There are a lot of considerations when buying an over-the-air antenna. Indoor or outdoor? Omni or bi-directional? UHF or VHF? How will you access your antenna? How to install and point it?
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Antennas are normally directive, receiving more signals, or transmitting more signals in one direction than another.
To ensure that the best performance is obtained, it is necessary to align or point the antenna in the right direction. This antenna alignment or orientation is a key part of any antenna installation. Incorrectly aligned and pointing in the wrong direction, the antenna will perform poorly.
Whether a professional installer, caravaner, or DIY enthusiast installing a television antenna, it is necessary to be able to accurately align or point the TV antenna to provide the best reception.
Methods of aligning an antenna
It may sound as if TV antenna alignment would be an easy job. As the television receiver is normally located well away from the antenna it is not easy to move the antenna, and then check the performance. Small adjustments can take a long time if only one person is present, moving between the antenna and the receiver. Small adjustments can therefore be difficult to make. Even when two people are available, it is still surprisingly difficult.
There are several techniques that can be used to align the antenna:
Visual alignment: This is probably one of the simplest methods of aligning the antenna. When up with the TV antenna, simply point it in the direction of the television transmitter mast. Obviously, this required the TV transmitter mast to be visible, but if not, it is often possible to align the antenna in the same direction as other local antennas. This may be satisfactory in some instances, but signal strengths can vary from one house to the next, and with reflections often present, the direction required in one location may be different from that needed in another.
Use smartphone app: There are several smartphone apps that help orientate the antenna towards the television transmitter. There is a good selection, both for Android and also for Apple iOS. Typically they have a list of the television transmitting antennas with their locations and then they use position location and the orientation capabilities of the smartphone to be able to provide the direction or orientation for the various transmitters. Typically a list of close stations is provided, as the nearest one may not always be the best.
This method may not always work as well as expected if the television transmitter mast is not directly visible because the if the transmitter cannot be directly seen the signal used may be a reflection. It could bounce off buildings, hills and the like. In this way it is best to ensure that all options are taken to get the best signal and picture quality.
Signal strength meter: There are several low cost TV antenna signal strength meters or alignment meters that can be used. These antenna alignment signal strength meters are straightforward and can enable the easy alignment of the antenna actually at the point of the antenna if it is possible to access the cable to connect to the meter.
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, but as they are wide band they could pick up other signals and provide a false reading. However with a bit of intuition they can work reasonably well, although the sensitivity is limited.
When thinking of investing in a TV antenna alignment signal strength meter, remember to check whether it is for satellite television antenna alignment, or terrestrial television antenna alignment. As signals from these two different types of transmission are on vastly different frequencies, different alignment meters are needed. Some TV antenna alignment meters are able to accommodate both terrestrial and satellite and are advertised as such.