Top 4 Sources of Obstruction and Interference Impacting Over-the-Air TV Reception (Guest Post)

Todays post is a guest post from the great team over at TabloTV.com. Laura Slater is one of the cord cutting experts at TabloTV.com and has been blissfully cable-free since 2010. She enjoys sharing the money saving tips and tricks she’s learned to help others join the cord cutting revolution.

Savvy cord cutters know that an Over-the-Air TV antenna is the best – and most cost-effective – way to watch your local broadcast TV stations like ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and FOX.

The critical aspects in your ability to receive free Over-the-Air TV are your home and your TV antenna’s surroundings.

Local television stations broadcast their programs in the form of radio wave signals. The least amount of obstructions and distance between your TV antenna and local broadcast towers, the better your reception will be.

If the OTA signal is even partially impacted by obstructions or interference, it can cause errors in the broadcast TV stream resulting in audio drop outs and/or pixilation and stuttering in the video.

However, unlike the days of analog TV, a digital OTA TV picture won’t degrade slowly into ‘snow’, it will often just stop – something known as the digital cliff.

This means obstructions and interference can have a huge impact on the number of channels you’re able to receive and reliability of those broadcasts. If you use an OTA DVR like Tablo, obstructions and interference can also cause your recordings to fail.

Four common examples of obstructions for line-of-sight Over-The-Air TV reception are:

  1. Mountains & Valleys
    If your local broadcast tower is behind a mountain, or you live in a deep valley, obtaining a good OTA TV signal will be problematic as the signal’s line-of-sight will be blocked, or will pass right over your TV antenna.
  2. Trees
    Lucky enough to have a house surrounded by 100-foot century-old redwoods, or just a handful of huge maples? This can also block OTA TV reception, especially in the spring when increased foliage and wind can cause breakup or total loss of Over-the-Air reception.
  3. Large Buildings
    If a large concrete office building sits between you and your local broadcast towers, your TV reception may also be blocked. Buildings with ‘mirrored’ exteriors can also create multipath interference as signals are ‘refracted’ or bounced off the shiny surfaces.
  4. Your Home’s Construction Materials
    Just like cell phone and satellite radio signals can’t penetrate parking garages, concrete and rebar construction or mesh stucco walls can block Over-the-Air TV signals. Over-the-Air antennas should never be placed in basements, or in windows with security bars/mesh as this will obstruct signals. Those planning to install an antenna in their attic should also choose a different location if they have a radiant heat barrier.

Four common invisible sources of interference to Over-The-Air TV reception are:

  1. Power Lines
    Even if it’s not directly in front of your OTA TV antenna, overhead power lines leading to your house or high-tension lines in your backyard can reflect signals from broadcast towers, decreasing your antenna’s capacity to clearly ‘see’ the signals.
  2. LTE Cell Towers
    Traffic from nearby LTE cellular towers can also create invisible interference. Good quality TV tuners, and even some antennas can have some built-in LTE filtering, and the addition of LTE filter antenna accessories can also help mitigate this.
  3. LED Lightbulbs
    If your OTA TV signal gets worse at night, try turning off the lights. While newer, good quality LED lightbulbs certified by the FCC (or Industry Canada) should not cause any interference with your OTA TV signals, older or lower quality bulbs can create enough radio frequency (RF) interference to block signals.
  4. Weather
    To a lesser and far more variable degree, weather can affect your OTA TV signal – especially severe fog/rain/snow, and large temperature swings – as the signal reflects off moisture in the atmosphere.

Cutting the cord on cable using a TV antenna should be easy and cost-effective, but obstructions and interference can throw a monkey wrench into your plans.

Being aware of potential impacts to your OTA TV signal, and how to avoid them can ensure your cord cutting journey doesn’t become as frustrating as your monthly cable bill.

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