Fixing Digital TV Reception With an Indoor Antenna

Use these tips to improve your reception

Digital TV signals move through the air like water mixes with oil. These signals aren't resilient like old analog TV signals, which delivered in the rain, sleet, snow, or shine. If you experience poor reception with an indoor digital antenna, use the following troubleshooting techniques as a guide to be 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.

Mohu Leaf 30 TV Antenna

What Causes Bad TV Antenna Reception?

The antenna may have difficulty picking up your favorite stations over the air for several reasons. The causes mostly come down to the basic idea that the signals reaching the device aren't strong enough. You may be too far from the broadcast location, or something physically blocks the signals. The antenna could be in a less-than-ideal place or facing the wrong direction. Or, in some cases, the antenna might not be strong enough.

How to Fix Bad TV Antenna Reception

Follow these potential fixes in the order presented to troubleshoot the problem:

  1. 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 digital TV power supplies from the wall. Wait a minute before plugging the cables 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. Rescan by reconnecting the antenna to the converter box or digital TV and running the channel scan function again.
  2. Troubleshoot the converter box. If the problem isn't the channels, it may be another piece of hardware. The converter box may be affecting the system's ability to receive and display channels. Some possible fixes for this issue include unplugging the device, checking the connections, and making sure the TV is on the right channel.

  3. Adjust the antenna. Move the antenna to a different spot on the entertainment center and realign it up or down and left or right. The FCC says moving the antenna a few feet can reduce the interference caused by competing electronics equipment, like a DVD player, converter box, or TV.

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

  4. Relocate the antenna. The indoor antenna should be as close to the outside world as possible. Move it near a window, so it gets an unobstructed look at the open air.

    Extend the antenna rods (also called dipoles) all the way up if you use 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 the odds of capturing a good digital TV signal.

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

    Once you relocate the antenna, perform the double-rescan process again.

  5. Buy a new antenna. Consider ditching an indoor antenna for an outdoor model. Outdoor antennas are more expensive and are difficult 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 for digital. The new digitally-enhanced antennas are flatter by design, which helps capture the TV signal.

  6. Amplify the antenna. If you receive a digital TV signal, try amplification. The signal can be poor, but at least it's there. If you don't pick anything up, amplification probably isn't an option. In this case, consider buying an outdoor antenna.

    Mike Mountford, the 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 to increase its spraying power.

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

    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.

  7. Consider an alternative. 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.

  8. Get help. Contact your local broadcast stations to see if they can help. They may be 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.