WCHS-TV8 Reception Guide
This guide will provide background information along with useful tips to set-up an antenna and configure a television set for over-the-air reception of WCHS-TV8.
In the United States, broadcast television stations are offered in two different flavors, VHF and UHF. VHF stands for Very High Frequency. Stations in the VHF band include channels 2 through 13. UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency. Stations in the UHF band are the television channels 14 to 69. WCHS-TV8 is a VHF station since it transmits on Channel 8.
There are two major factors that determine the coverage area of a TV station. The first factor is the height of the station's transmitting antenna. To keep the broadcast stations on a somewhat level playing field, the FCC has a limit on maximum antenna height.
The second factor that defines coverage is the effective radiated power (ERP). UHF stations operate at a higher frequency. It requires a greater amount of power output for UHF stations to match the coverage area of a VHF station. The FCC limits the maximum visual ERP to 100,000 watts for VHF channels 2 through 6. VHF channels 7 through 13 are permitted a maximum visual ERP of 316,000 watts. UHF stations are permitted a visual ERP of 5,000,000 watts. To receive WCHS-TV8 you need an antenna designed for VHF reception.
WCHS-TV8 broadcasts with the maximum visual ERP of 158,000 watts. The station's antenna height is 1249 feet above average terrain. The tower is the steel structure that holds the antenna in the air. The WCHS-TV8 tower is located near St. Albans, WV in Putnam County, which is 16 miles west of downtown Charleston. There are very few places if any around the Charleston area that do not receive a good signal.
Television signals are strongest when there is a line of sight between the transmitting tower and the home-receiving antenna. The signal is weakened when buildings, hills, and trees block the line of sight. Signal strength also decreases as the distance from the transmitting tower is increased. Careful attention to the selection of a reception antenna can overcome many of the problems. Choose an antenna dealer or TV shop that is willing to work through your reception problems. A good shop can offer valuable advice. They will also allow you to exchange equipment that doesn't work out.
Gain and directivity are two important specifications to check when selecting a TV antenna. Gain is measured in decibels (dB). It indicates the antenna's sensitivity. There is a greater need for gain the farther you live from WCHS-TV8's tower. If you live close to WCHS-TV8's tower, a "local" or "suburban antenna" with a gain of 5-9dB should do the job. Most areas in and around Charleston, Winfield, and Huntington can use a "near fringe or fringe" antenna with 8-10dB of gain. If you live 40 to 45 air miles from the western end of St. Albans, consider a "deep fringe" or "far fringe" antenna with 11-16dB of gain.
Directivity indicates the antenna's ability to receive only the signals in the direction the antenna is pointing. The spec is measured in degrees. The smaller the number the greater the directivity. A highly directive antenna will have a narrow receiving angle to eliminate signal reflections that can result in ghosting. (Faint double images that appear on the screen). Alignment is critical and may take more time with a directive antenna. A movement of inches can dramatically improve or degrade the signal. Use a directional antenna if ghosting is a problem in your area.
We do not recommend the antennas shaped like a helicopter blade. They are often installed with home satellite dishes. The antennas are simply an expensive set of rabbit ears. They do not have the reflector and director elements necessary for quality reception. Some of the antennas contain a built-in amplifier to boost the signal. The spec sheets often list the gain of the amplifier, not the gain of the antenna.
Remember the old expression Garbage In, Garbage Out? It applies in this case. If the signal is weak leaving the antenna, it will contain noise. The built-in amplifier will not clean up the signal. It will amplify the noise along with the signal. The appropriate solution is a larger antenna with an increased amount of gain.
The other item to consider is the bi-directional nature of the "helicopter blade" antennas. Bi-directional means the antenna is equally sensitive to signals coming from the front and backside. A Bi-directional antenna is more susceptible to ghosting because it can't cancel a signal reflection coming from behind.
Outdoor antennas are always better than indoor antennas. The mechanical details of an outdoor antenna installation depend upon the selected antenna and the available site. Shops that sell rooftop antennas offer a wide variety of hardware to secure the antenna to any structure. Consult with the shop's sales staff to select the appropriate hardware for your particular situation. We encourage you to have your antenna professionally installed if you feel uncomfortable about working on a rooftop.
Here are a couple of general comments about antenna installation. The rooftop is a good location because it is a cost-effective place to obtain the necessary height. As a general rule, higher is better. Six to eight feet above the roofline is usually adequate. Keep the antenna as far as possible from tree limbs, power lines, and any electrical equipment. If the house is located near a heavily traveled highway, the antenna should be placed on the far side of the house away from the highway. The antenna and its mast should be well grounded.
Fully extend all elements of the antenna. The antenna should be positioned with the horizontal elements at right angles to the WCHS-TV8 tower. Point the short elements toward St. Albans (Refer to the section on Antenna alignment). Connect the antenna to a television to check reception. If it is unsatisfactory, the antenna will have to be moved or rotated until a strong, reflection-free signal is received. Once the antenna is aligned, it should be locked down tight to prevent it from moving in the wind.
The next best option is to place a full size antenna in the attic. This approach has many limitations. The physical space may not permit optimum orientation. Structural elements of the house can block and reflect the signal. Attic antennas may not provide enough height to clearly receive the signal.
If you are installing an antenna in your attic, locate the antenna in a place where all of the elements can be fully extended. It is important to find a spot where the antenna can point to the WCHS-TV8 tower near St. Albans, in Putnam County. If there is enough room, experiment with different places in the attic. Sometimes the movement of only a couple of feet can make a world of difference with the quality of reception.
It does not mean that your house is located in an area outside of WCHS-TV8's signal range if an attic antenna does not result in satisfactory reception. More than likely, it means that you will need to move the antenna to an outside location.
The least expensive antennas are the indoor, set-top variety. Often times they are provided with the television set. If your television set was not provided with an indoor antenna, there are generally four types available for purchase.
The UHF loop antenna only costs a couple of bucks. It is quite literally a round wire loop. On older television sets, the loop connects directly to the UHF terminals on the back of the set. Make certain that the UHF lugs are securely tightened.
Bow Tie antennas are slightly more expensive than loop antennas. The antenna consists of a wire bent in the shape of two connected triangles, hence the name "Bow Tie". The bow tie is often times clipped to the telescoping pole on a set of rabbit ears.
Rabbit ears consist of two telescoping poles that stand up like a "V". Some UHF-VHF rabbit ears have a round loop sitting near the base of the "V". UHF is received with the loop. Rabbit ears without the UHF loop usually provide disappointing UHF reception.
The Mono Pole is a single telescoping rod that is usually built into a portable television. Normally, UHF reception is poor, but it can be enhanced when the rod is telescoped to a smaller size.
Older sets have separate connections for UHF and VHF antennas. If you are using a loop or bow tie with an older set, make certain the antenna is connected to the UHF terminals with the lugs tight and secure.
For best results, locate the indoor antenna near a window, away from electrical sources. You will need to experiment to find the best orientation and placement. It can take a considerable amount of manipulation to optimize for best reception. The movement of people in the room can affect the signal. Indoor antennas usually require adjustment as you switch from station to station. Most people are disappointed with the performance of inexpensive indoor antennas.
WCHS-TV8 broadcasts from a 1,000-foot tower located 3.5 miles west of St. Albans, West Virginia. The WCHS-TV8 tower is located in the same general area as WVAH Fox 11. If you have a combined VHF-UHF antenna, point your antenna in the same general direction for all of the listed stations.
Do not point your antenna in the direction of WCHS-TV8's studio in downtown Charleston. The Channel 8 signal does not radiate from the studio location. If you have your antenna pointing toward our building in downtown Charleston, you will be disappointed in the reception.
Consider a separate UHF antenna if you are receiving a snowy or ghosty UHF signal with clear VHF reception. A good quality UHF antenna is optimized for the UHF band. Shop for a high gain and highly directive UHF antenna. The separate antennas will permit you to point both antennas independently for best reception instead of "splitting the difference".
Television Set Configurations:
It does not matter if you have an expensive high gain antenna, if your TV is not set-up for VHF, you will not pick-up channel 8. There are so many different types of televisions in use; we can not provide specific instructions for each model. Please refer to the owner's manual of your TV set or consult a local dealer for your type of television. Here are a few general notes to help point you in the right direction.
Cable Ready Televisions:
Most television sets sold in the last 10 years are considered "cable ready". A cable ready set is capable of direct connection to the cable system without the use of a set-top converter box.
Cable television systems use essentially the same set of frequencies as the broadcast stations for channel 2 through 13. Cable systems use a different set of frequencies for channels 14 and higher.
When a television is configured for first time use, there are several different menu selections that must be set-up. Most TV sets default to the Cable TV (CATV) configuration. Look for a menu selection that offers the choice of CATV or ANT. (Some sets list the choices as CABLE or TV). If CATV or CABLE is selected, you will not be able to receive an over-the-air signal of WCHS-TV8 because your television set is looking for cable channel 8 instead of VHF channel 8. Be certain to check this menu item for ANT or TV if you are using an outside antenna.
Some televisions default to the CATV setting if unplugged from electrical power. Look for the CATV/ANT menu selection if you suddenly lose the ability to view VHF signals. Check the CATV setting anytime you move the TV or experience a power outage.
Other televisions have a Cable or CATV switch located on the back of the set near the antenna connector. If your television set has a switch on the back, flip the switch to ANT. This switch can get changed accidentally when the back of the TV is getting cleaned.
If your set is "cable ready", it most likely has a combined VHF-UHF antenna input. Look for a round, threaded connector labeled ANT. If your antenna includes both VHF and UHF elements, you should have no problems picking up WCHS-TV8.
Non Cable Ready Televisions:
If your set is over 10 years old, there is a good chance that it is not "cable ready". Some of the older TVs need a fine tuning adjustment to select specific VHF stations. The procedure may require you to tweak tiny knobs located under a panel door located below the screen or on the side of the set. Refer to the owner's manual of your television set for specific instructions.
Some older television sets have rotary tuners. The rotary tuners use round knobs that "click" for each channel position as the knob is rotated. Often times there is a separate knob for the UHF band.
To receive Channel 8 for example, rotate the selector to the VHF position 8 on the VHF tuner. If the signal is not clear, rotate the fine tuning knob. It is usually a ring that is located outside or inside the VHF channel selector. (You may have to push in the ring as you rotate it). Slowly move the fine tuning knob back and forth to adjust for the clearest reception.
Older television sets have a separate connection for UHF and VHF antennas. Look at the back of your set. If it has a separate connection for VHF, you must have a VHF antenna connected to it or else you will not receive any television station above Channel 13. When in doubt, refer to the owner's manual of your television.
The Transmission Line:
An important element often overlooked is the transmission line. It is the wire that carries the signal between the antenna and the television set. Transmission lines deteriorate with age. If your transmission line is worn-out, you may be looking at a snowy, ghosty signal even if the antenna and television are brand new.
For optimum performance, a transmission line should be replaced every five years. That statement does not mean that you should change a five-year-old line if you are satisfied with the existing reception quality. Just be aware that the condition of your transmission line has a major affect on any over-the-air reception. It should be considered for replacement any time that the antenna is properly aligned and over-the-air reception is "not what it used to be".
If you are installing new transmission line, it is important to select a quality grade to minimize signal loss. Round coaxial cable and flat twin lead are the two basic types of transmission line. Twin lead cable is less expensive, but it deteriorates faster and is more susceptible to interference. The RG-6 coaxial cable is highly recommended. You should switch to the coaxial cable if you are having reception problems with the twin lead transmission line.
Here are a few tips about transmission line installation. Use the most direct route possible between the antenna and the television set. Long cable runs result in signal loss. The shorter the cable, the better the signal. The line should be kept as far as possible from electrical equipment, even if it means a longer cable run. One continuous piece of cable is best. Keep the line free of splices and sharp bends.
A snowy picture usually indicates a weak signal. A preamplifier mounted near the antenna can eliminate or reduce the snow. Signal strength deteriorates as it travels down the transmission line to the TV. A weak signal will be non-existent when it reaches the television unless it receives amplification before the trip. The pre-amp boosts the signal to offset any loss from the transmission line.
An amplifier only prevents additional signal deterioration. If the signal is noisy leaving the antenna, the amplifier will amplify the noise along with the signal.
Households with multiple sets often use passive splitters to send the antenna lead to different televisions. Passive splitters do not require any power to split a signal two to four times. If your signal looks snowy, it is the result of a weak signal. If you are using a splitter, bypass it by directly connecting the antenna to a television set. If the signal improves, you will need to get an amplified splitter. The amplified splitter divides the signal and amplifies each output.
If you live close to Walnut Grove and receive distorted, smeary pictures from WCHS-TV8, the incoming signal is possibly too strong. The problem is easily solved with an attenuator. It is a passive device that simply reduces the strength of the incoming signal without losing clarity. The device can be found at the same place that you bought your antenna.
Maintenance and Troubleshooting:
Start at the television set and work your way toward the antenna. Check the programming (or selector switch) for the setting ANT - CATV or TV - CABLE. Change the setting to ANT or TV. If the television does not have automatic fine-tuning, adjust the fine-tuning for the best picture.
If you are still having reception problems, check for a loose antenna connection on the back of the TV. If everything is secure and tight, examine the condition of the line. Transmission lines can suffer damage from hungry pets and vacuum cleaners. A nicked section of line should be repaired or replaced. If everything looks fine behind the TV, grab a ladder and head outside.
Loose connections and damaged antenna elements will be readily obvious by a visual inspection. Make certain that all connections and fasteners are tight and secure. Look for frayed wires, corrosion, or other evidence of deterioration. Check the orientation of the antenna. Windstorms can blow the antenna out of proper alignment.
Breaks or short circuits in a transmission line will cause a reduction of signal strength. Lines that are loose from their fastenings may swing against other objects causing changes in the picture intensity. Secure the transmission line and repair any chaffing. Replace the transmission line if it is in bad shape.
Wind, hail, and ice are the most common cause of damaged antenna elements. In most cases, it is better to replace the antenna if there are several broken elements. Even if the elements can be reconnected, the performance will never be as good. Clean any corrosion found on the antenna connectors. The corrosion on the terminals can be removed with steel wool or an emery cloth.
The entire outdoor antenna system should be visually inspected at least once a year.
If you have additional questions please call the WCHS-TV8 Engineering Department weekdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The telephone number is (304) 346-5358.
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