Troubleshooting OTA Tower-to-Antenna Digital TV service. Any Ideas?

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Old 05-21-20, 01:38 PM
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Question Troubleshooting OTA Tower-to-Antenna Digital TV service. Any Ideas?

I need assistance troubleshooting OTA Tower-to-Antenna Digital TV service.

Background on me:
I've been an 'IT Guy' for over 20 years. So, I understand things from a technical standpoint, to a certain degree. I'm just not an electrician....though I do full network installs, and have run cable quite a bit in that line of work.

The Situation:
At my parents' house (i.e. so I'm free to do basically whatever I need to in troubleshooting or whatever), the OTA TV reception has been touch-n-go on some channels for a long time. So, recently, we decided to replace the attic-mounted antenna (which I think has been in place since they built the place in like 2004) with a new one.

I got them this one from Amazon...
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DNJZ58M

I connected it, and mounted the new antenna in what seemed like a better place in the attic that had a much clearer and unobstructed view toward where the majority of the towers are located.

Then we checked and it appeared as though all of the channels that were coming in OK before (i.e. with the old antenna) we're still coming in, but there was no change in reception for the ones that have always been problematic.

No big deal. Even if the new antenna didn't actually provide an improvement, at least it's all new equipment, and it should last a while longer.

BONK!
A couple days later, suddenly a whole bunch of channels weren't working anymore. :|

No idea what could have caused that to happen, but I set out to troubleshoot...

I got a new coax cable, splitter, and signal booster (from Walmart) to replace all three of those components that have also been in use the whole time since 2004.

However, once I put all of that in place, nothing changed.

So, I checked by having only one of the three TVs connected to the splitter. No change. Then I checked without the signal booster. No change. Then I tested every possible configuration, and no change.

Eventually, I put ALL of the old equipment (antenna, cable, signal booster, and splitter) back in place (I hadn't moved the original antenna at all, but only disconnected the cable to attach it to the new one).

However, with it all back to the way it was before, now even more channels are missing.

So, then I went up and put the new signal booster in place, and that seemed to result in bringing back some of the channels, but it's still not back to the condition prior to starting to change stuff.

At this point, I'm really confounded.

What the heck else is there to check to see if I can figure out what is causing the problem (i.e. even the spotty situation with some channels as it was originally would be better than it is now)?

Also, I know there may be details missing that you need to help me out.
Whatever you need to know, I'll do my best.

Any ideas?
 
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  #2  
Old 05-21-20, 08:46 PM
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Everybody has their own story with OTA HD signals. The signals are basically line of sight and anything in between can block the signal. I have never had good luck with antennas in an attic unless the house is in a very strong signal area. I'm only +/-20 air miles from NYC and yet my reception is miserable. I have a mountain between me and the city. I put up a large Yagi on the roof and got a few stations borderline. At least now I can pickup every foreign, religious, educational and shopping channel on HD in northern NJ.

When troubleshooting an HD antenna. Connect it to only one TV and don't use a booster.
 
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Old 05-22-20, 11:16 AM
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@PJmax

Thanks, Pete. :-)
I brought one of the TVs up to the attic to test directly.

I tried all of the following combinations, and got slightly differing versions with them all...

Old antenna, old cable

New antenna, new cable

Old antenna, new cable

In all of these configurations, it's still not back to 'normal' (i.e. the state they had previously where most of the channels were at least working. Many of the channels that used to work are just not working at all now, and which ones aren't working depends on which configuration of those three above I put it in.

I think you should start asking me the 'stupid' questions.
I mean, ya, I'm a techie, but obviously I must have something goofed up here, right? lol

I can't imagine what it is, but perhaps something you ask me will spark a thought, or make me realize something obvious that neither of us can imagine I'm so dumb to have missed. :-)
 
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Old 05-22-20, 10:23 PM
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would connect it to one tv and not use the splitter and see what you get and have you tried rescanning for channels sometimes its the station that changed something.
 
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Old 05-23-20, 05:55 AM
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I have to rescan channels from time to time as stations do updates to their systems. I also recommend you use an app for your phone to direct the antenna. RCA has a good free one on Google play. This might also be helpful: https://www.rcaantennas.net/antenna-finder/

That antenna you posted looks very directional. Are the towers you are trying to get a signal from all in one place? I would also consider putting the antenna on the roof especially if you have steel siding. I also find those antenna distance ratings are rather inflated. A bigger antenna is always better.

Other things you didn't mention:
What kind of cable is it? RG59 or RG6?
Are all the unused splitter ports capped off?

 
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Old 05-25-20, 11:16 AM
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Thanks a lot, guys! :-)

Since I had already tested directly with the antenna connected directly to a TV (i.e. like I said, I brought on of the TVs up to the attic to test directly), there wasn't much more I could change about the experiment, as far as physical components were concerned (outside of getting a different antenna).

As it turned out, since the replacement antenna did in fact work for a couple days initially, I concluded that 'something' happened to cause it to stop working. I never did figure that out (i.e. whether it was a lightning strike, or power glitch, or what), but just knowing that's how it went was enough for me to decide to go get another replacement antenna.

Then, since even when the replacement one was working, it was still not much better than the original antenna, I decided to get a different one. The second replacement is larger, feels more sturdy, much longer/wider metal pieces sticking way out (probably 3x the width of the first replacement one). By the shape, it seems much less 'directional'. Also, it came with its own signal booster.

After assembling it, mounting it temporarily, and connecting it, all channels came in just fine except for one channel that has always been problematic which is the opposite direction (north) from the large field of towers to the south that represents the vast majority.

I then connected it to the splitter for the house, and all TVs appear to be getting good reception again. Yay! :-)

So, at least for now, it appears this one has been resolved.
Thanks a lot for your input!!
 
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Old 05-25-20, 01:01 PM
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Nice job! Glad to hear you got it working.
 
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Old 05-25-20, 03:32 PM
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You need the RCA 751E here..I have this in my attic..

https://www.walmart.com/ip/RCA-Subur...-Mast/10828410

Then you need a quality amp..

I have the chanel master 7777 here.

https://www.amazon.com/Channel-Maste.../dp/B000GGKOG8

How far are your towers?

When I was in NJ I had this set up.. aimed at NYC I got 11 channels.. I was 50 miles away from towers

 
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Old 05-27-20, 07:01 PM
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Well, once again, even though everything was working fine since my last post above, tonight, we lost a certain channel again. :|

@lawrosa
Here is the antenna I'm using now...
https://www.walmart.com/ip/RCA-ANT85...enna/344067607

It is rated for 80 miles, and comes with a 25dB signal booster.

Most of the towers are within about 40 miles.
The one that just cut out tonight is about 42.x miles away.

I am going to check again in the morning, and if that channel is still gone, I am going to bring a TV up to the attic to test and verify whether it's actually gone at the antenna or something else is going on with wires or whatever.

So, do you think it is flaky like this just simply because the signal and equipment are just at that point where it could go either way, and perhaps atmospheric conditions change and poof....and that having a stronger antenna (like one of those 150 mile ones) would push it over that hump?
 
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Old 05-27-20, 10:23 PM
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doubt a better antenna will help your towers really are not that far away I have seen distribution amplifiers help sometimes when it is split to several televisions but by hooking up to just one television without the splitter if reception improves you may consider a distribution amplifier, if it does not improve you would probably need to try the antenna out of the attic as a next step but there is a lot of possible causes like weather, terrain, trees for poor reception but getting the antenna outside possibly on a mast may help.
 
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Old 05-28-20, 08:17 AM
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@alan73
What power level of amplifier?
The one that came with the antenna that is in place now is 25dB.
 
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Old 05-28-20, 10:44 AM
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most are low power 4 - 15 db depending a lot on how many times its split and they are commonly used with antenna pre amplifiers so there not really designed to replace them just to prevent the loss that occurs from using a regular splitter.
 
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Old 05-28-20, 11:10 AM
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@alan73

OK.....is a 'preamplifier' is different from an amplifier then?

If that's the case, then should I be using both an amplifier AND a preamplifier (like the one recommended by @lawrosa above)?

p.s. Sorry....this is not my area, and I'm trying to catch up on-the-fly (i.e. I don't have time to go to school for it right now, and am so grateful for whoever is willing to do a bit of hand-holding).
 
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Old 05-31-20, 10:49 AM
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FYI, I just learned, after posting on the nextdoor forum, that one of the towers (which serves at least three different networks and sub-networks, and at least three different sets of numbered channels) is undergoing maintenance. :|

So, I'm just going to wait it out. Once they are finished with what they're doing, I will test again to see how it is, and will report back after that.
 
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