Ask LH: Why Does My Digital TV Signal Get Worse At Night?

Dear LH, I live in Bayside, Melbourne about 18kms from the city. During daylight hours our TV signal is flawless, but as soon as the sun goes down it breaks up considerably. Any ideas? Thanks, Signal Free

TV static picture from Shutterstock

Dear SF,

It sounds like your house might be on the edge of the "digital cliff" (i.e. — near the perimeter of the signal available for your area). This can cause reception issues at night due to fluctuating temperature and weather conditions.

According to the government's MySwitch digital TV website, older antennas may not be suitable to receive some new digital services in your area. A new aerial might therefore be in order. If you haven't already done so, ask the neighbours if they have similar issues.

You could also try manually re-tuning your TV to ensure you're picking up signals from the closest broadcast tower and replace your TV aerial fly lead cable. It's also worth checking other household appliances to make sure there's no interference — everything from Wi-Fi signals to electrical heating and LED lights have been known to interfere with TV reception.

Have any readers experienced similar nocturnal issues with their television signal? Share your solutions in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    You're not missing much

      Not missing much? I beg to differ. Signal Free is missing out on all the new shopping channels, the multitude of reality tv shows and various CSI spin offs, not to mention the out of order repeats of various other tv shows. :|

    We have this exact same issue. We only have issue with all the channel 7 channels (7, 70, 72, 73). All other channels work fine at night. It is highly frustrating.

      From the radio point of view - they are the same channel. All these are different packets transmitted on the same radio channel. (Transponder Frequency in Digital TV speak)

      Most likely getting your antenna looked at by someone that knows their stuff will fix all of them fairly quickly - it may even be as simple as pointing a few degrees to the left.

    Not my television signal, but, my Optus mobile broadband has been shifting back to slow "H" rather than "3G" in the evenings lately, and treating me to speeds slower than I enjoyed in the 1980's with a Telebit Trailblazer modem. Any thoughts?

      "H" should stand for HSDPA which is actually better than 3g... so 0¿0 that's super weird.
      If it were going down to "E" which stands for Edge or 2.5g then that makes sense...

      H is theoretically faster (it's often called '3.5g'), but it sounds like you're on the edge of range for that tower and your modem is alternating between that and a stronger 3G signal.

      Some modems have an option to choose normal 3G or HSDPA in the settings, I'd have a poke around there before taking it any further.

      This actually sounds like you're getting a better radio signal, but only barely good enough to upgrade to "H"

      Therefore in practice it's worse because while the transmission rate is faster, the amount of errors is higher and the re-transmissions of packets destroys the benefit of more available bandwidth.

      It really sucks to be on the edge of a signal threshold, the constant swapping also slows things down as devices re-configure, you really don't want the strongest possible signal, you want to be in the middle of a "good" signal-to-noise ratio, whatever that level is.

    Tropospheric Inversion.

    TV signals bounce off the boundary between warm and cooler air layers; at night, this boundary becomes less distinct, less 'bounce' = poorer reception.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropospheric_propagation

      I just wanted to thank you for answering the question the original LH reader wrote in. Unlike the author, who answered the question "What can I do to improve TV signal?" which wasn't actually asked.

        1. The reader stated he has TV reception issues and asked if we had "any ideas". Somehow I think he was more interested in a solution to the problem than a scientific explanation of what's causing it.

        2. I did mention fluctuating temperature at night as a possible cause of the problem.

    The coax cable from the antenna to the tv can also present issues. The older and cheaper cable should be replaced with RG6 Quad Shield. The old cable probably has broken down a bit, and when night comes the cable interacts with the dew and becomes faulty.

      No dews in our area

    Apparently DVB-T can also be affected by people walking past the antenna if it's an indoor one. - http://www.ehu.es/tsr_radio/images/International_Journals/MART-09-01.pdf - As with the old TV it pays to make sure you do everything you can to maximise the potential for your hardware to receive the signal, from using a compatible antenna, cable and even powered signal boosters. - Though it won't guarantee a fix as it's clear the digital signal is just a wee bit more finicky than the old standard.

    We had a similar situation and it was particularly bad with the Channel 7 family of channels. Turns out that we get interference from a specific circuit of downlights in our house that we typically have on at night. Took us a while to find the cause as a result of the fact that, come nightfall we just always turn these on.

    Might not be the same for you but it's worth turning off anything you can in the house. If your reception improves then turn everything on one at a time to isolate what's causing the interference.

    However, we've had the antenna dude and the sparky in and they can't think what to do about it that doesn't cost a fortune and may not even work anyway. So we just turn off those lights if we're planning to watch or record anything on Channel 7 (which is not often).

    We had a similar experiece with SBS here in BrisVegas. Make sure move your co-axial cables away from and not tangled in the rest of the nightmarish spaghetti behind your telly.

    This worked for me, might help you?

    Get a $10 set of rabbit ears, shove them behind your tv and forget about it. For most people in metro areas that's all you need.

    I had this exact problem, including the channels affected. After a few months I finally worked it out (and had it confirmed by a radio technician).

    The issue was a faulty street light, that despite appearing to be constantly on, had a faulty component causing it to switch on and off at a high frequency, which output radio interference.

    Pay attention to your streetlights. If your problems coincide with them turning on, report the problem to your electricity company. If they refuse to do anything you can then take it to the ACMA.

      Even better - power companies have guaranteed service levels on street light repairs. Eg Powercor will pay you $40 compo if they don't fix a street light within 2 days outside your house:
      http://www.powercor.com.au/docs/pdf/Electricity%20Networks/Powercor%20Network/CitiPower%20and%20Powercor%20Guaranteed%20Service%20Levels.pdf

    I would like to know why the digital signal is pathetic when compared the the analogue one.

    I cannot get any of the old UFH channels now through the digital, but analogue is/was fine.

    The lighting you are using will most likely be the issue - do a search on digital tv and led lighting .
    Are your lights interfering with the signal. Turn them off and see if problem goes away.
    I have just recently installed LED lights on halogen transformers. I am still investigating the fix
    One notable issue is TV's are no longer earthed and neither are TV antenna's, so so much for the effectiveness of the shield on the antenna cable. I think this is a different issue though it appears to have something to do with impulse noise fed back through the power. Hmm.

    Having a similar problem with the digital tv signal being really crappy at night. Have just worked out it is my recently installed LED downlights causing the interference. Would love someone to come up with a solution to fix this, otherwise its tv in the dark :(

    Thanks. My problem of ch 7 and 9 breaking up is solved. Sometime ago I installed 2 LED down lights (to save energy) in place of incandescent. I replaced my antenna cost $350. Problem still occurred at night. Have reverted to incandescent down lights problem now solved. Thanks to cherbear and Gemmel

    I had a similar problem with TV reception in Perth on Channel 1, 10. Late every afternoon I would get no signal. I isolated to an LED downlight in the kitchen. Once I removed the LED there was no longer interference. There is some discussion elsewhere that the transformers need to support LED.

    We live in country Qld and have had reasonable tv reception for years, even on an old home made aerial (allegedly made by someone who understood aerials though). However in the last month or so it regularly goes bad in the evenings, especially weekends, usually starting around 9.30. It will be unwatchable for an hour or so, then maybe comes back later. I notice that when it comes back on often the audio is significantly out of synch with video and very often the change coincides with a change of program ( ABC), so I wonder if it is related to broadcasting somehow. Can't seem to find any correlation with our own electrical devices, and we are 1 km from neighbours and 20 km from street lights.

    I'm in a brand new house and land package in a brand new subdivision. TV reception is always fine. But not my DVR.

    I've spent hundreds of $$$ on replacing the tuner, new cables, and an antenna masthead amplifer. On a signal tester I went from 50db to 60db (with the splitter bypassed), 100db (with the masthead amp) and finally 80db with the splitter re-connected.

    My DVR is Microsoft Media Centre on Windows 7. I've applied the "insufficient signal error" patch. But it hasn't fixed the problem.

    I can go for hours with perfect reception, then get pixelations and broken up audio with no rhyme or reason. Actually, not so no rhyme or reason. Problems happen at midday and dusk. Or just before it starts raining. Or when the rain has just stopped.

    I can record a movie off GEM at 1:00 AM for 2 hours that's perfect except for 10 mins of crap in the middle.

    I've searched everywhere for a solution, driver updates, etc.

    Nothing seems to help.

    Is it then just a Microsoft problem (and they DON'T care - really)?

    The sad part is, Windows MCE has the best interface I've come across for time-shifting, scheduled recording, multiple tuners, etc and I've been using it since Windows XP MCE was released. I then upgraded to Vista Premium and Windows 7 Premium. I even upgraded to the Pro version of Windows 8 to get the MCE add-on.

    I've also tried the native software with the various tuners instead in case the MCE DLLs are faulty, but I get the same problem.

    The Antenna Man has come and gone several, and given up (he's now a Win MCE convert though! ;-))!

    To repeat TV is (always) fine, just my DVB-T DVR.

    Anybody, ANYBODY out there with a sensible explanation?

    Thanks!

    Cheers,
    skris88

    We have the same issue but I think I just worked it out. It's the roller shutters. As soon as they're down, we have a pixelated mess on channel 7, 7mate etc. As soon as I roll them back up, it's all good. This has been doing my head in for months and I just couldn't work it out. If any of you are experiencing this and have roller shutters down at night. Try rolling them up and see if it fixes it.

    Cheers,

    Marina

    For the last couple of months we have no tv signal between 3pm and about 7 - 7.30pm. Occasionally 7 works but nothing else.

    I don't think TV show ratings can be reliable since the introduction of digital tv, the only channels that don't seem to be affected by bad reception are home shopping channels.

    I think it's to make people spend money on ever more products that make little difference, seems to make people spend money on pay TV.

    What you don't know that any electrical interference can disrupt your digital tv reception. If the channel is OK until one show starts and then recovers after it ends, chances are it's caused by a neighbour (their booster amp emmiting excess radiation, pay tv, gaming centre, or cb radio, automatic door, any electrical pump that starts at regular time can be pool, garage, septic system, hot water system) alternatively, it can be a taxi, truck, or police radio, or someone nearby tuning into that frequency, OR a neon light nearby, even if it's not flicking, street light.

    Other things that interfere in your own home aside frm LRD's is the computer transformer, laptop cord (people make alfoil boxes to put transformers in to reduce tv signal interference), wireless modum, and phone signal if it relies on radio signal from 3G, or WMPA etc.

    As for the weather, if a bee farts you can lose signal.

    It appears that so many people have some problem with DTV reception, if these things were explained before the switch to digital, it looks like the majority of Australians would have rejected digital and wanted to stay with analogue.

    Hope this helps people understand the electrical interference issues, if you are missing your favourite show you might only be able to see it through catch up TV, if you aren't in WA you will have to wait until after it screens there, for other states that three hours.

    Cheers Val

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