Fixing Digital TV Reception With an Indoor Antenna

Use these tips to get TV back into your life

Digital TV signals move through the air like water mixes with oil. They're definitely not resilient like old analog TV signals, which delivered in the rain, sleet, snow, or shine. If you're experiencing poor reception with your indoor digital antenna, use the following troubleshooting techniques as a guide on your way to watching prime-time television again.

This information applies to televisions from a variety of manufacturers including, but not limited to, those made by LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and Vizio.

Perform a Double-Rescan 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designed a process called double-rescanning, which erases and reprograms the channels in the converter box or digital TV's memory. Here's how to do it:

  1. Disconnect the antenna from the converter box or digital TV.

  2. Disconnect the converter and/or digital TV power supplies from the wall. Wait a minute before plugging them back in. The antenna should still be disconnected.

  3. With the antenna disconnected, run the channel scan function on the converter box or digital TV. When the scan completes, any channel data the converter box or digital TV had in its memory should be removed.

  4. Now, it's time to rescan for real. Do this by reconnecting the antenna to the converter box or digital TV and running the channel scan function again.

Thus, the double-rescan is born. If this doesn't work, then try some of the following tips and tricks to get your converter box up and running.

Adjust the Antenna 

Move the antenna to a different spot on your entertainment center and try realigning it up or down and left or right.

The FCC says moving the antenna a few feet can reduce interference caused by competing electronics equipment, like a DVD player, converter box, or the TV.

Moving the antenna a few feet away from the converter box probably won't make a big difference, but give it a try. If it doesn't work, try relocating the antenna.

Relocate the Antenna 

You want an indoor antenna as close to the outside world as possible. Move it near a window so it gets an unobstructed look at the open air.

You'll want to extend the antenna rods (also called dipoles) all the way up if you're using rabbit ears.

Before relocating the antenna, go to Antenna Web to get an idea of where the TV transmission towers are in relation to your address. Then, point the antenna out a window that faces those towers. This increases your odds at capturing a good digital TV signal.

Moving an antenna presents a few logistical issues. For starters, you might need to increase the length of the antenna's coaxial cable to move it by a window. To make this happen, you need to buy more coaxial cable and a coaxial extender. These items are sold at most hardware and electronics stores.

Once you relocate the antenna, you should perform the double-rescan process described above.

Buy a New Antenna 

Consider ditching your indoor antenna for an outdoor model. Outdoor antennas are more expensive and are a pain to install, but the bump in reception quality may be worth the effort.

Check out Antenna Web before buying an outdoor antenna so you can get the most accurate recommendation for your address.

If an outdoor antenna isn't feasible, try a different type of indoor antenna—one specifically designed for digital. The new digitally-enhanced antennas are flatter by design, which helps them capture the TV signal.

Amplify the Antenna 

If you're already receiving a digital TV signal, you can try amplification. The signal can be poor, but at least it's there. If you're not picking anything up, amplification probably isn't an option. You may want to consider buying an outdoor antenna.

Amplification is a tricky concept. Mike Mountford, former CEO of All American Direct, explains it best by comparing amplifying a digital TV signal to water barely falling out of a hose. Antenna amplification is like attaching a nozzle to the end of the hose so you can increase its spraying power.

This isn't a guaranteed fix for every poor TV reception scenario, but it's an option.

Make sure you don't over-amplify the signal. You can blow out a TV tuner in the same way you can blow out a car speaker when cranking the volume.

Consider an Alternative 

Give up your TV. No, not really. But, maybe you can supplement your TV watching with programming on the internet. Consider going in with someone on a satellite service package and splitting the cost, or paying for the cheapest basic cable service.

You can also contact your local broadcast stations to see if they can help. It's possible they're having technical difficulties you're unaware of.

Special thanks to Hank Caskey, vice-president of antenna reception for Audiovox, who helped shape this article with his valuable insight on antenna reception.