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Troubleshooting Your TV Antenna
September 2016 By Brian Shim

Having problems getting your TV to receive digital broadcast stations using your antenna? You've come to the right place. Find the problem you're having below.

My TV isn't doing anything when I hook up the antenna

My TV is not finding any channels when I do a scan

There is static in the picture

If you are seeing snow or static type of interference, it's probably not a digital signal.  That's probably an analog signal.  When you are getting a weak digital signal, the distortion looks blocky and the picture and sound will cut in and out.  There is no snow or static.  Go to the previous item and make sure there are digital channels in your area.

I am having trouble getting all of the available channels in any one antenna orientation

Getting good reception for all channels is like playing “whack-a-mole”.  When you adjust your antenna to get good reception for one channel, you lose another channel.

Here is my technique.  You’ll need a pen and paper. 

  1. Start by setting up your antenna near a window as a starting point.  Here is an example: tv with antenna near window
    Closer to the interior of your home is usually worst, because the TV signal has to travel through more walls to get to your antenna.
  2. Now put your TV in scan mode and go do something else for 30 minutes (or you can stay and watch the progress). When it's done, step through all of the channels using your remote, and write down all of the channels it found.
  3. Pick a channel that is coming in intermittently and adjust the antenna until it comes in consistently. Re-check your other channels to make sure they are still OK. Then do a re-scan to see if you TV can find more channels. If so, record them.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 a few times (until you don't get any new channels). At the end, you should have a master list of all available channels in your location.
  5. Now go to your TV's setup menu and manually add any channels you got before that are missing from the latest scan, so that your TV now has all available channels (even though not all of them are being received solidly). Do not do anymore re-scans after this, because that will blow away all of the channels you just entered.
  6. Here is where the fun begins. Based on your previous experience and further experimentation, place the antenna where you seem to get the most channels. This is somewhat of a magical, mysterious process. I can't give much help other than to say the best locations are usually around the perimter of your house (i.e., outwardly-facing walls). Sometimes leaning your antenna against a wall or window is best. Sometimes hanging it is best. Heck, right now, my best reception is with the antenna facing down on the floor, which is totally unexpected! Try a bunch of locations and go through all of the channels until you find a location that gets you the most.
  7. Let's say you're through and you have a few channels that you just can't get in your current orientation. Leave those channels in your TV. Don't erase them. Often atmospheric conditions will change and you might be able to get those channels later. Also, TV stations can increase power so that really does happen from time to time. I'd say, every 3 to 6 months I see some change in my stations. Just recently, two PBS stations that seemed dead magically started coming in, probably due to some change at the transmitter.

For many more troubleshooting tips, check out my blog article, Top Tips for Better Reception with Your Indoor Antenna.

TV Antenna Recepion Tips

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