In this How To we will look at the ways to get TV Stations from two different directions with a single antenna. This might not sound too hard but in some situations it can be really difficult. In this example the situation is really good for the home owner. The signals are almost directly north and south of each other and the power levels are very strong. Also the distances to the TV Towers are very close so this should help with both signal power and quality.
If you are trying to receive TV Signal from TV Towers that are farther than 35 miles in two or more directions this advice will need to be altered to fit your specific needs. This is especially true if some of the towers are close and some are distant.
So a friend asks: I plan on installing an antenna in my attic. I don’t get terrible reception with an in-home antenna, but I do get occasional artifacts and can’t stand having the Antenna in sight. What do you suggest for a dependable solution.
Finding a Dependable Antenna Solution
Ok, so first off if you are moving from Cable to Antenna you should understand that many factors can cause problems with reception. Most common is weather conditions but it can also be localized electrical or radio interference all of which you will have no control over. Most people find that they will have better reception during the overnight hours and this is because most of those problems are eliminated.
Antenna based TV Reception just can not compare to playing back a DVD or media off your hard drive but it is interesting that people that also stream TV never complain in the same way over buffering or glitches from online media. We seem to not notice just like we block out the advertising that is right in our face.
Getting Your Local TV Signal Report
There are a few websites out there that offer free reports for Antenna Based TV. My personal recommendation (and I don’t get paid for this) is www.TVFool.com . They have a decent report layout that will give you directional and technical information about TV Signals that are available in your area. They also extend this by allowing you to input the height of the antenna from the ground which is very important and they can even show you google maps with directional lines and positions of TV Broadcaster Towers in your area.
Hit their website and get your report. And its best to enter in your coordinates so find your house on Google Maps click once on your home and you should see your coordinates in the sidebar.
Understanding Your TVFool.com Report
Once you have your report you need to understand it. This is not too hard. You will see a bulls eye on the top left of the report showing your home at the center and the TV Towers and their directions.
You will notice that even stations from different networks are often grouped on a single or bunch of towers in the same area. This is normally due to local zoning that limits location of these huge towers in and around cities. For instance in NYC there are TV Broadcast Antennas located on the Empire State Building because its probably the best place in the area.
Next you want to look at the power levels for specific TV Stations. Any Station that is over 40db NM(db) to your home should be strong enough to pickup with a antenna attached directly to your television.
Just so you know the strongest signal your TV can accept is 92NMdb over 92 and its just as bad as having no signal because it will overpower your TV Tuner and you will get no signal.
So, you are looking for that happy range between about 40db and 80db for signal power.
Tower Distance is the next most important thing and if a Tower is over 70 miles away just forget about it. If it is over 50 miles away it will take serious intervention and if it is over 35 miles away it will require a good attic or roof antenna.
Now you might find people in Canada or some far far away magical land that say they can pull in stations from 100 miles away with a homemade coat hanger antenna mounted on their dog house. I just don’t know what to say about that but its not going to happen back here in reality.
Finally you want to look at your Signal Path and this is also very important to whether your signal will be of good quality. Quality is different than power it relates to cutouts and artifacts.
LOS is Line of Site meaning you can hit that tower with a laser with no obstructions. Edge and Edge2 mean some obstructions and your signal will be bouncing a bit TROP means good fricken luck because your signal is so distant or obscured that the only possible way you’re getting signal is if it bounces of a series of 13 clouds in the sky and .. well just forget about Tropo Signals just like ones from over 70 miles away.
How does our sample case report look?
As you can see from the bulls eye report this home has signal from two main groups of towers to the north and to the south.
From the Signal Report you can see the north towers at 0° and 4° and the south towers at 171° down to 157°.
As you can see most of them are to the south but Fox is to the North and that is an important station for this home for sports and shows. You will also notice its on VHF so you can not use a UHF antenna like a Mohu Leaf or Amazon Basic to pick it up.
You will also notice that the towers to the south are only 10 miles away while the ones to the north are about 30 miles away.
And every one of the stations have a Signal Path of LOS or Line of Site which means if you shot a laser at the tower you could hit it or if you had a real strong telescope maybe you could see it.
Finally lets look at Signal Power and you will see this home owner is very lucky to have a coupld dozen networks broadcasting very strong signal and many of them are above our 40db lower end. Now you might pickup stations in the 30’s and 20’s especially if they are close but it won’t be pretty.
Choosing an Antenna for this Home
Ok so we looked at our report and saw we have two main directions for our Broadcast Towers.
We then saw that most of the ones to the South are providing really good signal strength and the couple to the north are still pretty good.
We also saw that unfortunately one of our needed stations to the north is VHF and 32 Miles away and although we do have other VHF signals they are mostly to the south and much closer to the home.
So, lets eliminate one important thing we should not use an amplifier on this install because we have stations that are both very strong signal and also within 10 miles of the home.
On the other hand we do want to improve our signal quality so a reasonably strong antenna should be used to improve the signals that are on the low end.
Also we need Signal from both sides of the antenna so we need a bidirectional or omni directional antenna.
So, we need a moderately strong antenna that can get signal from two almost opposite directions in both VHF and UHF range and we shouldn’t use an amp.
For this specific install the best bet for this home owner is to install a clearstream antenna with the add on VHF DiPole.
They should remove or not install the rear screen reflector on the antenna which is used to block signals from behind the antenna and increase signal strength to the front of the antenna. This will make the antenna BiDirectional.
The antenna should be pointed North because the most distant and weaker stations are to the north including the VHF Fox Station they want. The stronger stations to the south which are very close won’t have trouble being picked up once the reflector screen is removed.
And they should mount this antenna to their roof and run a coax cable from the antenna down to their Cable TV Box outside their home. Removing the from the street line from the cable provider and replacing it with the antenna connection.
This will provide enough quality signal to power the entire home without the need for a powered amplifier.
The exception is if the house is wired poorly with older RG59 instead of newer RG6 Coax and if it has many splitters installed in the house. If this is the case the home owner should run new single lines to each of the TVs back to the antenna hookup spot and install one large splitter instead of many random ones that split signal from one room to the next in the house.
Also if you are using a Cable Modem you want to run a new line directly to the Cable Modem using RG6 Coax Cable and back to the Cable TV Companies Splitter.
Although it might technically be possible it is not a good idea to mix Antenna and Cable Company Signals on the same Wire. So rewiring the home or modifying the wiring might be necessary even if that only means running a single line to the cable modem and using all the old wiring in the house separately for Antenna Signal
I hope this example helps you understand
How to obtain and understand your Antenna Signal Report,
How to understand if you need a VHF or UHF antenna,
How to know what direction your TV Towers are broadcasting from,
How to understand when a Antenna Amp is the wrong choice,
How to modify an Antenna to pickup signal from two directions,
How to Wire your home for Antenna and Cable Modem Service
There are many more considerations
Actual implementation of a plan can provide different results and you might have to try a few different Antenna and Amplifier setups until you find the right one for your home.
Remember to use a Compass when pointing your antenna then fine tune its direction with the tuner power level indicator in your TV. Also remember some TVs have better tuners than others so you might need to compensate for that.