Ask LH: Why Does My TV Reception Suck At Certain Times Of The Day?

Ask LH: Why Does My TV Reception Suck At Certain Times Of The Day?

Dear Lifehacker, My digital TV signal works fine most of the time. However, it conks out between 8am and 5pm during particular months of the year. What gives? Thanks, Tuned Out

Annoyed at TV picture from Shutterstock

Dear TO,

We often receive questions about dodgy TV reception at Lifehacker. The issue is usually isolated to a particular channel (in which case the digital “cliff effect” could be to blame) or certain times of morning and/or night (which is attributable to tropospheric propagation and certain types of LED lights.) However, the fact you’re not receiving a TV signal during business hours and on certain months of the year suggests something else is afoot.

The most likely explanation is that you’re getting interference from an outside energy source: check the streetlights near your home to see if any are failing to switch off during the day. These are known as “dayburners” and are known to output radio interference due to constantly switching on and off at high frequencies. If you notice something iffy about your streetlights, you can report the issue to the Ausgrid website. Mind you, this doesn’t adequately explain why the issue only occurs during certain months of the year.

Do the bad months happen to coincide with spring and summer? According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), thermostat-controlled pool chlorinators and electric swimming pool pumps can both cause interference to TV reception. So the culprit could be a neighbour’s swimming pool.

There’s also a remote possibility that your TV equipment might be to blame. This is unlikely but worth eliminating all the same. Start by checking the coaxial cable connecting your TV to the antenna: is it old, frayed or tangled? If so, a replacement might be in order. It also can’t hurt to experiment with light switches in your house — as mentioned above, some LED downlights are known to interfere with TV signals.

If all else fails, get a technician to take a look at your roof antenna, especially if it’s never been repaired/replaced before. You can find some additional tips in Digital Ready’s guide to tackling poor reception.

If any readers have any additional theories or have been in a similar situation themselves, please let TO know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • When I turn on my WDTV or the WiiU my ABC loses signal and cuts out
    Also when it rains ABC goes.


    • Turning on an electrical device and the signal conks out? That’s electronic interference, probably centering around the HDMI port, overwhelming a weak signal.

      See if the reception drops out when the devices are on, but not connected to the TV. If it doesn’t, move them further away and try again until you stop getting interference. If it does, it’s a factor of your TV’s engineering.

  • I get NO digital TV reception at all, despite being only 10km from the Melbourne CBD. If you draw a line on the map from my place to the Melbourne transmitter, it passes almost directly through the CBD. I suspect that several million tons of steel and concrete effectively blocks my reception.

    I’ve had the antenna guys out a few times. The last time I challenged them before they came out that I would pay for a new antenna, cable, booster or whatever if they could get a “good” picture, and would pay nothing if they couldn’t. After about an hour they left without payment.

    Just as well I have Optus branded Foxtel.
    Oh yes, that’s the other thing. Despite being only 10km from the Melbourne CBD, I can only get (real) Foxtel by satellite.

  • My digital reception is potty too. I get lots of shows broadcast from the 70s…really creepy; lots of shows from inside other peoples homes (like House/Kitchen rules), and lots that think I’m in America. Sheesh, is the digital system engaged in some voyeristic time-warp, or are they really playing with my head??

  • I have called up the hotline before, and they told me that sometimes if it is cloudy, the broadcast will be a bit shoddy. So apparently my poor friend’s grandparents can only watch some of their shows on a sunny day!

  • The seasonal effect sounds like tree leaves. Happened in a place o was renting a few years back with big trees around it. Without the leaves the signal was ok.

  • Had a similar experience during certain months of the year, turns out the pigeons had taken a liking to roosting on my antenna in the late afternoons!

  • Clive said: “I’d call losing the ABC a benefit”>

    That’s certainly been the case since ex-Murdoch employee Michelle Guthrie took over as ABC boss.

    Opinion and editorialising is creeping and will soon make the Daily Telegraph look like a balanced and reputable news source.

  • I didn’t have as many issues when i was on analog signal compared to digital. Digital idea was great, more channels, new ones and a better picture. Problem being some channels breaking in and out, some days, i cant even get a signal, Channel Nine, ABC and Channel Ten are the big ones. Luckily Netflix and Stan came along and hardly watch tv now days. Except when i have the other problem of internet speed and can’t watch Netflix or Stan and resort back to TV, oh wait a minute, can’t get a good reception. Resort to going outside.

  • Live in a brand new house 4km from Adelaide CBD and most evenings around 4:30pm CH10, One etc lose signal on the main TV in the house. We have 3 TV’s all connected to the one antenna on the roof and only the main TV loses signal, the other 2 have no problem. Tried all the usual fixes with no success and am at a loss to explain the problem. Normally by 6pm it’s back working fine though.

  • Hi, yes my problem, since Easter have intermittent reception problems with all channels except SBS. Great through the day, usually on all channels, then from around 5 pm channels start to pixelate or drop out. Put a 4 G filter in, but not really fixed problem. I note that Telstra did some 3G/4G work on the Tower near my place before Easter. All channels seemed to improve last week, but problem has now come back. ( tv reception is good at the moment as I type this) seems to be interference from something – 4G phones? Local radio? The weather? Can’t get to the antenna as it is up a mast, but also has an amplifier- maybe too much signal overload. Will keep looking, but really irritating.

  • I am in the U.S. and have the same exact problems. I cannot figure it out.
    I have reception for all the channels in the winter and then around the beginning of April my reception sucks.
    I live in AZ so it could be anything e.g. A/C, pool…

    • I have a theory… Maybe the heat is affecting the antenna transformer impedance characteristics. If you can get some freeze spray, try to cool off the transformer and see if the missing channels return.

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