Home fitting loft TV aerials
Solve Poor Reception
If you're installing an indoor TV aerial in a loft, this installation guide provides DIY help, tips and advice on how to get the best Freeview reception and reduce interference when mounting TV aerials in any attic or roof space.
In reality, if you live more than about 20 miles from a main UHF TV transmitter, fitting a loft aerial is unlikely to provide perfect Freeview TV reception. Please also note that the type of aerial you'll need will vary depending on where you live in the UK.
In practice, indoor TV aerials may give poor reception even in locations quite close to a television transmitter, depending on your local terrain - Read common causes of poor reception for help.
For example, the presence of nearby obstructions like hills and tall buildings or screening from trees may adversely affect the direct line of sight view of the transmitter, resulting in a weak television signal with multipath effects, resulting in Freeview reception problems and picture break up.
The use of loft aerials will inevitably mean that your digital TV picture is more prone to breaking up with occasional pixilation. Indoor aerials are installed at a lower height and suffer additional signal attenuation due to roof tiles and roofing materials, as well as being more susceptible to interference pickup from house wiring in the attic.
Digital TV Signal Meter
Before you install any indoor aerial, ask your neighbours whether they get good Freeview reception using a loft aerial. If they get a weak TV signal with problematic Freeview reception, then high gain external TV aerial installation is advised. We recommend getting a roof-top aerial fitted by a local CAI installer.
If indoor TV aerials appear viable in your area, you can crudely check digital signal strength and quality in your loft by trying a portable TV and a Set-Top Aerial inside your attic. You will need to borrow or buy a digital set top box or DVB-T Scart Adapter if your TV hasn't got a Freeview tuner built in.
For your own health and safety, please read sensible precautions when installing a loft aerial before you start work.
Loft Aerial Bracket
When installing the test set top TV aerial, get the bearing and distance to your TV transmitter by entering your postcode into the Wolfbane Digital TV Coverage Estimator and check Freeview coverage maps for your area. Also find out whether your local TV transmitter uses Horizontal (H) or Vertical (V) polarisation. The required TV aerial polarisation is defined in the Wolfbane 'POL' column.
To get the latest digital channel numbers for your local transmitter visit Digital UK, then enter your UK Postcode and tick the "I am in the aerial installation trade" option. This gives a full list of TV transmitters serving your area, together with the UHF channel allocations of all DVB-T multiplexes.
Then use a compass to find the TV transmitter bearing from your property. Install the temporary loft aerial by moving it around your attic to get the best signal quality on all digital TV channels whilst optimising its bearing to the transmitter. Remember to compare the signal quality on channels from each digital multiplex to ensure consistent Freeview reception. The use of our suggested test channels is recommended.
If the set top TV aerial installation gives good reception when mounted in your loft on all digital TV channels, then a DIY high gain indoor aerial should provide excellent results. If DTT reception is poor or marginal in your attic, install an outdoor roof TV aerial instead.
The following digital TV channels are transmitted on different Freeview multiplexes and are broadcast from all main (high power) TV tansmitters, so checking that their signal quality is reasonably consistent during the loft aerial installation process will ensure you can receive all available Freeview channels. Refer to your particular set top box user manual to find out how to check signal quality.
Note that UK Relay Transmitters do not transmit a full complement of Freeview channels.
Recommended test channels for aligning a loft aerial for best Freeview reception:
YouView Digital TV Recorder
Fitting indoor loft TV aerials generally results in less than half the signal strength of an external roof mounted aerial due to the attenuation of roof tiles and roofing materials. There is also a reduction in received signal strength resulting from the lower height when installing indoor aerials compared to roof top aerials.
However, to DIY install a indoor aerial in a loft does have some advantages. For example, it suffers no weather damage, rain ingression or plastic UV degradation from the sun - so there some benefits in installing indoor aerials over the 10 year life expectancy of a roof-top aerial in the UK.
Loft aerials also provide aesthetic advantages and where restrictive covenants exist in the deeds of a property forbidding external installation, fitting a high gain wideband loft aerial for TV reception may be the only viable option.
Since you can expect a 6dB to 10dB signal loss by fitting TV aerials in your loft, you should always try to install a high gain aerial wherever possible to help counteract losses through the tiles and roof. That said, when embarking on any loft aerial installation consider the space you have available! Always avoid using very large aerials in your attic, like 100 Element Arrays as they can be hard to install and position, especially if your loft is small.
Above all, always install a quality aerial, rather than a cheap aerial with a signal booster.
It is just as important to buy quality double screened CT100 or Satellite Grade Coaxial Cable to feed your indoor loft aerial as large signal losses can result from older supposedly "Low loss" single screened TV cables.
Where Freeview services are transmitted on a narrow group of UHF channels, a TV aerial optimised for those channels will outperform a high gain wideband aerial.
I often get asked whether a 'One For All' or similar set top TV aerial with signal booster will work when fitted in the loft. The answer depends on signal strength and proximity to a TV transmitter. In general, only areas very close to a high power TV transmitter in the primary service area with clear line of sight will get good Freeview reception with any set top aerial.
Read our One for All Aerial Review for more information on the vagaries and limitations of One for All TV aerials.
Where the direction to the TV transmitter means that an indoor aerial needs pointing through solid walls rather than tiles in your loft, UHF signal attenuation can be much higher.
If you are in a row of houses and the aerial has to point through multiple party walls and roof-spaces, then you can expect very poor reception and weak TV signal levels from your attic aerial, even quite close to the transmitter.
A masthead aerial amplifier will help a little in these circumstances, especially if you're using a long cable run from the aerial. For better results, consider installing a High Gain Freeview TV Aerial - roof mounted (if permitted).
Installing indoor TV aerials in your loft may give a poor signal if:-
The Confederation of Aerial Industries (CAI) undertake aerial benchmarking (which involves the formal testing and evaluation of TV aerials from all manufacturers). The CAI then apply benchmark standards of 1 - 4 to aerials which meet their strict quality guidelines.
In general, Standard 1 CAI Benchmarked Aerials will work best in weak Freeview reception areas whilst Standard 2 CAI Benchmark Aerials like the Triax Unix52 are smaller, suffer less wind load and represent a good choice for both average and fringe signal areas. A cheaper (non CAI approved) alternative is the SLx 27884D 48 Element Wideband TV Aerial.
The installation of a CAI benchmarked TV aerial of standard 1 or 2 will improve Freeview reception over standards 3 and 4 types. For a definitive list of CAI approved and benchmarked aerials by manufacturer, please refer to the aerial benchmarking section of the DTG Website.
Digital Coaxial Cable
Choosing and installing the best indoor TV aerial in your loft depends entirely on where you live in the UK and available space.
The UHF channel allocations of many UK television transmitters require wideband TV aerial installation, especially for good Freeview reception (DTV), whilst other regions allow the use of aerials optimised for a narrow band of UHF frequencies, even for Freeview. To find out the type of digital compatible TV aerial required in your particular region of the UK, try the 'transmitters page' on the DTG Website.
If in doubt, fit a wideband aerial which will receive all UHF TV channels and work in all areas. For small loft spaces a log periodic aerial is a good choice for DIY installation, as it will be easier to manoeuvre. If you have a larger attic and more space, we recommend a Triax Unix52 or the BLAKE DMX10WB, both of which are high gain wideband TV aerials suitable for indoor use in all UK regions. These aerials are a good choice for fringe area reception and weak signal areas for boosting Freeview reception.
Electrical interference (impulse noise) can cause serious TV reception problems especially with a loft aerial installation. This type of interference emanates from electrical appliances around your home such as the central heating thermostat, light switches and fridge freezers. It results in Freeview picture break-up problems, often resulting in the picture freezing.
Best Aerials to Reduce Multipath Reception
If multipath reception cuased by tall nearby buildings or obstructions is a known problem and TV signal strength is strong in your area, we recommend a Log Periodic Aerial. These are ideal for small loft spaces and offer the best multi-path signal rejection. Log Periodic aerials also provide consistent performance over the entire UHF TV band, with reasonable gain.
Improve TV Reception
In London and areas served by the Crystal Palace transmitter, a Group A High Gain TV Aerial is the best choice for all Freeview DTT and analogue TV channels and will give better reception than installing an equivalent wideband aerial for Crystal Palace.
When considering loft aerials in a fringe TV reception area for Freeview, installing a high gain masthead TV amplifier at the aerial may significantly improve Freeview reception especially if a long coaxial cable aerial down lead is required. For regions with a poor TV signal, install a fully screened masthead amplifier with around a 16dB gain (maximum) in the loft about one metre down the coaxial cable from the aerial.
Choose a masthead amplifier that gets its power up the coaxial cable. If interference problems occur, install a TVI filter between the TV aerial and the masthead amplifier. Read our TV Interference page for more information. Read our Guide to Fitting F-type Plugs if your chosen masthead TV amplifier uses F-type connectors and you need help fitting them.
Positioning indoor aerials in any loft is surprisingly critical in order to get the best Freeview signal quality and interference rejection.
Top TV Aerial Installation Tip:
If your received TV signal is strong, try fitting a 12dB TV Signal Attenuator to help lower the signal so that the optimum position for the aerial in the loft can be found. Install a portable TV temporarily in the loft to find a "sweet spot" giving the best digital reception on all TV channels with the highest Freeview signal quality from your indoor aerial.
Below are some more useful DIY installation tips on how to install an effective indoor TV aerial in your loft for Freeview and analogue TV reception:-
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Written by Steve Larkins