How to Adjust Your Outdoor TV Antenna

By Greg Martinez / November 5, 2019
How to Adjust Your Outdoor TV Antenna

*To support the site I use affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Even in the age of digital broadcast television, outdoor antennas are more popular than ever. But not everyone is lucky enough to be located in a place that has optimal TV signal reception.

Those living in remote areas tend to benefit the most from high-gain antennas mounted outdoors and on rooftops.

It’s not enough, however, to simply mount one on your roof. You also need to make antenna adjustments in order to increase your reception.

An outdoor antenna installation may seem like a simple and straightforward job, but there are a few details you should keep in mind.

The Basics of Adjusting Your Outdoor TV Antenna

If you’re getting poor channel reception, you should first check your TV equipment, starting with cable connections — try taking these out and reinserting them where possible.

Once you’re sure that all your equipment and connections are OK, and that it’s possible to receive TV broadcast signals, it’s time to make adjustments to the antenna itself.

  1. Find out the locations of the nearest broadcast towers. This shouldn’t be difficult nowadays. Just go to RabbitEars.info or to TVFool.com to find the locations of TV broadcast towers near you. A signal report for your location is free to view.
  2. Make sure there are as few local obstacles as possible between your antenna and the towers. This is why the best position for your antenna is at an elevated position as far above obstacles as possible, such as on your roof. If for various reasons it’s not possible to place it on the roof, you can mount it on your wall or place it on your deck or balcony. Leave some space between the wall and antenna, though, in order not to constrain its ability to receive signals from multiple directions.
  3. You should make sure the antenna is as stable as can be. Strong winds shouldn’t be able to sway or knock it down. Swaying of your antenna can lead to loss of reception, so guy wires can be effective.
  4. Run a channel scan and see if you can get the channels that are available in your area. If your scan yields none or an unstable signal, you may need to mount your antenna at a higher elevation. Always aim for a near-full signal indicator; that means 90% signal strength or greater.
  5. If the elevation of the antenna is still not enough, then slowly turn your antenna and scan again. Make sure that you only do slow and small movements before proceeding with scanning.

In most cases, adjusting your antenna shouldn’t be a problem. Usually, once you hit peak signal, you’re ready to watch TV.

However, in instances when you encounter the “no signal” alert, just move your antenna again or relocate it elsewhere.

You can also check the antenna’s orientation by making sure its mast is perfectly vertical, either by using a carpenter’s level tool or a similar feature of a smartphone app.

Why Your TV Gets Poor Signal

It’s important to understand the reasons why some people get bad reception on their TVs. The most common is interference —  this could be physical or electromagnetic.

Physical interference includes mountains, hills, or buildings that get in the way of line-of-sight reception.

Electromagnetic interference, on the other hand, is mostly noise. This can result in artifacts (i.e., strange shapes) and distortions appearing on the picture of your TV.

There are other effects of interference, but they’ve become insignificant since the introduction of digital broadcasting.

An example of this is ghosting, which was a common problem in the days of analog TV.

This was when blurred or repeated edges of an image in the picture appeared, caused by signals being reflected off of nearby buildings.

These reflected images resulted in multiple copies of the same signal arriving out of phase (otherwise known as multipath interference).

Nowadays with digital broadcasting such an issue might result in mere pixelation of your television picture, or no viewable picture at all.

Other causes of a poor signal can be attributed to the hardware used. The cable could be damaged. The connecting leads could be too old and rusty, resulting in inefficient connections.

If you’re using a separate set-top box to get digital TV signals, it might be having issues tuning in to channels.

Other Measures You Can Take

Besides the steps described above, you can look at a few other options to address the reasons why you’re getting poor signal.

Is Your Equipment in Good Condition?

The first thing to do is examine all your equipment to see if they’re up to date and in shape for their intended purpose.

For example, the culprit may lie in an old, frayed, or poorly shielded coaxial cable, which doesn’t properly insulate from interference.

You should also check the quality of connecting parts and cables. If they’re damaged, dirty, or rusted, you may have to replace them.

Make sure everything connects as they should. Tighten loose connections. Replace scraped cables.

Even if you’ve mastered the position and orientation of your antenna, if your hardware is of poor quality or not suitable, you won’t get a good or stable signal.

Are Coaxial Cable Connections Weatherproofed?

You should also ensure your outdoor coaxial cable connections are resistant to moisture.

More Causes of Poor Reception

Check Tower Locations

If you’re far away from broadcast towers, and the towers are less than 90 degrees apart from each other (in relation to your location), you may consider using a unidirectional antenna.

For example, you could choose an antenna of Yagi design, which would provide focused, powerful reception.

Use an omnidirectional antenna if broadcast towers are less than 20 miles away and surround you from several directions.

Physical and Electromagnetic Interference

There’s also the matter of physical interference. If a hill or a large building is next to your location, your options for getting a good signal are limited.

When a nearby TV station boosts its signal strength enough, however, it may render these such interference sources insignificant.

If your roof is made of metal, this will reflect away signals and interfere with TV reception.

It’s therefore important to mount your antenna at least one meter (around 3.3 feet) above a metal roof so as to minimize such interference.

TV antenna on metal roof

You should also look into sources of electromagnetic interference.

Cell phone towers are continually being constructed in many places; these towers tend to broadcast at frequencies close to those of TV transmissions in the spectrum, which can cause signal problems and pixelation.

If you believe this is an issue for you, I’d recommend installing a signal filter such as the Channel Master LTE Filter.

Signal Loss From a Splitter

If you’re receiving TV broadcasts and using a splitter to divide the signal among several TVs in different rooms, you may be experiencing signal loss along the coaxial cable.

To overcome this signal attenuation, you may consider adding a distribution amplifier to the TV line.

Conclusion

Setting up and adjusting your TV antenna isn’t rocket science, and you may not even need a technician to do it for you.

Tutorials for getting better reception can be found both here and on YouTube. 

Just make sure you’re doing things in the correct sequence and always remember that safety comes first, especially when getting on your roof to change your antenna’s location and orientation.

12comments
Austin Lacayo - May 13, 2019

Can I see interference like buildings, etc that can cause interference using tvFool?

Reply
    Greg Martinez - May 14, 2019

    Hi, yes tvfool does show some types of interference, such as topographical and atmospheric. Keep in mind though it doesn’t nor can’t give a total picture of interference. However, if it shows strong signals then your OTA antenna will very probably work well.

    Reply
R. Martins - September 17, 2019

Is it possible to elevate the antenna more on the roof? If so, what are the different ways of elevating it more?

Reply
    Greg Martinez - September 18, 2019

    Hi, yes it’s even a great idea to do this as the higher the antenna, the better the chances of getting a stronger signal. You can elevated by simply mounting it on a longer pole. Many people install outdoor antennas on their chimney, but I generally don’t recommend this as chimneys tend to wear down and get a little unstable over time.

    Reply
Benj Sanders - October 24, 2019

I’m living on a very windy area and I’m afraid that strong winds can take off my antenna when I install it on my roof, What are the best ideas to make the antenna on my roof as stable as possible beside the guy wires?

Reply
    Greg Martinez - October 25, 2019

    Hi Benj, well guy wires are usually your best bet if the antenna mast isn’t strong enough to prevent it from shaking during high winds. Otherwise, you’ll have to go for a shorter mast, or possibly install it on the eaves of your roof.

    Reply
Hugh - May 9, 2020

Could you recommend an electronic device that I can use to analyze the TV signal strength, preferably indicating the TV channel or frequency, so I can fine tune my antenna placement?

Reply
    Greg Martinez - May 9, 2020

    Hi Hugh, try the “Winegard Company RFL-332 Sensar Pro Signal Meter.” It’s somewhat pricey but actually indicates the RF channel and has other indicators like a high-pitched noise for measuring signal strength.

    Reply
Deb king - June 23, 2020

I’ve replaced my working 50 year old antennae with an rca yagi and can’t receive all the signals I was getting before. The towers are in two different directions less than 90 degrees apart. The pbs and cbs channels come in beautifully. I want and can’t get the nbc channels. At one point the abc channel came in too but not now. Those two are in same direction. I just tried a new tuner that has manual search capability, but no luck. I’m waiting for a pre amp distribution for my 2 TVs and a kit to shorten the coax cables this week. What else would you recommend?

Reply
    Greg Martinez - June 24, 2020

    Hi Deb, besides mounting the new antenna in another location on your house, I can’t think of anything beyond what you’re already attempting. Generally speaking, those older antennas were designed for VHF so another question to ask is what frequencies are those TV channels using? The RCA Yagi is much better at getting UHF or high VHF. After the FCC channel repack, many channels are shifting back to VHF so I’d check out RabbitEars.info or TVFool.com to verify those frequencies.

    Reply
Martin Demel - June 29, 2020

Hey Greg,

I am about 60 miles from the nearest towers which are about 100 degrees apart and there are lots of trees and hills in every direction (Texas Hill Country). I put a smaller traditional style 24 element 8db gain antenna up at 24 feet. The antenna itself is about 2-1/2 feet long with 30 feet of RG-6 coax. The strongest signal I could get on my Winegard SensarPro RFL-332 was 35 and only six channels. What would you recommend to get my RFL-332 to 90 or better and to pull in more channels? I have enough room and enough 2-inch 11-gauge square metal tubing to build a 96 foot mast guyed four times in four directions.

Marty

Reply
    Greg Martinez - June 30, 2020

    Hey Marty, I think your idea of mounting the antenna on a mast will get you better reception. Short of that, you might attempt to reposition the antenna but I doubt that’ll earn the boost you’re seeking.

    Reply
Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment: