Here’s four different do it yourself methods to align your TV Antenna for Digital TV. There are two methods that require no equipment, a method using an Australian mobile app and some inexpensive devices you can use.
In a previous article, “How Professionals Align a TV Antenna for Digital TV“, I discussed the tools and techniques a professional installer would use to align a new aerial. In this article I’m going to discuss some techniques that you can use to do it yourself, without requiring expensive professional equipment.
The Eyeball Method
The quickest and simplest method is to simply sight the TV transmitter towers. If you can do this from your roof top, in most cases there will be more than enough signal strength at your location for you to just casually point the aerial at the transmitter towers and it will work. Exceptions to this are where there are hills or large buildings in your vicinity, even if they’re behind you.
Doing What Everyone Else is Doing
In many areas it doesn’t really take that much to get a suitable TV Antenna alignment. If the signal strength and quality is good, any direction within 15-20 degrees of the straight line from you to the transmitters will produce an acceptable result. So my first suggestion if you can’t see the transmitter tower is just to look at the houses around you and point your antenna in a similar direction. In most suburban areas this will work fine. Except to this are again where there are hills or large buildings nearby, also if you note that all the antennas nearby have masthead amplifiers or are elevated on higher than normal poles. This would be an indication people have signal strength issues in your area.
Previously there was an Australian Government Digital Switchover Taskforce app called mySwitch. This is no longer available on the app store, but if you have it, it’s still my top recommended app.
Of the available apps currently, my recommended app is Antenna Mate for Apple iPhones and iPads. The app costs $4.99.
The only weakness of these types of apps is that it will just show you the direct line from you to the transmitter towers. This isn’t always the best signal direction. Hills or large buildings in your locality may mean the best signal quality is found in a different direction.
Cheap Signal Meters
There are a variety of cheap signal strength meters available from suppliers like Jaycar or on eBay under “DVB-T Finder”. Devices such as this Digitech “Digital” TV Signal Strength Meter connect to your antenna cable and measure the strength of signal across the whole Digital TV band. The name is a misnomer. There is nothing “Digital TV” about these meters. They’re just a straight analogue RF signal strength meter. This doesn’t mean they don’t work. The lights on the display will tell you what the strength of the signal is for Digital or Analogue TV as it’s still just a radio frequency signal either way. They will allow you to point your antenna at the strongest signal.
The weakness of these devices is they aren’t very selective. Any strong signal source may interfere with it’s function giving incorrect results. Also in general it will just give you a straight line from yourself to the TV Transmitters. This may not provide the best quality of signal, which is what Digital TV is all about. If there are local hills or large buildings the best quality may not be where the best signal strength is.
Weaknesses of These Methods
All of these methods suffer from the same basic weakness. They work well in good signal coverage areas, but in poor signal areas your results will vary. The difference between any of these methods and a professional with a Digital TV Field Signal Strength Meter is that the professional can select each channel separately and look at it’s strength and quality using measures such as Mean Error Rate. They can use a Constellation Display to visually see how clean the signal from a particular direction is. A professional meter is also useful when it comes to identifying faults in antennas or cabling.
Overall though in most cases you can do it yourself without professional tools and in most locations you’ll get a good result.