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Bad weather is affecting my TV - what can I do?

Bad weather is affecting my TV - what can I do?

Hi Jon, I’ve been experiencing some problems with my TV reception lately. It seems that whenever there is a period of cold weather, I lose the BBC channels. But then they return when the weather picks up. What can I do to stop this happening?

Regards,

George Bolton, Cheshire, via email, Thursday 24 March, 2011

Our digital TV expert says...

I’m sorry to hear about the weather-related problems you’ve been having with your TV reception, George - however, I’m also sad to say you’re not alone. Here at Digitalchoices.co.uk we constantly receive emails from users who are experiencing similar problems, including:

Most Freeview problems are related to poor signal quality from the existing aerial
  • Rolling pictures
  • Picture blocking, freezing and pixellation
  • Loss of sound
  • Ghosting
  • Loss of some channels.

While we are not qualified to give advice on aerial installation and set-up, the Confederation of Aerial Industries (CAI) - the trade association for aerials in the UK - has some recommendations for consumers experiencing similar problems with their TV signal.

Why is the weather affecting my TV signal?

There are two possible reasons why you may be experiencing problems with your TV signal when it rains or there is cold weather, explains Tim Jenks, senior executive at the CAI:

  1. Poor aerial quality - Aerials that are old, physically weathered and deteriorating allow water to leak down inside the tubes and cables. This can interfere with reception when it’s raining and freeze during periods of cold weather.
  2. Your location - A lot of TV signal problems are due to the actual position of the aerial, and your surroundings. For example, consumers living in the hills and vales of Wales may have problems getting a good reception because the hills are blocking the signal from the transmitter.

“Most Freeview problems are related to poor signal quality from the existing aerial,” says Jenks. “If your aerial was installed many years ago or has started to give poor results on analogue broadcasts, then you need a local CAI installer member to advise you on a replacement aerial suitable for the area in which you live.”

How can I improve my TV signal?

If your TV problems are because of a weathered aerial, Jenks recommends your first port of call be a CAI approved aerial specialist. “Getting a new aerial installed could be the answer, but speaking to a CAI member will help you find the cause of the problem.”

And if your problems aren’t aerial related? “Short of moving house, if you live in an area that is notorious for poor signal, there isn’t much you can do to boost your Freeview reception,” says Jenks. However, there are pay TV options from Sky (www.sky.com) and Virgin Media (www.virginmedia.com) that can give you a better service.

Just over 50% of the UK is able to get Virgin Media’s cable TV service (which is guaranteed not to be affected by weather as it is delivered via underground cables rather than overhead signals). And more than 98% of the country can get satellite TV from Sky, though this is still sometimes affected by weather and the surroundings, admits Jenks. “Sky’s biggest enemies are trees and storms - trees can get in the way of delivering the satellite signal and storms can interfere with reception if the set-top box and dish have not been set-up properly.”

For more information about Sky and Virgin Media’s services, read our guide to subscription TV packages.

Do I need a new aerial?

The first thing you should do if you’re experiencing TV signal problems is to consult a CAI approved aerial specialist. You may not actually need a new aerial, so buying a new one and installing it yourself may not remedy the problem.

Speaking to an aeriel specialist will help you find the cause of the problem

To find out whether you need an aerial and how much it will cost you, get a free, no obligation quote from a CAI approved aerial installer in your area.

An aerial installer won’t be able to tell with 100% accuracy whether you need a new aerial or not without visiting your home and testing the existing aerial. But by using postcode predictions and local knowledge, the installer should be able to determine whether it’s poor aerial quality or your location that is causing the signal problems.

Prices vary depending on the amount of work that needs to be done, however the CAI estimates the average cost for a standard aerial upgrade for a single digital receiver could be between £80 and £190. Contact your local CAI installer for a more accurate estimate.

Can I buy and install an aerial myself?

It is possible to buy aerials from DIY hardware and TV specialist stores, however this is not advisable. The CAI does not advocate DIY aerial installations for a number of reasons:

  • There are obvious health and safety aspects that only trained installers are equipped to deal with
  • CAI installers can ascertain the type of aerial you need with a signal test meter - these cannot be bought in hardware shops, so the aerial you buy yourself may not be right for you home
  • CAI installers may be reluctant to come out and fix an aerial that you’ve installed yourself as they cannot offer the CAI mandatory 12-month guarantee on equipment they have not supplied.

If you do buy an aerial to fit yourself, make sure it’s a CAI approved one carrying a CAI Aerial Benchmark logo. There are four standards of aerial that are approved by the CAI, so refer to the CAI website for the kind of aerial you need.

If you’re at all unsure George, speak to an approved CAI aerial installer first - they will advise you on the best remedy to your TV signalling problems.

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