Is there such a thing as an “antenna dead zone?”

I’m talking about no TV reception. Zero. If you are ready to cut the cord, you probably want to know for certain that you’ll get at least a few channels. But is it possible that you live in an “antenna dead zone?”

How could this happen?

There are three possibilities that you have to consider when choosing to cut the cord, to make sure that there are free HDTV channels available. Antenna dead zones are real, and you absolutely have to consider the possibility that you’re in one. Let’s face facts, though… you probably aren’t. When you take a look at these possibilities you’ll realize they’re pretty extreme.

You’re 75 miles away or more from the broadcast towers.

Yes, there are plenty of places out west where this is true. The wilds of North Dakota, California’s Death Valley, and many many others. If you like the rural life and you find yourself driving an hour or more to get to even the most rudimentary forms of civilization, then it’s possible there are no TV stations that serve you over the air. Digital TV broadcasts can start to get unreliable after about 75 miles and once you get much over 100 miles, then the curvature of the earth takes over and you lose your line of sight, with pretty much nothing you can do. There are sometimes low-power translators in areas like that but sometimes… there’s just nothing.

Something big and metal is in between you and the towers.

This can happen one of two ways. Let’s say you live in New York City on the lower floor of a building. In that market, most broadcasting comes from the top of the Empire State Building and other tall buildings. You literally could have buildings blocking your signal. This is very real, and it’s happened to me.

The other possibility here is if you live at the bottom of a hill and there’s a lot of iron in the soil. This is another very real possibility although in this case it may be possible to put an antenna up high enough that you can overcome it.

You get good reception outdoors, and bad reception indoors.

This is actually the most common form of dead zone. What we’re talking about here is that the very construction of your home is deflecting the signal enough that you can’t use an indoor antenna. Bricks with a lot of iron can do this and so can energy-efficient windows. Some house paints, notably those with blue or green hues, contain metallic pigments that don’t let signals through. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of being too far from the towers. If you’re more than 30 miles from a major city, a small indoor antenna simply won’t do it for you in most cases.

The weaker signals, combined with the signal loss that comes from going through any kind of building material, is simply not going to let you get free HDTV. Luckily this is easy to fix by putting up an outdoor antenna. This does not automatically mean going up on the roof. There are a number of options for outdoor antennas that can be mounted at ground level on a tripod, although of course you’re going to get better reception by putting that antenna up as high as possible.


If you’re confused about antennas, if you think you live in an antenna dead zone, or if you just need someone to help you answer the basic questions, the good news is that you’re not alone. You can call Solid Signal at 877.312.4547 or email for expert advice. We have a team of antenna professionals who are ready to talk about the kinds of antennas that work in your area, and they’ll even give you honest advice if it looks like there isn’t any way to get an antenna signal in your area. All this great service comes with no cost or obligation and it’s completely free. Of course we’d love it if you’d shop Solid Signal for the best antenna selection at the best prices.

If you truly find there’s no way to get free HDTV in your area, cutting the cord may not be an option for you, but of course that’s why there’s streaming and satellite TV, right?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.