It is necessary to align or point the antenna in the right direction for the best reception signal. Antenna point, alignment or orientation is a key part of any antenna installation process. Incorrect alignment happens more often than you think.
And the truth it doesn’t take a genius to get it right.
Whether a professional installer, handyman, or yourself are installing a television antenna, it is necessary to know what you are doing in order to accurately align or point the TV antenna to provide the best reception.
Antennas used for television reception have a directional pattern. When they are installed, they need to be orientated and pointed towards the where the signal is coming from being a television transmitter.
Antennas have a directional pattern or polar diagram. Which essentially means they have a specific directional window where they are great at catching signals, something like 60 degrees or so where the middle of this window is the point of peak performance. Most of the other directions are not as receptive.
The remaining directions (about 300 degrees) are not as receptive if they are accidently pointed at the television transmitter. Meaning you have about 60 degrees more or less that is the sweet spot to point your antenna. This window may vary depending on the equipment and strength of the television transmitter.
In some situations, you may have less of a window to play with meaning you need to be more accurate with pointing your antenna. Accurate alignment of your TV antenna is essential if the best performance is to be obtained.
Methods of finding antenna point direction
TV antenna alignment varies and really depends on your situation. If the signal transmitter is vary far the directional window may be vary small meaning you have to be more accurate with how you point your antenna.
On the other hand, if the transmitter and antenna are very close to each other and in clear sight of one another, it could be a very easy task.
I remember once we used a screw driver and a 2 m wire which acted as an antenna enough to get some channels on the TV. But please do not do this and get a proper installation.
There are three main ways that can be used to align the antenna:
- Visual alignment: This is the easiest method you can chose to align your TV antenna. And for this task you will need two people. One to check the signal on the TV channels and the other moving the antenna. While you install it, simply point it in the direction of the television transmitter mast. Obviously, this requires the TV transmitter mast to be visible, but if not, there is a trick to align the antenna in the same direction as the antenna of your neighbours. This may be satisfactory in some instances, but signal strengths can vary from one TV antenna to the next. Communication is important between you and your helper, the person at the TV needs to let the guy with the antenna know when the signal is at its best so the position can be locked in.
- Using a smartphone app: There are a few apps which can help orientate the antenna towards the television transmitter. There is a good selection, both for Android and also for Apple iOS. This apps have a list of the television transmitting antennas with their locations. So you can find the one closest to you. They use position location and the orientation function of your smartphone to allow you to orientate your antenna in the right direction for maximum reception.
Note that the nearest transmitter may not always be the best so try to test at least three and check the difference between them. This method may not always work as well as expected if the television transmitter mast is not directly visible. Usually, you won’t get a signal if the transmitter is not directly visible and there are many physical obstructions like buildings and hills. We recommend to keep testing different options using the app until you get the best signal and picture quality.
- Signal strength meter: This is a popular way used by professionals for many years before smart phone. TV antenna signal strength meters or alignment meters are more trusted than phone apps as they physically test the signal transmitted. These antenna alignment signal strength meters are straightforward and can enable the easy alignment of the antenna.
These TV antenna alignment meters are generally very basic and measure the strength of signal across the whole TV band – they are just a simple analogue RF signal strength meter and typically they give a basic strength indication on a set of LEDs. This enables the antenna to be orientated to obtain the strongest signal.
The TV antenna alignment meters provide a basic indication of the strongest signal available at the location you are in. Sometimes they may pick up other signals not related to TV. So as per the previous method it is important to check a few directions in order to get the best picture quality.
You may want to do a bit of market research weather to invest in a TV antenna meter or get a professional to install it as the cost may not be so different. Especially if you rarely need to use the meter. If you decide to go with the meter, remember to check whether it is for satellite or terrestrial television antenna alignment. This mistake happens more often than you think. Some TV antenna alignment meters are able to accommodate both are advertised as such.
Some things to consider when pointing your antenna
Here are a few additional tips that may help make sure that your TV alignment is executed smoothly.
- Be safe when climbing up on your roof: roof accidents happen more often than you think. Please take care climbing up heights and always have 3 points of contacts when climbing up ladders.
- No signal situation: Don’t get frustrated, there are situations where a professional HAS to be involved as the solution may be too complex to solve on your own.
- Buy a good quality TV antenna cable to connect your antenna: TV antenna cables vary widely in quality. But they are usually the first thing to fail, especially if they are external or suffer some mechanical damage. Invest in a good cable that will last longer.
- Don’t rely on your TV’s internal meter: Some televisions have internal antenna alignment meters which are not that great. We recommend to use the three methods we discussed previously.
- Placement as well as alignment is important: As discussed previously physical object can interrupt the TV signal from the transmitter. It is important to place your antenna high up in a clear area where it has a better chance to be visible with the TV transmitter.
- Keep away from the antenna during signal testing: Your body may actually act as an obstruction when you test the antenna. So before checking the signal on your TV ensure the person/yourself are clear of the antenna.