How to Improve Poor Reception on an HDTV

By Elizabeth Smith

The location of broadcast towers plays a big part in your HDTV reception.
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High-Definition Television is notorious for reception problems, particularly with over-the-air service. Although most HDTV sets include an auto-tune feature that helps your antenna get the best signal, you may still need to make adjustments on your own. Because HDTV systems are relatively sensitive, even slight changes can result in significant signal improvements.

Understanding HDTV Signals

Over-the-air HDTV providers broadcast signals from base stations around the country. The receptors in your antenna receive the signal and transmit it to your television, which displays the picture. Like any wireless transmission system, HDTV is vulnerable to interference; a poor signal can cause distorted images or periodic service interruptions. A number of factors can affect the quality of the signal, including your natural surroundings, the type of antenna you use, and the materials your roof is made of.


As you are tweaking your HDTV setup to improve reception, is one of the most useful tools at your disposal. is co-sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) with the intent of helping consumers maximize their television reception. On the website, you can insert your ZIP code; the site will return a list of broadcasting towers near you, along with the recommended type of antenna for your area. By adjusting your setup to meet the recommendations, you can optimize the system to work with the nearest towers.

Choosing the Best Equipment

When it comes to HDTV antennas, it is important to strike a balance between size, price and power. While it may seem logical to choose the most powerful antenna possible, doing so can cause additional interference. A stronger antenna may pick up a faint signal from a more distant tower, which can cause a problem known as "ghosting." Nearby reflective structures can also produce the same effect. If you are seeing faint impressions of other stations in your picture, you may need a less powerful antenna. If you are experiencing static or a choppy picture, a more powerful antenna can do the trick. If your antenna is in the attic instead of on the exterior of the house, recommends that you buy a more powerful antenna. To determine antenna strength, look for the CEA color code. The weakest is marked with yellow and the strongest is marked with a purple. In between are green, light green, red and blue.

Adjusting Antenna Orientation

The position of your HDTV antenna can have a significant impact on reception quality. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), moving the antenna even a few inches can improve your picture quality. The FCC also suggests that you move the antenna away from other objects and use your television's signal strength meter to determine the best position. After you move the antenna, you may need to set your HDTV to rescan channels to improve the quality of the picture.