How to Improve Over-the-Air Digital TV Reception

By Techwalla Contributor

There are five main things you need to know to improve your reception if you didn't switch to cable or satellite after June 12, 2009. You can still receive a clear digital picture on your analog TV through your digital converter box, provided all your equipment is in proper alignment to receive the maximum broadcast signals.

Step 1

Know your TV channels. The digital channel number that replaced the old analog channel can impact your reception due to the three channel "bands." The bands are called Low VHF (Channels 2 through 6), High VHF (Channels 7 through 13) and UHF (Channels 14 through 51). Channels on the Low VHF band are the most difficult to receive, while UHF channels are the easiest. Most digital TV channels will be on UHF after the transition is complete, but there will be a small number on VHF that are more difficult to receive. Consequently, you might be getting the best picture possible on those channels, even if it is fuzzy.

Step 2

Know your equipment. View the signal strength indicator on your digital converter box to determine what your stronger and weaker channels are. If the indicator says a certain channel's signal is weak, there isn't much you can do about the reception. Also make sure all cabling connections between your antenna, converter box and TV are correct and not loose.

Step 3

Know your antenna. Digital TV is an "all-or-nothing" deal. If you had trouble with receiving a channel on analog, you're probably getting nothing (or a boxy picture with no sound) on digital. Your antenna setup is very important for this reason. You may need an indoor antenna, two indoor antennas, an outdoor antenna or an amplified indoor or outdoor antenna. Sometimes moving an antenna a couple of inches in one direction can make all the difference. If you think you are close to picking up a signal, turn on the signal strength indicator on your converter box and move your antenna until the signal strength is sufficient. Then move away from your antenna and see if the picture and sound are OK.

Step 4

Know where the transmitters are. You should try to point your antenna in the direction of where the station's transmitter is located. For really strong channels this may not matter as much, since your antenna should pick up the stronger channels. That leaves you with the weaker channels. If you have an outdoor antenna, this may require the help of a professional. If you have an indoor antenna, this may take some experimenting, or other strategies, such as an amplifier or multiple antennas.

Step 5

Know possible sources of interference. Digital TV is very sensitive and is more difficult to receive than analog channels. A digital TV signal can be lost from things such as electronic equipment near an antenna, nearby houses or terrain, bad weather, even a person standing in the wrong place.

Tips & Warnings

  • Amplifiers give a signal boost for weaker channels, but can also "overpower" already strong channels and actually weaken reception of those channels.
  • Each digital converter box is different. Please consult your user's manual or a technical support website if you have any questions about your box.
  • If you are working with a rooftop antenna, be sure you have assistance or enlist the help of a professional.