People ask me all of the time how they can improve their indoor antenna reception. The first thing I do is refer them to my Tips for Better TV Reception with Your Indoor Antenna. But, there are cases when even after following these tips, an indoor antenna just can’t pick up the weak signals in the area.
One solution may be to use a rooftop or attic antenna. But, that may not be possible if you live in an apartment (unless your landlord agrees) or just don’t want the hassle and expense of routing coax cable to the roof and installing an antenna.
Could there be another alternative? I’ve been experimenting with some small metal antennas that you can mount right on your patio or outdoor wall. These don’t require routing a lot of cables, crawling on your roof or in your attic, or setting up poles. The only thing you have to do is find a way to route the antenna cable from your TV to the outside.
I tested the small, inexpensive Channel Master Stealthtenna 50 outdoor antenna against my trusty old Mohu Leaf to see how much improvement I could get with a small outdoor antenna mounted on my first-floor balcony. The answer is “a lot”!
As a baseline, I did a scan using my Mohu Leaf antenna, located inside my condo. I got 97 channels (in Santa Monica, CA). Not bad at all.
Next, just for the heck of it, I did a scan with the Channel Master Stealth antenna inside my condo. It did worse, with only 66 channels.
But, when I moved the Stealth outside to my patio, it got a whopping 143 channels!
As you can see, I didn’t even mount it! I just laid it on my first-floor patio railing pointing towards the TV towers and it still kicked ass!
To have a fair test, I moved my Leaf outside and it got a respectable 124 channels. But, the outdoor Stealth was still the winner!
Why Outdoor Antennas Give You More Channels
So, as you can see, using a small outdoor can give dramatically better results than an indoor antenna, even if it is not on your roof!
There are several possible reasons for the better outdoor performance:
- My window has a metal screen, frame, and crossbars which hinder signal penetration.
- Moving the antenna outside removes it from indoor electromagnetic interference from other devices like my TV, game boxes, appliances, etc.
- Moving the antenna outside gives me greater freedom to point it in the correct direction, because my window does not face the transmitter towers.
For those of you who aren’t getting the channels you want using an indoor antenna, this might be the solution!
The Cable Routing Problem
So, I’ve shown that a small outdoor patio antenna can give much better reception than an indoor antenna, but without many of the downsides and hassles of roof or attic antennas. But there is still one problem: you still have to route your antenna cable through your exterior wall.
I admit I don’t have a magic solution on how to do this other than to drill a hole through your wall. Here are some detailed instructions on how to do it properly.
You can look for an existing hole where the cable TV or Dish cable comes in. You might be able to re-use that cable or hole.
Or, if you only watch TV occasionally, you can keep it inside and just put it outside through your patio door and close it almost all of the way. Yes, I know this is a pain…
But, if this lets you save $100/month on cable TV, it just might be worth it!
Are you afraid that your HOA or landlord will complain about your antenna? Well, the federal government guarantees your right to mount a TV antenna on your balcony?
Your HOA or landlord can’t force you to remove it under federal law, with some reasonable exceptions.
Read the FCC’s Over Air Reception Devices Rule and know your rights when it comes to mounting TV antennas.
Cost: An Amazing Value
Let’s talk about the best part of this experiment: the cost. The Channel Master Stealthtenna 50 is a metal antenna that sells for only $29 from Amazon!! That is cheaper than many plastic indoor antennas!
I am very impressed with this small and insanely inexpensive antenna!! It’s only two feet long!
Get it on Amazon here:
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Note that any time you permanently mount an antenna outdoors, you should ground the shield to your home’s earth ground. Here’s some info on how to ground an antenna.
Before buying any antenna, please check the Station Finder to make sure there are channels in your area. No antenna can pick up stations if you are too far from the transmitter towers.
I hope this is helpful to those of you who are not able/allowed to use a roof antenna, but still want better reception than an indoor antenna can offer. I’ve discovered that you can get many of the benefits of a rooftop antenna with a small balcony antenna, but without a lot of the hassles. – Brian
A flat coaxial cable, typically 8 to 12 inches long, may be used to pass the connection through a closed window. They are available at some hardware stores and Amazon.
Good idea – thanks for sharing!
How did you test it out at your Condo? plug it in inside the house and weave the wire under the door?
I’ve learned that I can rely on your posts for timely , relevant, USEFUL information with practical applications. Very cool. Thank you.
Hola amigo soy aficionado a las antenas me gustaría saber información de la antena que has presentado referencia al armado de los elementos gracias
Puedes obtenerlo aqui:
My location notes that towers are 100 plus miles away, in 2-3 directions. Do I need an antenna that is rated for that distance? what if the station finder suggests i set up 35 to 40 foot above ground? what antenna do you recoemend for this application?
I don’t have a particular outdoor antenna to recommend, since there are so many available and so many different situations.
But yes, ideally your antenna will be as high up as possible, and rated for that distance, even though those ratings are somewhat meaningless other than “higher is usually better”.
I recommend checking with your neighbors (look at their roofs) to see what kinds of antennas they have and how many channels they are getting.
Thanks for the great article, appreciated. Can you please provide some information regarding grounding a small outdoor antenna located on a balcony of a high rise apartment building? Your link is to grounding in a private home situation. I just can’t find a clear answer anywhere! Many thanks.
Here is a link to some coax antenna cable grounding blocks:
However, for this to work properly it has to be attached via thick wire to a proper earth ground. It might be best to have an electrician or approved antenna installer do this, especially for an apartment building.
I can get you the lowest prices DirecTV or Dish. I can also help with Charter, Time Warner, Dish Net, Hughes Net, AT&T, Century Link, etc…. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Really great article! You mentioned you’re in Santa Monica (I’m in Brentwood) and that your balcony doesn’t face the towers (neither do mine). When I did a specific Station Finder check it had almost all of the stations as unavailable. I’m curious what kind of results you did with your Station Finder check. I still think it’s worth a try to put the antenna on my balcony – but would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
Brentwood is close to the Santa Monica mountains, which block the TV signals from Pasadena to some extent.
If you enter your exact address and see a lot of yellow channels in the Station Finder, I think there is still hope though. The Channel Master Stealthtenna would be a good choice if you can mount it on your patio as high up as possible, pointing it towards Pasadena (ENE compass direction). So, yes, I think it’s worth a try (check your return policy just in case).
Before buying an antenna, I would do this quick test just to make sure you can get something: https://www.disablemycable.com/quick-test/
Let me know how it goes if you have a chance!
So, in order to expedite things and have an easy return just in case, I went to Best Buy and got the ClearStream 2V Long-Range HDTV Antenna for $99.99. We put it together and just laid it on our balcony railing like you did with your Stealth. Ran the channel scan and came up with 145! We didn’t find Fox but the other networks came in great along with the PBS stations.
We’re going to try a couple different placements and determine how to mount it so it’s not just laying there but at least we know it works. So – first step accomplished!
Thanks for your help – and I’ll be reading your other articles to get more tips!
Awesome!!! I’m glad it worked for you! Thank you for sharing your story!!