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Simple Tricks To Fix Your Caravan TV Reception

Article by Peter Smith - Caravans Plus

You don't always need to spend more money to get a better picture on your TV.

What is Signal Polarity and is it important?

It sounds technical, but it can be a simple and important concept with the digital TV transmissions.

When you are at home you don't need to worry about Signal Polarity because your antenna will be set for your local area. There is an 85% chance you will be getting your TV via a horizontal signal.

But those that travel in a Caravan, Motorhome or Camper Trailer will be highly represented in the areas that use vertical signals for some or all of their channels. You will miss these channels unless you understand and prepare.

Below: Red signal is Horizontal Polarity

Horizontal signals are always the most powerful and will travel much further from the transmitter than the vertical signals.
Around 60% of the Australian channels are transmitted using horizontal signals.

This equates to around 85% of the viewing population due to the stronger signal.
Some antennas will only pick up these signals.

Below: Green signal is Vertical Polarity

The vertical signals are lower powered and are intended for local broadcasts only.

The remaining 40% of transmissions will be sent out using a vertical signal.

This equates to around 15% of the viewing population because of the more limited range.

Some transmitters may send one channel vertical and another horizontal.

Some antennas can be rotated to pick up these signals and some will pick up both all the time.


Why is polarity more important now?

Since December 2013 Analogue has been fazed out. With analogue signals, the signal loss for an antenna mounted with the wrong polarity is important. If the signal power is strong, this would result in a noisy analogue picture. If the signal power is low, you will not get a picture at all. Analogue signal was all about the signal strength.

Digital signal however is very different. You MUST match the polarity, it does not matter how strong the signal is, it will not work with the wrong polarity. With a digital signal it is all about the equipment reading the zeros and ones and when you have the wrong polarity it cannot read them and you get a 'No Signal' reading on the TV. Digital is a lot about polarity.


How can I find what polarity is being transmitted where I park?

There are a few ways to get this information, read on to see which will suit you best.

1) iPhone/iPad and Android app, Australian Government

Free: mySwitch allows you to enter your address or location to find the closest transmitter - direction and distance. After selecting the transmitter, you can select ....more info....to find Frequency, Channel number and Polarisation.

For Satellite reception it gives bearing and angle to the Satellite, including recommended dish size and LNB Skew for your current location.

iphone android app

2) The Antenna Mate iPhone/iPad App

This Australian App, costing around $5.50 will point to your closest transmitter. Internet access is not required.

Selecting the 'Info' icon will display all Channels that are broadcast through that transmitter, together with the frequency, power, polarisation (vertical or Horizontal) and signal type (Analogue or Digital)

Selecting the 'Search' icon will show more transmitters within 150km so you can select an alternate one if the closest is hidden or does not provide a channel you want.

Iphone app
Above: As soon as you open the App. it shows direction to your closest transmitter.


Will your antenna receive vertical signals?

I will cover the antenna's we know about.

Own an EXPLORER antenna?

If you find the polarity needs to be set to vertical you should do this before tuning. The later Explorer Antenna come with a vertical bar that gives a ninety degree angle to the main mast. This will set your antenna to receive the vertical signal. They are available as an option and can be used with any brand of antenna that attaches to mast pole.
Below: The vertical bar adapter

Own a Winegard or Antennatek antenna?
These very popular roof mounted antenna were setup to receive horizontal signals and this has proved a problem as we are migrating to Digital.Some owners release one mounting point to allow the antenna head to drop to the vertical, but this is inconvenient when travelling.


In 2011 we did an article on the Wingman that went a long way to address this issue, and this is still valid, but 2012 brought an even better range of solutions.
The Winegard Freevision HV antenna - either complete or retrofit kit, will receive both vertical and horizontal signals when it is elevated and is an excellent upgrade if you are having a problem.

Winegard Freevision HV Antenna - Complete KitBest Seller

Winegard Freevision HV Antenna - Complete Kit

12 In Stock Now.
$473.10
$384.95
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Winegard Freevision HV Antenna - RetroFit Kit onlyBest Seller

Winegard Freevision HV Antenna - RetroFit Kit only

50 In Stock Now.
$348.80
$254.95
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Foldaway Antenna. By their very nature, these can be easily rotated to suit either the vertical or horizontal signal, or both at once. They are initially supplied without a booster, however a booster is recommended for use in fringe areas.

Foldaway Antenna - Tallboy 2.0m - Complete Kit

Foldaway Antenna - Tallboy 2.0m - Complete Kit

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$162.00
$139.95
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Foldaway Antenna - Quick Fit - Complete Kit

Foldaway Antenna - Quick Fit - Complete Kit

3 In Stock Now.
$152.00
$129.95
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JACK Digital Antenna. These are designed for the horizontal signals. If used on the Winegard extension arms, it is possible to release one top mounting pin and rotate the unit to receive the vertical signals but again this is inconvenient.

King Jack Digital HD Antenna - Suit Winegard Lifter and Round Mast

King Jack Digital HD Antenna - Suit Winegard Lifter and Round Mast

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$124.95
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Signal Finders - What do they do, and are they worth it?

A Signal Finder will do a great job telling you where the signal is coming from, but it will not tell you the polarity. You can check out the antennas on the local houses or other caravans to identify on what polarity the local transmitter is transmitting on or use one of the methods above.

What the Signal Finder does better than anything else already mentioned is tell you exactly what direction works best from where you are parked. With the signal finder plugged into your antenna cable, between the antenna and the TV, slowly rotate or have someone else rotate your antenna until you get the maximum signal shown by the number of LED's that light up.

What a Signal Finder will not do, is find a signal if your equipment is faulty or of poor quality. The items that can effect a signal are the quality of the antenna, if the amplifier is working, if all connections and cables are in good condition and good quality, if you are getting a direct signal, or if the signal is getting bounced off buildings or landforms.

Other Improvements.

It is surprising how often a cable is at fault where it looks to be in good condition. Try swapping your working cables from inside your house as a first step.

The other items that will also effect your TV reception, and should not be overlooked are:

  • The height of your antenna
  • The connections on your co-axial cable. Screw type are best.
  • Do you have a booster, if so, is it working as they can be damaged by lightning in the area.

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  • 8 Comments

    • comment-avatar

      Tim

      You don't clearly say HOW to point the antenna - the most important part.

    • comment-avatar

      James

      Point the long single antenna (T) i.e. the bottom of the "T" to the transmitter direction.

    • comment-avatar

      Peter

      i have trouble setting up the tv i get to set up and thats as far as i go not sure what to do next thank you

    • comment-avatar

      John

      Has anyone tried a marine style aerial such as a Glomex omnidirectional UFO style. On our boat they worked great and as I have just purchased a camper, I was thinking of trying it on the van. No need point anywhere specific and the new ones have automatic gain control of Approx 27db?

    • comment-avatar

      Alan

      I just purchased a 2016 van in South Aust and was unable to get much reception at either Mt Barker (Adelaide hills or in the Berossa valley however as soon as I got to Victoria via The Great Ocean Rd I was able to pick up lots of stations same thing in NSW lots of stations WHY??????? Fitted with Winegard antenna

    • comment-avatar

      Joseph

      With antennas we also have to consider frequency Most capital city’s use VHF whilst regional areas are mostly UHF. The issue is many caravan antennas preform much better for UHF rather then VHF, this is largely due to UHF being the dominant frequency band used overseas. This is why in some areas in Australia you will struggle to get a good reception especially on the outskirts of the main capital cities where VHF are used but also the power from the transmitter is low.

    • comment-avatar

      Alan

      I note Joseph's comment however I have the winegard free vision areal Which is suppose to receive both UHF & VHF just thought it strange that some people could get reception (parked next to me) & I could not but only in SA Other states reception OK. going to Broken Hill in September see how I go out there Thanks for input. Alan

    • comment-avatar

      Ron Jarvis

      Are WA stations all vertical.? We recently toured Aust for 8 months. Our Winegard was fine . Entered WA near Kunnunurra-- fine. From Kunna all the way down the coast to Perth--- nothing, tho in Perth we get 44Indigenous perfectly, but nothing else. A pair of rabbit ears--- in poly pipes gives 27 channels most of the way, even with them flat, or V shaped and with no booster. Suspect Winegard has blown a circuit? tho 44 is fine. Booster light is on.

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