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Thread: Problem with TV reception for certain channels........

  1. #1
    Senior Member CathyA's Avatar
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    Problem with TV reception for certain channels........

    I know a few of you out there are more on top of these things, but I have a mystery. I have several old analog TVs that are attached to the digital converter boxes.

    We have an old fashioned antenna on the house with a rotor, so I can change the position of the antenna, without having to get on the roof.
    We have an amplifier in the attic. The attic gets super hot in the summer.

    We also are pretty much surrounded by trees.

    Recently, I began to not be able to get a local station. Turning the antenna didn't help. I figured it was because of a hot attic, or maybe the trees. But all the other local stations were coming in well.
    The small TV in the kitchen is not connected to the antenna, but rather has "rabbit ears" on top. It gets the station.

    So....we were going to try putting rabbit ears on one of the TVs that had been connected to the roof antenna. We plugged it into the converter box. And the station came in fine! But then I started playing around with the cable that goes into the converter box (instead of using rabbit ears) and found that with a slight adjustment of it's tightness/looseness, we could get the station. But.........now we can get the station in the other 2 TVs that are also hooked to the antenna. How can that be?? How can fixing the cable to one digital converter box make reception better in all the other TVs???

    Sorry if I'm confusing you. It doesn't make sense to me. Maybe it was totally coincidence that we started getting the one station and it had nothing to do with playing with the cable.......but I have no idea.
    Any ideas?

  2. #2
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    You don't say how the signal gets from the roof antenna to the three TVs using it for a signal, but there most likely is a "splitter" somewhere connected to the wire from the antenna and dividing that signal into (in your case) three connections which each go to a TV converter box (and then to the TV).

    There is a practical limit to how far a splitter can "subdivide" the antenna signal and still deliver one to each converter box that is strong enough for viewing. That limit is affected by the strength of the signal received at the antenna and relayed to the splitter, the quality (and length and condition) of the cable running to each converter box, and the ability of the converter boxes and TVs to do something useful with the signal they're given. Any of them could have been marginal but functional until something happened "recently".

    The other wild card is that the TV station reduced its signal for some reason (equipment malfunction, storm damage, etc.) and that the rabbit-eared TV is in the right spot to keep getting the reduced signal that exists (e.g. no or fewer walls to impede the signal).

    It appears to me that something happened in one of the connections that presented enough of an electronic load to the splitter that it could no longer feed usable signals to all three connected TVs. Now that you fixed that, it can work.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

  3. #3
    Senior Member CathyA's Avatar
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    Thanks Steve. I was hoping you'd show up. Funny thing......after working for awhile, I lost the signal again to that station (to all 3 TVs). Oh......yes, there is a wire to each of the TVs from.....? the amplifier/splitter? Sorry I'm ignorant about this.
    Anyhow......when I lost the signal again, I disconnected the cable from the antenna to the digital converter box and connected the rabbit ears again.......and now it's working again. But what I don't understand is how can rabbit ears in one room, make the reception in the other 2 rooms work again too?

  4. #4
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CathyA View Post
    But what I don't understand is how can rabbit ears in one room, make the reception in the other 2 rooms work again too?
    Well, it seems to be working too well to be a coincidence. I think what's happening is that perhaps the splitter or amplifier (if it is amplified) or one of the cables is starting to fail; perhaps even the main antenna itself. Some of these components are exposed to extremes of temperature and/or moisture, which, of course, hastens their demise. Even the cables inside the house become more brittle over time and the wires inside can break even within the plastic jacket -- even moving the connection can be enough to cause a cable that was working to start failing.

    It would be interesting to see if, next time you lose the signal, connecting rabbit ears to a different TV resolves the problem. That, at least, should narrrow down the problem to either the antenna, the splitter(/amplifier), or the cable leading from the splitter to one of the TVs. How old is the antenna and the splitter? Do you know where the splitter is located?
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

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    Senior Member CathyA's Avatar
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    Hi again Steve......... I can't remember what I've tried so far, but here's where we're at. I went and bought 2 TV-top antennas. They were inexpensive and had a lot of good reviews (RCA). They work great! Yes, I need to occasionally rotate them to get a different channel or better reception, but over-all they are consistent.

    DH went into the attic today, since it's very cool up there today (usually at least 130!), and checked out the pre-amp, (a Wineguard), the 6-way splitter, and the power connection and said everything looked good (whatever that might mean, since he's not real up on these things). I thought I'd plug the house antenna back into the converter box in the living room, and nothing. No signal at all. I did get a signal in the bedroom though. So.....we tried using a different converter box and it still didn't work in the living room. But.....we realized that if we just held the house antenna cable wire post just barely touching the converter box connection, we could get a signal. So we're thinking, at least in the living room, we need a new whatchamacallit on the end of the house antenna cable. Why would just barely touching the wire in that connector to the converter box connector give us a signal? Does that mean the wire is worn out and can no longer move a signal?

    We were hoping everything would work today, considering the attic is so cool, but atlas, it didn't. I can live with just using the rabbit ears, but it would be nice to have the house antenna to this TV work again.
    Is it just a matter of buying that connection and cutting the antenna cable and re-wiring a new connector on?

    Also, we can't remember how old the pre-amp and splitter are, but wondered if there are more powerful models of each of them? DH is doing searches. But I know you're pretty smart with these things, so I thought I'd ask you.

    Thanks for your help Steve!

    Oh.....P.S. DH says some places say to mount the pre-amp on the outside TV antenna, rather than in the house. Have you ever heard of that?

  6. #6
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Cathy, it seems that the cable that runs from the splitter to your living room TV/converter box is at fault. This can happen over time; cables go bad, especially if they are exposed to temperature or moisture extremes (because attic), if they are moved frequently (for cleaning, etc.), or if they're stretched or have to turn at sharp angles inside the room or to connect to devices. Sometimes staples or bent nails used to route a cable can cause problems. The strands of wire inside can shift and break. Like an electrical cord, the cable can function through some of that damage, but eventually enough conductors corrode or break to impair or end functionality.

    You could put a new end on what I'm assuming is a coaxial cable (round, [usually] black, connector at the end has a knurled ring and a "pin" sticking out of the center of the cable end). Your local home improvement/hardware store has tools and the pieces with which you could put on a new end. However, it may be that some other part of the cable is bad, in which case putting on a new end doesn't fix the problem. It also is possible that two shorter cables comprise the "run" between the splitter and your living room and that the connection between them is bad. You'd have to trace the wire physically from the attic to check that. You might be best off replacing the cable, but I don't know how long a run it is or what a PITA that might be.

    As for the preamp and splitter, attics typically are tough environments for electronics. Both devices should be checked for damage like corrosion at the connections, "burn" marks on the cases, obvious water or critter damage, etc.).

    Splitters are pretty simple technology; about the biggest "upgrade" I can think of for them is gold contacts for the connections (because gold does not corrode as quickly as other metals used). I don't know as I'd replace a splitter just to add gold contacts.

    The amp is a different issue. It's possible there is a more powerful version, though it's uncertain if it's necessary (things seemed to be working fine before). It may be that the components in the amp may have aged enough that even replacing it with the same model (but new) would be a relative "upgrade" to the performance it offers now. The amp should have a model number on it; you could do a Web search for replacements (or at least find the specifications for what you have and search for replacements that meet those specs) and then determine if it makes sense to replace it proactively.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

  7. #7
    Senior Member CathyA's Avatar
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    Thanks Steve! I really appreciate your input! I think we'll try just replacing the end on that coaxial and see if that helps first. Replacing the entire length of it is beyond our capabilities. Unfortunately, it seems out here that the only technical person who deals with this stuff is who we used the last time, and won't use him again. We were having different reception problems then, and he replaced the entire antenna and I think the pre-amp box too........and nothing changed. Then he wanted to check every outlet in the house and that's when I said "Bye Bye!".

    DH did get the model numbers when he was up there, so we'll see if there's a stronger amplifier.......and look into if it really should be ON the antenna itself. Yes, our attic gets unbelievably hot. I would love to get a solar fan to put on the roof, but it's pretty hard to get DH on board with most things. Also, it would probably help to move all the insulation away from the soffit vents in the attic. I'm thinking that would help ventilate the place too. We have a ridge vent, but I'm sure it's clogged.

    And we do have mice in the crawl space....so who knows what they've chewed on! What fun we're having!

    Even with the new "rabbit ears", when the weather is bad, they don't work as well. Is that common for all digital reception these days?
    We have so many tall pine trees next to the house, and then a woods behind that......so that probably slows the signal down too. I would love to have a very tall outside antenna that we could raise and lower. We'd lower it during storms, then raise it back up. (Of course we'd want to do that electronically from inside the house!) We do have a rotor.

    DH keeps saying that if we got a newer HD TV, we wouldn't have these problems. Is that true? I'm thinking they would have their own set of problems.

    Thanks so much for you help Steve! Just send me the bill.

  8. #8
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CathyA View Post
    Even with the new "rabbit ears", when the weather is bad, they don't work as well. Is that common for all digital reception these days?
    Yes. Signal strength -- for analog and digital signals -- is affected by distance and what the signal must pass through to get to your antenna (humidity, trees, building walls, etc.). In the analog days, a degraded signal would make the picture fuzzy or show multiple outlines of things on the screen ("multipath") until you couldn't distinguish what was going on on-screen for the "noise". Digital doesn't work that way. A degraded digital signal may show temporary blockiness (very visible on-screen) or will be noisy enough that the receiver can't determine what the signal should look like, so it will not transform it to a picture at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by CathyA View Post
    We have so many tall pine trees next to the house, and then a woods behind that......so that probably slows the signal down too. I would love to have a very tall outside antenna that we could raise and lower. We'd lower it during storms, then raise it back up. (Of course we'd want to do that electronically from inside the house!) We do have a rotor.
    All depends on where your signal is coming from. Where we live, every station but one is on two antenna farms, both to the northwest. No rotor needed; we don't watch the outlier station enough to bother with a rotor to get it. You may have signals coming from several directions; all of them will have varying strengths when they leave the TV station's antenna. Then it's up to what the signals must pass through before they get to your antenna.

    A tall antenna may be a possibility where you live, though your home insurance company probably won't be a fan (your homeowner's association, if you have one, definitely will not be a fan). The same people who put up ham radio antennas could put one up for you.

    Or you might simply do better with a different antenna than the one that is on your roof now. There are different designs which address the reception complication you have (distance from the signal, strong-but-reflected signals, etc.) The site http://www.antennaweb.org/ is good for determining what kind of antenna would be best for your location.

    Quote Originally Posted by CathyA View Post
    DH keeps saying that if we got a newer HD TV, we wouldn't have these problems. Is that true? I'm thinking they would have their own set of problems.
    Without knowing just what DH is getting at, my inclination is that a new(er) TV would not fix these problems. Bad wiring is bad wiring. Different TVs have different sensitivities to signals (just as some radios tune stations better than others). Certainly your older TVs may have seen enough heat and dust and time for their components to start to fail, but it's tough to determine that before a part outright fails. And I believe TVs are one of those items that no longer are "built like they used to be" partially because that's the way of almost everything and partly because TV display standards have changed so quickly that most people really are not at an advantage to keep a 10- or 15-year-old HDTV going. Plus the degraded-signal issue mentioned above.
    Quote Originally Posted by CathyA View Post
    Thanks so much for you help Steve! Just send me the bill.
    You're welcome! I'll just set you up on a tab. Some day there will be some problem you explain and help me fix!
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

  9. #9
    Senior Member CathyA's Avatar
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    Thanks Steve!!

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