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How to Improve Your Antenna for Better TV Reception

Get the most out of your TV antenna

what to know

  • Distance, obstacles, antenna type, number of antennas used, and TV tuner sensitivity can all affect TV reception.
  • Improve reception by removing obstacles, checking antenna connections, performing a channel scan, or using a signal booster.
  • Consider trying a new antenna. For example, switching from indoors to outdoors can improve TV reception.

Cable outages facilitated internet transmission and brought new life to the reception of TV signals through antennas. You get free terrestrial TV without paying high cable or satellite bills. However, receiving a TV signal is more than buying an antenna and placing it randomly somewhere indoors or outdoors.

What affects TV reception?

Various conditions can affect TV reception.

distance

You may be too far away from one or more of the station’s channels to receive the signal. If the distance is too far, there will be a digital cliff, a sudden drop in the TV signal. This is a by-product of the transition from analog TV broadcasting to digital TV broadcasting.

For analog TV signals, fading occurs gradually as the distance between the TV transmitter and the receiving antenna increases. While you may be too far away to receive optimal quality, if you don’t mind, you may still see a lower quality signal with a blurry image.

TV signals are now sent digitally (1s and 0s) and do not attenuate with distance. You will always receive full quality, intermittently or not at all. As you get closer to the digital cliff, the image may appear blocked or cut off and reappear.

If you get too close to a TV channel, the signal can overload your TV tuner or DTV converter box and in some cases damage these devices.

obstacle

TV signals can be affected by physical obstacles such as hills and trees. Some materials used in residential construction, such as stucco, concrete, aluminum siding, metal roofing, foil-lined pipes and ducts, and solar panels, can limit the effectiveness of indoor or attic antennas.

Weather (such as wind and rain), interference from certain types of electrical equipment, and LTE cell towers can sometimes temporarily interrupt the TV signal.

At great distances, the curvature of the earth can affect the reception of television signals.

Antenna Type:

There may be multiple radio stations in your area, but they may not be in the same location. A radio station can broadcast in the north, broadcast in the west, and broadcast in the east.

If you have a directional antenna, you may not be able to receive signals from multiple transmitter locations. If you have a multidirectional or omnidirectional antenna, interference is more likely.

Number of TVs using the same antenna

If multiple TVs are connected to the same antenna via a splitter, the signal will lose strength. If three or four TVs are connected to one antenna, one or two may look fine, and the rest may only receive intermittent signal or no signal at all. You can create homemade cliff effects.

TV tuner sensitivity

The sensitivity of the TV tuner or DTV converter can also affect antenna reception.

Steps to Improve TV Antenna Reception

If you know what’s causing your antenna reception problems, you can use one or more of the following options to improve your TV signal.

remove obstacles† If possible, remove obstructions. Make sure your antenna is pointing clearly towards the TV channel’s transmitter.

Check and replace antenna connections† Make sure the antenna and TV are securely connected. Check for brittleness and wear.

If you have an outdoor antenna, the wires may fray when exposed to the elements. Pets can chew on the inner tentacles.

Make sure the antenna terminals are not oxidized, and if possible, check the entire length of the cable for breaks or cuts. You may not have control over the portion of the cable that goes through the wall.

If the cable is a holdover from the analog TV days, it’s probably 20 AWG (American Wire Gauge) RG59. Consider replacing it with thicker 18 AWG RG6 cable. RG6 is better at digital TV signals, supports larger bandwidth, can be transmitted over long distances, and is more resilient outdoors.

Cable costs vary by brand and length. Prices start from a few dollars for three to six foot lengths.

Perform a channel scan† After checking the antenna location and connections, go to the TV or DTV converter box’s settings menu and perform a new channel scan. New channels that were previously unavailable can be added. When a station registers, you should be able to see it.

use a rotor† If you have an outdoor antenna and receive TV signals from multiple directions, adding a rotor to the antenna may help. However, such solutions are expensive, ranging from about $100 to $200 or more for a complete kit.

If you know the channel location of the channel, use the rotator to point the antenna at the new channel, then manually add those channels to your TV channel list. Note the rotor position for the new channel.

If you use the rotor to move the antenna and search for the channel again, the TV may no longer display the previously scanned channel if the antenna does not receive the previously scanned channel in the new location.

mobile antenna† If you have an indoor antenna, place it near or above a window to prevent wall construction materials from interfering with the signal. Also place it as high as possible. If the cable from the antenna to the TV is too long, the signal may be weak. To help you may need a signal booster.

Use a signal booster If you’re having trouble receiving a TV signal, place a signal booster (also called a signal booster) between the antenna and the TV to boost the signal. This also helps with low sensitivity TV tuners and DTV converter boxes. Connect the antenna cable to the input of the amplifier, then connect the output to the antenna input of the TV. You will also need to connect the amplifier to power.

Use one distribution amplifier for multiple TVs or a separate antenna for each TV† If you have more than one TV, you should ideally have a separate antenna for each TV. Splitting the signal reduces signal strength, especially if there is a long cable run between the splitter and one or more TVs.

A more practical solution is to use a distribution amplifier. Connect the main power supply from the antenna to the input of the amplifier and the output of the amplifier to the TV.

The price of distribution amplifiers varies by make, model, and number of outputs provided.

Voxx International/RCA

buy a dimmer If you are too close to a TV channel and the signal overloads your DTV tuner or converter box, use a dimmer to reduce signal strength. Ideally, continuously adjustable faders allow you to dial in the desired amount of attenuation (gain) for different channels.

The most common type is a small inline unit placed between the antenna and the TV (or DTV converter box) and has a fixed amount of reduced gain (3db, 6db, 12db). The hardest part is figuring out how much profit you need to cut. Better with variable gain control (3dB to 12dB) so you can adjust it.

buy a new antenna

If you can’t improve the reception of your current antenna, another option is to replace it with a new one. However, please note the following before purchasing:

Don’t be fooled by the HD antenna hype† All TV antennas accept analog, digital and HDTV signals. Even those old bunny ears can be used to receive digital and HDTV signals if the station’s transmitter is within range. However, newer antennas have better designs for attracting signals, but not because they are labeled as HD antennas.

If you cancel the satellite, you will not be able to use the antenna to receive over-the-air TV signals The dish antenna is not properly shaped and the internal circuitry is not suitable for receiving TV broadcasts. However, if the coaxial cable connecting the satellite dish to the TV is in good condition, and if there are no obstacles to receiving digital terrestrial TV signals at the location, replace the satellite dish with a TV antenna. See an example of replacing a satellite signal receiver with a TV antenna.

Find out if your local station is broadcasting on VHF or UHF†Due to the transition to DTV in 2009, most of the stations that used to broadcast on channels 2 to 13 (the VHF band) have switched to UHF (channels 14 to 83) for digital broadcasting. Since more power is required to transmit at higher frequencies, the effective range of the signal can be reduced.

Now that the FCC is reallocating some of the broadcast TV spectrum for other uses, it has approved a realignment plan in which selected stations change their broadcast frequencies and channel locations (some for the second time since the initial transition to DTV).

Change from indoor antenna to outdoor antenna† An outdoor antenna can improve your TV reception.

Main outdoor antenna for medium and long distance channels

channel master

If you have a directional antenna, consider switching to an omnidirectional antenna. This allows better access to TV signals from different directions. However, for signals coming from a certain direction, the sensitivity of the antenna is reduced (the antenna is less focused). While a directional antenna can only receive farther stations in one direction, you may lose it if you switch to an omnidirectional antenna for closer stations.

RCA Flat Outdoor Antenna

Voxx International/RCA

Antenna prices vary, ranging from less than $10 for a standard indoor antenna to over $100 for a long-range outdoor model.

Don’t assume your antenna’s stated or advertised distance range is correct. Ratings may be based on optimal conditions.

Content

How to Improve Your Antenna for Better TV Reception

Get the most from your TV antenna

What to Know
Distance, obstacles, antenna type, the number of antennas in use, and TV tuner sensitivity all affect TV reception.
Improve reception by removing obstacles, checking antenna connections, running a channel scan, or using a signal amplifier.
Consider trying a new antenna. Switching from an indoor one to an outdoor one can improve TV reception, for example.

Cord-cutting has boosted internet streaming and given new life to receiving TV signals using an antenna. Instead of paying high cable or satellite bills, you can receive free TV over the air. However, there is more to receiving TV signals than buying an antenna and randomly placing it somewhere indoors or outdoors.

What Affects TV Reception

Several conditions affect TV reception.

Distance

You may be too far from one or more TV station transmitters, which prevents signal reception. If you are too far, you’ll experience the digital cliff, which is an abrupt TV signal drop-off. This is a by-product of the analog-to-digital TV broadcasting transition.

With analog TV signals, as distance increased between the TV transmitter and the receiving antenna, there was gradual fading. Although you could be too far to receive the best quality, you could still watch a low-quality signal with a fuzzy image if it didn’t bother you.

TV signals are now transmitted digitally (1s and 0s), and there’s no gradual fading as distance increases. You receive full quality all the time, intermittently, or not all. As you approach the digital cliff, the image may appear blocky, or it may cut out and come back.

If you’re too close to a TV transmitter, the signal may overpower your TV tuner or DTV converter box and, in some cases, damage those devices.
Obstacles

TV signals are affected by physical obstacles, including hills and trees. Some materials used in home construction, such as stucco, concrete, aluminum siding, metal roofs, foil-lined ducts and conduits, and solar panels limit the effectiveness of indoor or attic-placed antennas.

Weather (such as wind and rain), interference from certain types of electrical equipment, and LTE cell towers sometimes temporarily cut off a TV signal.

At very long distances, the earth’s curvature can affect TV signal reception.

Antenna Type

You might have several station transmitters in your local area, but these transmitters may not be in the same location. One station might transmit from the north, another from the west, and another from the east.

If you have a directional antenna, it may not receive signals from multiple transmitter locations. If you have a multi-directional or omnidirectional antenna, interference is more likely.

Number of TVs Using the Same Antenna

If more than one TV is connected to the same antenna using a splitter, the signal loses strength. If three or four TVs are connected to an antenna, one or two might look fine, and the rest may only receive signals intermittently or not at all. You may create a homemade cliff effect.

TV Tuner Sensitivity

The sensitivity of your TV’s tuner or a DTV converter box also affects antenna reception.

Steps to Improve TV Antenna Reception

Knowing what causes antenna reception problems, you can use one or more of the following options to improve your TV signal.

Remove obstacles. Remove obstacles, if possible. Make sure your antenna has a clear shot in the direction of the TV station transmitter.

Check and replace antenna connections. Make sure the antenna and TV connections are secure. Check for brittleness and fraying.

If you have an outdoor antenna, cables can get worn when exposed to the elements. Indoor antennas can be chewed by pets.

Make sure the antenna connection terminals aren’t rusted, and check the entire length of the cable, if possible, for breaks or cuts. You may not be able to check the portion of the cable that runs through a wall.

If the cable is left over from the analog TV era, it may be 20 AWG (American Wire Gauge) RG59. Consider replacing it with a thicker 18 AWG RG6 cable. RG6 does a better job with digital TV signals, as it supports wider bandwidth, long-distance runs, and holds up better outdoors.

Costs of cables vary depending on brand and length. Prices start at a few dollars for a three-foot or six-foot length.

Run a channel scan. After checking the antenna placement and connections, go into the TV or DTV converter box setup menu, then run a new channel scan. New channels may be added that weren’t available previously. If a station registers, you should be able to watch it.

Use a rotor. If you have an outdoor antenna and receive TV signals from several directions, adding a rotor to the antenna might help. However, this solution is expensive, with prices for a complete kit ranging from about $100 to $200 or more.

If you know the station transmitter locations, use a rotor to direct the antenna to the new channels and manually add those channels to your TV channel listings. Note the rotor position for the new channels.
If you move the antenna using the rotor and rescan the channels, the TV may no longer list the previously scanned channels if the antenna doesn’t receive those channels in the new position.

Move the antenna. If you have an indoor antenna, placing it near or on a window avoids the materials used in wall construction that interfere with the signal. Also, place it as high as possible. If the length of the cable that goes from the antenna to the TV is too long, the signal may be weakened. To assist, you may need a signal amplifier.

Use a signal amplifier. If you have trouble receiving TV signals, place a signal amplifier (also called a signal booster) between the antenna and TV to boost the signal. This also helps with low-sensitivity TV tuners and DTV converter boxes. Connect the cable from the antenna to the input of the amplifier, then connect the output to the TV’s antenna input. You also need to plug the amplifier into power.

Use a distribution amplifier for multiple TVs or use a separate antenna for each TV. If you have more than one TV, ideally, you should have a separate antenna for each. Splitting the signal decreases the signal strength, especially if the cable distance from the signal splitter and one or more TVs is long.

A more practical solution is to use a distribution amplifier. You connect the main feed from the antenna to the input on the amplifier and connect the outputs of the amplifier to your TVs.

Distribution amplifier prices vary depending on the brand, model, and the number of outputs provided.

Voxx International/RCA
Get an attenuator. If you are too close to the TV transmitter, and the signal is overloading your tuner or DTV converter box, use an attenuator to reduce the signal strength. Ideally, an attenuator with a continuous adjustment gives you the ability to set the amount of attenuation (gain) needed for different channels.

The most common type is a small inline unit that you insert between the antenna and TV (or DTV converter box) and that has a fixed amount of reduced gain (3db, 6dB, 12dB). The hard part is figuring out how much gain reduction you need. One that has a variable gain control (3dB to 12dB) is best so that you can adjust it.

Get A New Antenna

If you can’t improve the reception of your current antenna, another option is to change it out for a new one. However, before you buy, consider the following:

Don’t fall for HD antenna advertising hype. All TV antennas receive analog, digital, and HD TV signals. Even those old rabbit ears can be used to receive digital and HD TV signals if the station transmitters are in range. However, newer antennas have better designs for pulling in signals but not because these are labeled HD antennas.

If you canceled satellite, you can’t use the dish to receive over-the-air TV signals. The dish is not the correct shape and has internal circuitry that isn’t suitable for broadcast TV reception. However, if the coaxial cabling that connected the dish to your TV is in good shape, replace the dish with a TV antenna if the location is clear of obstacles for receiving terrestrial digital TV signals. Check out an example of how to replace the satellite signal receptor with a TV antenna.

Find out if local stations broadcast on VHF or UHF. As a result of the DTV transition in 2009, most TV stations that formerly broadcast on channels 2-13 (VHF band) moved to UHF (channels 14-83) for digital broadcasting. Since it takes more power to transmit at higher frequencies, the effective range of the signals may be reduced.

With the FCC reallocating portions of the TV broadcast spectrum for other uses, it has authorized a re-pack program where select TV stations are changing their transmission frequencies and transmitter locations (some for the second time since the original DTV transition).

Switch from an indoor to an outdoor antenna. An outdoor antenna can improve your TV reception.

Channel Master
If you have a directional antenna, consider switching to an omnidirectional antenna. This provides better access to TV signals from different directions. However, the antenna’s sensitivity decreases for signals coming from a specific direction (the antenna is less focused). While a directional antenna may receive a station farther away in a single direction, you may lose it if you switch to an omnidirectional antenna that works well for closer stations.

Voxx International/RCA
Antenna prices vary and range from less than $10 for a basic indoor antenna to over one hundred dollars for a long-range outdoor model.

Don’t assume that the distance range listed or advertised for your antenna is accurate. Ratings may be based on optimum conditions.

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