Can an Outdoor TV Antenna Be Used Indoors?

By Greg Martinez / November 5, 2019
Can You Use an Outdoor Antenna Indoors

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When describing TV antennas, we often talk about form and function.

Technically speaking, indoor and outdoor antennas are made of similar receptive materials (e.g., copper and aluminium) that receive radio frequency waves moving through the air, and convert these into electrical signals that go into your television.

So in terms of function, indoor and outdoor antennas work in basically the same way.

It’s in the form, however, where they differ, and that makes a given antenna often better suited for either indoor or outdoor use (and sometimes both).

Indoor Antenna Design

For comparison, let’s look first at indoor antennas.

These tend to be small and compact, and have shorter reception ranges than the larger outdoor kinds. They also generally have a fragile construction.

The Old Rabbit Ears

A typical example of an indoor antenna is the dipole “rabbit ears” antenna that offers omnidirectional reception. That is, it receives signals from transmission towers in a 360-degree radius.

Rabbit ears dipole antenna

Sitting directly on top of your TV, it’s very easy to adjust the flexible metal “ears” or to spontaneously rotate the antenna to improve reception.

These kinds of dipole antennas were more popular before the advent of digital television in 2009, as they tend to pick up VHF signals (which were more heavily used in the early days of TV) better than the UHF frequencies broadcast more often today.

Modern Indoor Design

Generally built with delicate, plastic exteriors, leaf design antennas are made for cluttered household environments offering minimal space in which to fit an antenna.

Their exteriors are more aesthetic than robust, making them less resistant to outdoor environmental conditions (should you suddenly decide to mount one on your roof).

Of course today, many indoor antennas have dropped the bunny ears in favor of a solid, square shape that allows them to fit comfortably and innocuously behind the TV or by a window.

An example of these modern, square designs is the foot wide AliTEK J-001 Amplified TV antenna.

Smaller = Less Reception Range

Being smaller and having less of a profile to fit more easily in your living room does have its own cost, however.

The diminutive surface area of indoor antennas means their reception range is more limited.

In fact, they’re better suited for customers living within 25-30 miles of transmission towers.

Some modern indoor antennas offer greater ranges, however, with some even promising 100+ miles (highly unlikely in an indoor setting).

To boost their reception, indoor antennas almost uniformly come with a built-in preamplifier to overcome potential interference from walls, ceilings, and household appliances.

Outdoor Antennas

Outdoor antennas can receive TV signals from towers at greater distances away, and are built to withstand adverse climates.

They offer maximum directionality and reception power to pick up weak signals from distant sources.

For example, unidirectional antennas — such as antennas of Yagi and log periodic design — feature an elongated axis with protruding dipole elements to maximize the reception and conversion (i.e., antenna gain) of radio frequency waves into electrical signals for your TV.

The image below shows a typical log periodic antenna design.

Note the sturdy, aluminium frame of the antenna, which makes it suitable for outdoor use.

Log periodic antenna

Besides the size and form of outdoor antennas, they’re often mounted outdoors at a higher elevation and thus avoid many forms of household interference that weaken signals.

One potential downside of outdoor antennas, however, is the complexity of installing them and running a coaxial cable through the house to your TV.

Setting Up an Outdoor TV Antenna Indoors

Installations of outdoor antennas indoors are actually common. There are two typical scenarios:

  • Installation of an outdoor antenna in the attic: Although attic spaces are often cramped and the house structure (e.g., walls, roof, insulation, etc.) creates major interference for TV signals, many customers successfully mount outdoor antennas in attics and get decent reception.
  • Usage of an outdoor antenna in a home’s living spaces: This scenario is less common than attic installations, but some people place their outdoor antennas (particularly smaller ones like the 1byone New Concept Series antenna) in their living rooms, often next to a window.

Although interior spaces of houses can create some significant interference for TV signals, an argument can be made that the superior reception features of outdoor antennas actually make them more receptive than your average indoor antenna, when used indoors.

Rather than being omnidirectional however, outdoor antennas are usually directional and line of sight to radio frequency sources, and should be aimed towards transmission towers.

These days, some brands are marketed as dual purpose; that is, for setting up either indoors or outdoors.

For example, the 1byOne Amplified VHF & UHF Combo offers sufficiently powerful reception that permits you to install it in the attic, along with a sturdy and weatherproof frame for mounting outdoors.


Antennas tend to lose about half their receiving power when placed indoors due to interference (from house structure, home building materials, etc.), even when positioned next to a window.

This makes using an outdoor antenna indoors something of a gamble (particularly if the antenna isn’t amplified, which many outdoor antennas aren’t).

The gamble will probably work, but don’t expect it to function as well as on a mast on your rooftop.

Outdoor antennas also generally don’t possess the aesthetic qualities of an indoor antenna.

Outdoor antennas tend to be large and bulky, and those aspects that are an advantage in terms of reception power turn out to look rather disadvantageous when placed next to your sofa.

Lastly, while using an outdoor antenna indoors may provide tolerable reception, I wouldn’t recommend doing the opposite, that is, setting up an indoor antenna outside.

Indoor antennas are generally too fragile to last long in the rain, wind, and sun.

Thanh - August 1, 2019

When using indoor antennas like rabbit ears, do I need one on every TV I have in my house?

    Greg Martinez - August 3, 2019

    Hi Thanh, rabbit ears are usually cheap enough that it might make sense to have one per television. With an outdoor antenna on the other hand, you might use a splitter device to distribute signal to each of the TVs in your home. Good luck!

Ana Ehresman - August 27, 2019

Can I mount two outdoor antennas in my attic facing different directions but are connected to only one TV?

    Greg Martinez - August 27, 2019

    Hi Ana, sure you can connect both to one TV, and have them facing in different directions. You’ll need to connect them though with either a signal combiner or diplexer – see my article on antenna stacking for details.

Nick C. - September 21, 2019

Do you always need a preamplifier for outdoor antennas?

    Greg Martinez - September 21, 2019

    Hi Nick, no you don’t always need a preamplifier. You should only look into getting one in cases where you have significant interference (either local or geographic). Examples include: your coaxial is longer than 50 feet, you’re using a splitter to distribute the signal to more than 2 TVs, or there’s a hill or forest in the line of sight between your antenna and transmission towers. See this article for more info.

Karina - October 6, 2019

Can I get FM receptions on indoor antennas?

    Greg Martinez - October 7, 2019

    FM radio signals are very close to VHF signals, so it depends on how well your antenna gets VHF. If somehow the antenna is situated in an area of your home with low interference (from walls, etc.), and it’s not UHF only, then it’ll probably pick up some FM channels.

michael kulyk - October 21, 2020

hi – i rent and there have no access to any out door surface – aesthetics do not concern me – number and quality of channels does – also i live on the ground floor in a city
– what is your comment re using an outdoor antenna indoors ?


    Greg Martinez - October 22, 2020

    Pretty much any outdoor antenna will work indoors – personally I would go for a compact design that’s as inconspicuous as possible.

Jim Navotney - March 9, 2021

You get what you pay for with antennas so avoid all the no name chinese made antennas.
Stay with Winegard and Channel Master who make good products and don’t lie about their range or gain

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