Last Updated on: 16th November 2021, 07:18 pm
So you live or work in a metal steel building and you want to know how to improve radio reception inside. Before we help you improve your radio reception in the metal building, let’s take a quick second to understand how radios work.
FM radios work by receiving FM signals. These FM signals are floating all around us and so your radio can receive them directly.
FM is its strongest while in line-of-sight and the signals weaken as obstacles come in the way – moreover, FM signals don’t bend much as AM do.
Anything that comes between the radio and these radio signals will cause disruption if the obstacle is strong enough.
Steel and other types of metal are strong enough to block FM signals. Now, let’s look at steps to improve radio reception in a metal building.
10 Steps To Improve Radio Reception In A Metal Building
Step 1: Relocate The Radio
The first and most obvious thing you should do when your radio is losing reception is to simply move it. In many cases, there will be several spots, even in a steel building where you will get excellent reception.
A good example is close to windows and doors. Radio waves travel through glass, far better than a metal shielded building.
Some steel buildings also have concrete sections or sections made of other materials. Moving the radio about while its playing will help you to find the perfect location for achieving reception and playing cleanly.
Place the back of the radio so you can aim through an open window at the station transmitting tower for best results (if possible).
This is probably the quickest and easiest ways to improve radio reception in a metal building.
Step 2: Adjust The Antenna
Now that you have moved the radio to the best point in the building for reception, you may still experience some distortion.
In such a case, you will want to identify the radio’s antenna and move it into the best path for clear signals. You may have difficulty with certain types of radios, however. For example, some radios don’t have an obvious antenna.
For example, some radios use the power chord as an antenna. However, even the lowliest radio has some sort of antenna – it’s just that most are typically built-in, with typically poor performance.
On the other hand, some home clock radios have a telescopic antenna that often has a thin wire attached that operates as the antenna – some use the power cord as an antenna.
If you can find the antenna, change its position and find the best possible placement for a clear signal. This is another very easy way to improve radio reception in a metal building.
Step 3: Modify The Antenna
One easy and cheap way to easily improve radio reception in a metal steel building is by modifying the antenna. All you would need to do is to add a length of thin straight wire to the existing FM antenna wire.
In addition to that, you could wrap an extension around the FM radio power cord say 10 to 20 wraps over its entire length. Note that the power cord should be pulled out straight.
Why do we do this? What we are trying to do is to trap the FM running in the power lines which act as antennas themselves.
If you want to keep things indoors, you can also run an antenna wire up a wall high as possible. At the top, you should have a ‘T’. This is just a horizontal section of the wire that should be about 5 feet long.
We choose 5 ft because that length is related to the average half wave of FM. Also, try to tack up the “T” portion outside for improved reception
If you are all about home decor, this may not be for you regardless of how badly you want to improve radio reception inside your metal building. You can use another method. yet another easy way to improve radio reception in a steel building.
Step 4: Attach A New Amplified Indoor Antenna
For some radios, as we mentioned, you may struggle to find the antenna. For other radios, the antenna may be broken or may be of low quality. In such cases, you will want to attach a new indoor antenna to your radio.
There are several of these available, manufactured by companies such as Terk, Audiovox, and others.
Most of these are professional antennas with a small pre-amplifier intended to boost the signal before it reaches your radio. However, most radios already have a very good pre-amplifier built into its circuitry and so you might be better off with just a “dipole” antenna connected to your radio.
Unless the radios internal amplification is not working properly, additional pre-amplification sometimes does more bad than good – causing increased noise in the reception.
Step 5: Create An Indoor Antenna
If you don’t want to modify your antenna for whatever reason, you can create an antenna instead. Creating a folded dipole antenna is a good idea. A folded dipole antenna is simply a flexible wire antenna that will help to improve the signal reception to some extent. You will build it in a similar manner as we recommended that you would modify the antenna. That is, you would be attached to the back of the radio, then you would string up the wire somewhere in the room as a “T” with the two ends extended as far as possible from each other. Of course, this might not be as slightly and may hurt your home’s décor. Again, try to tack up the “T” portion outside for improved reception.
If you can’t afford to purchase an indoor antenna or create one, you can also grab an old pair of TV rabbit ears and attach them to the antenna terminals. You could even build your own yagi antenna. If you are using one of these, simply attach the u-hooks to the antenna screw terminals.
Also, if you are creating your own antenna, it is important that you don’t use a vertical antenna because FM signals are horizontally polarized. Because of this, the antenna should be at right angles to the line to the station. Additionally, if possible, keep the ends of the antenna away from any metal objects because these objects will ground and therefore detune your antenna. Again, remember, the orientation is important. Antennas work best when perpendicular to the station.
Once you have it, simply connect the dipole antenna to the antenna terminals.
Step 6: Create An Outdoor Antenna
if you’re a handy person, then you can simply create an outdoor antenna yourself. All you need to do is this:
Put a PVC bushing in the outside the wall and get a piece of copper pipe and shove it through the wall inside the PVC bushing. Note that the length of the pipe should be about 4.5 to 4.6 feet depending on what part of the FM band you want to optimize for. Diameter is also important as the wider the wire, the wider the bandwidth. The ends of the wires sticking out each side of the pipe should also be even.
Step 7: Adjust Stereo or Mono
In general, FM radio stations broadcast in stereo, however, it is often more difficult for your radio receiver to pick up a clear signal in stereo. As such, you should switch the stereo selector to mono. The mono setting will then remove the two-channel reception and reduce any static and fuzz from the incoming signal. This will then deliver more powerful and clear sound output.
Step 8: Purchase An Outdoor Antenna
If all else fails, then you can go to the final step – purchasing an outdoor antenna. These antennas, as their names suggest are simply placed on the outdoor of buildings and will drastically improve reception. Many of them are aerials that resemble old rooftop television antennas.
If you want to install a new outdoor FM antenna, there are two types to choose from, “omni-directional” and “directional”. An omni-directional antena will receive FM signals from all directions, as its name suggest. A good example is the Winegard HD-6010. This is a decent choice if you like to station-hop.
If most of the stations you listen to are in the same direction, then a directional antenna will do fine.
Just mount the antenna on the outside as high as possible and connect a coaxial from it to the antenna terminals on the radio receiver. You should use a coax because a coax lead-in has a lower signal loss than many other types of cables and that can make a big difference.
As we’ve already illustrated, an external aerial/antennae feeding your radio would be the ideal solution if all else fails.
Remember, you can get the same reception in a bad location using a great antenna as you can in a good location using a bad antenna! Also, remember the higher up your antenna is located, the better chance you have of receiving a clear signal
Step 9: Use An Old TV Antenna
If you’re a renter, lease or similar, I’m sorry, as I know you probably can’t install an indoor or even outdoor antenna.
One of the easiest fixes for this situation is to to use (or re-purpose) a TV antenna that’s already on your roof. Most buildings will already have TV antennas anyway. Oh, you still use it to get TV reception? No problem, just get an inexpensive TV-FM splitter such as the RadioShack 75 to 300 Ohm Coax TV FM VHF . Better yet, you no longer use it as you have upgraded to cable? Just connect your radio directly to the antenna.
You’ll be surprised at how well this works!
Step 10: Change Your Radio
If using an outdoor antenna does not work, then you need to change your radio. Simply put.
Why? Because once you place an antenna outside from your radio, a portable radio tuned to a strong enough station should go instantly from barely intelligible static to perfect clear play. So, if that doesn’t t happen and all else fails, just get a new radio.
Some manufacturers sell what are known as super tuner radios which have excellent receivers capable of picking up weak radio signals.
If you are having issues with a ham radio, here’s our list of the best ham radios available.
If you are having issues with a regular radio, below is our list of the most powerful radios with the best reception even in a metal or steel building:
Why Is Radio Reception Poor In A Steel Metal Building?
As we explained in the introduction, there’s a good and clear reason why radio reception is poor in metal buildings. The steel in the building acts as a Faraday cage and so attenuates the signal. In simple terms, the metal blocks the radio signals, preventing them from reaching the radio.
How To Get Radio Reception In A Metal Building With Fluorescent Light
Radio reception can be quite difficult in a metal building with fluorescent light. This is due to the fact that the ballasts normally create noise that interferes with the radio signals. Many of these ballasts do not comply with the FCC radio interference rules. This means that the radio will play just fine with the lights off.
Here are some solutions for this:
- Use an Internet Radio App: You can use a radio app like Pandora or iHeart
- Use A Outdoor Antenna: Another fix is to use an outdoor antenna that would not be affected by the metal nor the ballasts.
- Use A filter: You can use a filter to remove the signals created from the ballasts. A good example is the Corcom 5VR1 filter.
Can A Metal Building Be Used As An Antenna?
Yes, it is possible to use anything made of metal as an antenna in some way. However, it will work much poorly because the metal is not built to be a real antenna.
So, to sum things up, you can improve radio reception in a metal building by moving the radio about until you find a signal, adjusting the antenna or switching to mono and so on. If all of these attempts fail, then an excellent way to get better reception inside the metal building would be to have a high gain antenna outside the building and connect it to a high gain FM antenna inside the metal building. You should keep in mind that a pair of dipoles would also work, but not as well, but they are easily built.
Thats it, we hope we answered your question ‘improve radio reception in a metal building’…
My name is Norvan Martin. I am an Electronics Engineer by profession. I have always been passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker is where I share my findings and experience as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics.