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Engineering Unit


Post Office Box 10

Bart, PA 17503-0010




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Spring means signal reception may decrease; Trees have the final say

By: Christian McLaughlin

As we enter the warmer months many natural occurrences repeat their annual process. Grass grows, flowers bloom and trees develop leaves, blocking (or reflecting) your chances of getting local and distant broadcast stations. The concept isn’t a new one, but rather one that is often overlooked or disregarded. I’ve had people swear to me that radio signals were like lazers and beam through everything, implying that there was no degradation to the signal in the process.  And while their heart was in the right place, the claims I’ve heard about radio interference are mostly misguided and far reaching. When trees begin to grow leaves they add themselves to the list of sources blocking reception of the frequency (channel) you’re device is tuned to. On dial tuners, the solution reestablish clear reception may be something as simple as: adjusting the dial, ever-so-slightly clockwise, or counter clockwise until the signal sounds strong, or a “tuned” or stereo pilot light comes on. But then you let go of the device and the static returns. Or worse, your previous efforts did nothing to obtain (or restore) clear channel reception. That’s when the brain starts thinking of sources that could be causing you to miss out on what you want to hear, or see (if you apply this topic to television).  If you notice some stations come in better in the fall and winter months, and notice you have some problems in the warmer months, it may be due to trees. So, what can you do? There are many potential solutions, and of course if you reach out to my office I will be glad to review your personal situation. Some things you could consider include, but are not limited to: installing amplified antenna(s) indoor or outdoor. Ideally I would suggest installing a elevated antenna on roof top or a place of elevation that is greater than structures or natural obstacles around the home. Line of sight is key, so if you have a bunch of stations you want to receive I would suggest looking for their city of license, and locating that on a map in relation to your location.  Understand that you will need to point your directional antenna in this direction. So if one station you like is in Harrisburg, and the other is in Philadelphia, You will need a seperate amplified antenna (most likely attached to another tuner) to receive both stations, since Harrisburg is northwest of our area and Philadelphia is east. Another solution is a motorized antenna. This device is made by various manufactures, and if you’re technically inclined you could build your own. Motorized antennas, or self rotating directional amplified antennas do the same job as one you manually set, only you can remotely control the direction the antenna is facing at any time, without having to climb or take down your antenna mast. If you decide to install any antenna, indoors or outside be aware of electrical hazards. Outlets, live wires and any accident where your mast comes down unexpectedly can result in serious injury to you, others or property. It could also lead to death or life long injuries. Know what you’re doing before you get up on a roof, ladder or in a tree. Speaking of trees, don’t be afraid to use your trees to hang your antenna. Correctly calculated measures before (including plan of action, installation procedure, what to do if you’re stuck or in a seriously dangerous situation and forecasting the life of your installation**  ). If you take your time, plan it out, buy what you need for your application and properly maintain your completed project you will have what you need and never have to worry about what nature grows in your way again.


**Forecasting the life of your antenna, and it’s site is very important. Basic factors to consider include things like:  What was the fastest gust of wind on record at your location? How about tornadoes? Winter storms, blizzards, extremely hot and dry weeks or months, long periods of rain and even week long periods of gusty winds.  Don’t guess or assume,  know for fact.  If in doubt, get a professional to check it out. They may find you need something unique or want to handle it from a different approach. Perhaps they can locate another site on your property of which you may not have thought of. Understand the life expectancy of the materials you’re using. Steel pipes need to be painted every year to keep rust from forming. Joints in your mast should be insulated air tight and contain no air at all. If there is any air bubbles on the pole or mast you just painted, condensation will form and rust will follow. If you’re using a mast or tower already painted, check for cracks. Does the paint chip? Is the paint mushy in any spots, darker or lighter in others? If you decided to insulate with tape, DO NOT USE DUCT TAPE! It will dry out from being exposed to the sun completely in a matter of days and render as useless in days shortly thereafter. When stress is applied to the duct tape that is no longer effective it will fail to serve it’s purpose and result distress.