Get Started with these Outside TV Antenna Installation Tips
Our experience suggests that you will need to install an outside TV antenna to consistently receive signals from Citizens TV’s transmitters on Basket Mountain. Indoor TV antennas are intended for urban areas close to powerful TV transmitters, not a semi-rural area served by a relatively low-powered translators. In some locations, especially in or near Milton-Freewater, you may get by with installing an antenna in your attic pointed toward Basket Mountain, but we do not recommend this. Roofing materials, especially if they contain metal, can weaken the signal. The best choice is an outside antenna oriented toward Basket Mountain installed on your rooftop or at the side of your house.
The good news is that many excellent antennas are available that can be purchased for $100 or less. Mounting hardware (mast, brackets, etc.) may add another $50 or so to the cost. Nearly all TV antennas being manufactured now are designed primarily for the UHF band where our transmitters operate. The one you select can be relatively small and unobtrusive and installed in such a way that it does not detract from the appearance of your home.
Here are some recommendations based on the experience of Citizens TV members:
- We strongly suggest that you select a “bow-tie”-type antenna rather than the Yagi-type. The latter would work if it is designed for UHF reception and pointed toward Basket Mountain, but it will usually be more expensive, harder to install and more vulnerable to damage from weather. Ignore claims about the need for fringe-area, long distance reception--these are irrelevant here. Also, do not purchase an amplified omni-directional antenna: the performance of these is poor in our area.
- An antenna with four bow-ties is sufficient for reception of our signals at nearly all locations in the Walla Walla Valley. Even a two bow-tie antenna will probably work near Milton-Freewater. However, if the horizon of your home in the direction of the Tri-Cities is not blocked by a hill, you may want to receive over-the-air television signals from the three television stations in Pasco-Kennewick as well as our signals from Basket Mountain. In that case, select an antenna with eight bow-ties on two separate panels that can be oriented in different directions. Again, at least three or four different manufacturers produce such antennas: e.g., Channel Master (CM 4221 HD), Xtreme Signal, Digiwave, Stellar Labs, etc. See the photo below:
- You will have several choices in how to mount the antenna: a tripod mount for the roof, a “J” pipe mount for the side or roof, a ground-based mast bracketed to the side of your house, etc. The essential point is to get the antenna a little above your roofline so that it has a clear path to the horizon in the direction of Basket Mountain. (See point 6, below.) All of the needed material can be purchased from Amazon.com and some of it is available from Home Depot and local installers.
- Always follow instructions with the antenna that tell you not to install it close to overhead power lines. Every year, several people are killed erecting antennas! The instructions will tell you how to ground the antenna to avoid damage from lightning strikes.
- A website to give you exact compass bearings from your home address to help you point your antenna in the right direction(s) to receive maximum signal strength: www.antennaweb.org. (Ignore the color-coded -antenna recommendations on antennaweb--this website is sponsored by antenna manufacturers!) However, a bow-tie antenna will pick up signals over a thirty degree range-- the exact orientation is not that critical unless your location is in a weak signal area. From Walla Walla, Basket Mountain is almost directly south; the Tri-Cities almost directly west.
- Use RG-6 shielded cable to bring the signal from the antenna to your television set. Slightly cheaper types of cable are available, but they may degrade the signal quality so it is not worth the slight savings.
- If you have a long run of cable (e.g., 100 feet or more) you may have to install a signal amplifier on the mast near the antenna. (The power for the amplifier, however, is usually comes from an outlet in your house.) Some antennas have an amplifier built in that you need to decide whether or not to switch on. Try it both on and off when you have “auto-scanned” your television for signals (point 10 below). If you have more channels, or the registered signal strength is higher, with the amplifier on, you should use it, but try it both ways. In some cases, the amplifier can actually “overload” the television and weaken signals.
- If, like many of us, you do not want to clamber around on ladders or have no experience, do not be afraid to hire a professional to install the antenna. Board member Mike Greer at 541-938-5183 may be able to put you in touch with a quality installer. One good installer is Bob Moon, 509-520-6858, he supplies an antenna as part of his installation services. Price Computers which now sells antennas and mounting equipment can also arrange installation. Visit their store at the address listed above or call 541-938-7569.
- Once you have the antenna connected to your television, you will have to program or reprogram it to receive signals from the antenna. This is a simple process that you access from your remote, usually the menu button, which will bring you to a function called “scan” or “auto-scan”. It will ask you to select cable or antenna, and you will of course select antenna. Once you select this function, it will automatically program your television for over-the-air signals.