won’t work.

Boosters or antenna amplifiers help upgrade your antenna to “pink” or “violet” status by boosting the power of the signal received. Other necessary equipment may include new copper coaxiel cable (for connecting the antenna and television) and a roter, which lets you turn the antenna easily to locate the signal. An FM filter may be necessary to remove any excess radio signals interfering with television reception.

Remember, there is always a chance that the new antenna will not be the right one for you. Certain terrains, including mountains, woods, and valleys may all but eliminate the chance of receiving a good signal. It may take experimentation and a lot of patience in order to find an antenna or equipment that will improve your digital transition.

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