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  Local TV using an antenna

When the United States completed the switch to the ASTC 1 digital TV format in 2009, digital signals reduced the amount of space used to send signals to your TV set.


Simply stated TV station broadcast signals originally used frequencies known as TV channels 2 through 68. When all the stations have finished moving to their new frequencies only TV channels 8 through 51 will be used. Very few stations will remain in the VHF band of channels 8 through 13. All channels are expected to be transmitting from their proper channel on the frequency spectrum by 2021.

  

If you have a VHF physical channel in your area, do not purchase any antenna unless the box specifies that it is designed to capture both VHF and UHF bands, and the store has a decent return policy.


Several times a year viewers receiving their TV programs over-the-air should enter their TV set program menu and rescan their TV set channels to locate any new channel movement and any new TV channels in your market. Each TV set has a different rescan configuration so check your TV set manual.

 

There is no such thing as a digital TV antenna or a HD TV antenna. The antenna on top of the homes of your parents and grandparents would work just fine today. An antenna collects broadcast transmissions that are sent on a frequency where the antenna radials were cut to match that frequency. The antenna does not peek at the signal. It just passes the electrons on to whatever is at the other end of the coax cable. In our case it will be your TV set. The TV set has the job of putting all the pieces back together to make a picture with sound.

 

Assuming the antenna was designed properly, a larger antenna will provide a stronger TV signal than an antenna with smaller radials. This will be noticeable when the TV towers are farther away, the terrain is hilly, tall buildings are littered between your TV and the broadcast towers, or the sky is cluttered with rain or snow. For this reason, I find that towers located further than forty miles from your TV set might experience additional screen dropout (pixilation) that would be uncomfortable to watch without a good antenna.

 

If using an indoor TV antenna, the acceptable TV viewing range would likely be less than a twenty-mile tower range during rainstorms and more. TV antennas do not like to be indoors. The UHF frequencies TV signals travel on do not easily penetrate metal, wood, or other dense objects. Try and keep the front of your antenna as far away from an object as you can.

 

Outside on the ground, the antenna will work best when placed on a pole where the bottom of the antenna is at least three feet from the ground or the length of the longest radial if over three feet, and the pole is mounted in an open area away from bushes and trees. If you just must be technical about this, all antennas should be aimed upwards at a forty-five-degree angle.

  

Sometimes a seemingly perfect antenna location is far away from the TV set(s). The best location is on top the home, or in a clear area on the same side of the house as most of the TV broadcast towers in your city. 

 

 However there is an exception to this rule. All coax cables produce some signal loss. The longer the cable run, the larger the TV signal loss. Try to make the coax cable run less than one-hundred feet. While we can compensate for long runs with a pre-amplifier on the antenna, it would be great if you do not have to add components that may cause maintenance down the road. Look for antenna mounting locations under one hundred feet from the first TV set in your home. Most retail stores such as Walmart, Target, Home Deport, Lowes and more sell RG 6 coax in lengths of 6ft; 10ft; 25ft ; 50ft; and 100 feet.  

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As we mentioned on another page the digital broadcast code tells the TV set to display the original old analog channel number of, say, channel 6 on the TV set, as this was the station’s original channel number, even though the TV station may now be broadcasting on channel 26.1.

Broadcasters thought people would be confused if overnight all TV stations changed channel numbers. So, in our example, the channel 6 number is known as the Virtual or Display Number. 26.1 is known as the RF (Radio Frequency) or Physical number.

  

This is important to remember when setting up your TV. While watching TV you will use the DISPLAY NUMBER like Channel 6. But when looking at the TV towers and channel frequencies, you need to work with the stations PHYSICAL NUMBER, say 26.  So Channel 6 in Orlando is not VHF, because it really transmits on channel 26.1.

  

As added fun, analog could only have one station per channel number. Our rascally digital specifications allow for each channel number to have multiple TV stations.

  

In Orlando, Florida, WKMG TV channel 6 broadcasts on channel 26.1. WFTV, with a display channel of 9, broadcasts on channel 39.1, and WSWB TV 35 broadcasts on 38.1. Central Florida's Channel 2 (NBC) broadcasts on three separate channels, depending upon where in Central Florida you live. They transmit to different areas on channels 11.1, 18.1, and 19.1. Note that 11.1 is VHF, while 18.1 and 19.1 are in the UHF band. It depends on where in Central Florida you live, as to whether you might find a more stable picture with a VHF antenna.

These digital TV specifications are the reason viewers today receive so many more channels than their parents did. You might have noticed that, not the display number, but each RF number in our preceding paragraph ended with the number 1. This is because these are the first in a list of TV channels for that RF number.

  

When using your TV remote control to manually access these RF channels with a 1 through 12 after the main number, press the dot or dash button before the final number. For instance, press 26 dot 1. If your TV remote control has no dot by the numbers, use the dash - button. 26 dash 1.

  

In Orlando, using our three analog station channel numbers above, previously TV sets could only receive:

WKMG TV 6 – CBS

WFTV TV 9 – ABC

WSWB TV 35 - FOX

 

Today, those three digital channels offer:

6.1 - CBS TV

6.2 - Dabl TV A Lifestyle Network

6.3 - Cozi TV Network

6.4 - Start TV Network

6.5 - Decades TV Network

 

9.1 - ABC TV

9.2 - Laff TV Network

9.3 - Escape TV Network

 

35.1 - FOX TV

35.2 - Light TV Network

Thirteen TV channels have grown out of these three local TV stations. And these stations are not using all their available channels. Some stations carry five or six different networks. TV 55, a television channel in metro Orlando has eleven different channels of programs from 55.1 through 55.11.

  

In my metro location, I use an attic TV antenna and receive almost one hundred channels. But just like viewers that have cable TV, I watch about ten of the channels most of the time.

  

I am not saying everyone will enjoy the programming on every station, but the opportunity is there to find more channels than ever before. And the new upcoming ATSC 3 specifications will allow additional stations along with enhanced broadcast signal strength that will travel further and slither deeper into our homes providing even better TV reception than today.

  

When purchasing an antenna, take note if the antenna is amplified. Try to avoid amplified antennas if possible. And it is not always possible, depending upon your location. What you are looking for in the advertisement and on the box, is the signal capture distance for the antenna without an amplifier. Often a built-in antenna amplifier cannot be removed from the circuit. So, when the amplifier loses power or dies, so does your antenna.  If needed, you can always add a good amplifier later to an antenna that does not have one built in.

  

Avoid antennas where the coax is permanently connected to the antenna. Mostly likely the cable is not long enough and adding additional cable adds additional connectors.  Each connector in the coax line decreases signal strength; Not to mention that when you change antennas, you will also have to rerun a new coax line at least part way.

  

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