How to Know Which Direction to Point Your HDTV Antenna

By Don Patton

A rooftop television antenna must point toward the transmitter.
i Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

A clear picture and reception of distant stations require home television antennas to have high gain and narrow beamwidth. These characteristics come at the cost of poor response to signals arriving at off-axis angles. To achieve satisfactory reception, you must point the HDTV antenna in the general direction of the transmitting towers.

Locating the Stations

If you live some distance from a city with television stations, you probably already know the direction to their transmitters. If not, several online sites, such as the AntennaWeb and AntennaPoint websites, can help locate them. When you enter an address or zip code at one of these websites, the site tells you the direction to the stations and how good the reception is likely to be.

Pointing the Antenna

Many antennas have odd shapes that make it difficult to determine where they are pointed. For traditional multiple element antennas, the end with the smaller elements should point toward the transmitter. You can usually determine an antenna’s direction by trial and error. Moving the antenna from side to side to find the range of good reception from a known transmitter location should indicate the best orientation.

Receiving Multiple Stations

It may be possible to receive all available stations without ever having to move the antenna. If you are far enough away from a metropolitan area with many stations, the variation in angles to the transmitting towers is likely small. If the stations are more than 30 degrees apart and more than 30 miles away, you may have difficulty doing this. For a rooftop antenna, this requires the use of a rotor.