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Review of Caravans Plus Service
You don't always need to spend more money to get a better picture on your TV.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Above: As soon as you open the App. it shows direction to your closest transmitter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: