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TV Signal in a Caravan – is it different ? Take a few minutes to read & avoid wasting your money.

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The principals of Wilkgard Technology Group who own the explorer brand of Caravan TV antenna have been in the antenna industry for over 40 years.   They have seen black and white TV.  The introduction of UHF, colour and now digital television and there is one thing that has never changed through all that evolution and it is the key thing for a mobile user to understand.

When travelling in your caravan, camper trailer etc the signal source (transmitter) and channel number allocated (not the network provider) change.  Each location is different in a number of ways.  

They are:

  1.    Strength of the output signal from the transmitter
  2.    The pattern of that signal meaning is it omni-directional  (360 degrees)  or directional meaning pointed at where the people live.   Could be 60 degrees or 220 degrees.  It changes from place to place
  3.    Is it transmitted in a horizontal pattern or a vertical pattern.  Low powered transmitters in a vertical pattern will not be picked up unless your antenna is vertically mounted.   

4    Your antenna must be capable of being mounted vertically and must cover the full range of transmitted channels (frequencies)

Over the years it is a proven statistic that it is common for caravanners or mobile travellers to make 4 purchases before finding out what is really needed.   They have generally paid for the right product twice over.

For evidence of this truth go to: www.ozdigitaltv.com  and look up all the small vertical transmitters.  

Sally Garden  
Founder and CEO
Wilkgard Technology Group Pty. Ltd

Definitions:

Frequency:   This is the wave sent by the transmitter which carries with it the information you then view as a picture and sound on your TV.   There are many waves known as electromagnetic and the term used is Radio Frequency Spectrum. Our spectrum for Caravan TV Antennas is from channel 6 thru to channel 51

Transmitter:   Usually sited in a high position so the elevation helps to direct the signal to those areas where the signal is wanted. They are various strengths and we call them  Baby Bear,  Mummy Bear and Daddy Bear figuratively speaking.

Horizontal and Vertical polarization:    Imagine a garden hose.  Now flick the garden hose and it looks like a snake – right!  If you could see the signal it would look like this ‘garden hose’ travelling through the air.  Next step takes some imagination.  Now in your mind turn this signal ‘garden hose’ on its side 90 degrees.  It is now running sideways – that is a vertical signal.

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Cable and Connections

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We recently had a van come in to fit a new Quick Fix mast too. We were astonished that still 35 years after the introduction of UHF frequencies, cables and connectors that were installed belong to the 70’s.

The cable lost a lot of signal for every metre installed. The connectors were crimped badly and in one case very poorly executed.  Water had travelled down the cable rusting the internal fittings of the outlet plates. The outlet plates themselves with push in type which are not the standard for digital. We have included some pictures.
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SIGNAL PATHS AND RECEPTION

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Signal Paths and Reception.

TV Signal is energy and the energy changes ever so slightly every time  a  new TV channel is selected.  It is the changed signal that the TV recognises and processes.    In Australia we have TV channels from 6 through to 51.   Another way of expressing this is to say the antenna collects electromagnetic waves that are long approx 400mm to 6m long.  When I first became aware of this natural thing called a RF wave I was fascinated. You cannot see it but it exists and man has learnt to use this natural occurring phenomena. The above range of channels  is the Australian use of the spectrum for Television. In Britain it is different as is in the USA. 

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AMPLIFIERS – CAUSE PROBLEMS FOR RV VEHICLES

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Amplifiers are generally not well understood by those who sell them and recommend them.  They are very helpful when used under the right conditions.   Digital has reduced the amount of amplifiers that are needed significantly.   Anyone travelling the east coast predominately would not need an amplifier 85% of the time.

A signal can be too strong and the result is a poor picture.  Exactly the same as not enough signal.   Water is useful for getting some mass on the concept.   Say you are cleaning the car.  The hose is on but the water is not enough to shift any of the grime on the car – job does not get done or say the water is coming out in a forceful stream causing the water to hit  a spot on the car and spraying everywhere including all over you.   Neither situation is what you want.  Weak and too strong signal is not useable.  The TV set cannot process it. Read More

CONNECTION KITS AND WHY DO YOU NEED THEM

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Anyone with a mobile vehicle and a television set has to take the signal received outside of your RV vehicle and bring it into the interior of your unit.  You can do this in a number of ways:

String the co-axial cable thru the window, door, floor or any opening that presents itself.

Drill a hole and pass the c-axial cable  thru the wall of the vehicle

Fit a socket on the outside of the caravan, run a cable thru the walls of caravan and fit a second socket inside the caravan.   (commonly used)

It was observed many years ago that the general handling of this aspect of the mobile caravan antenna was poorly done resulting in a loss of signal.   What happens to water when the fitting on the hose is loose?    What happens to the water if the hose is damaged in anyway?  What happens to water when the pipes become too rusty?    We are not talking about water but the analogy gives you some mass on what happens to signal when it encounters barriers like poor quality connectors, poor terminations of the cable onto the connector,  rusty fittings, poor cable, damaged cable etc.   The signal is impacted and signal levels may be reduced but absolutely will be degraded.  In digital language poor errors will occur resulting in pixelation which you observe on the TV set as signal break ups – usually this is one part of the picture or if really bad it can be the whole picture.

explorer connection kits solve this problem.   We came up with the idea many years ago and have been copied which is very flattering.  Our connection kits now suit satellite frequencies as well as television frequencies.   We see more today than ever before.

explorer connection kits protect you against pixelation or poor pictures due to poor technical application and understanding.

DON’T WANT TO DRILL A HOLE AND FIT CONNECTION KIT..

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This has been a very common response to our antenna kits and  Thru-the-Wall connection kits.  We provide excellent instructions and have almost zero problems with them over the years the fact remain some people are not comfortable.   explorer have solved that problem too.   We provide a CVBOX that allow your very important connection to be a mobile fitting which you can use outside or inside the caravan.   One advantage is you can use it under the annex for outside viewing.

 

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WHAT IS A BOOSTER AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

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Another name for a booster is “amplifier”    The problem the consumer has and indeed some technicians as well is what one to use under what circumstances!   You have Masthead varieties, distribution varieties, single channel varieties and many types within the category group.

First of all let’s define each general type:

 

Mast-head-amplifier

 

Masthead –  this means the power supply and the amplifier are separate pieces of equipment.    The amplifier fits under the antenna and the power to drive it is located within the Caravan or in a room in your home apartment etc.   This category is most often referred to as a booster.   The most effective method of improving weak signal situations.  More on this later in the article. Typical cost including power supply $120

 

 

Distribution-Amplifier

Distribution amplifier –  the names says it all.   The idea is to amplifier your signal enough so multiple television outlets can be provided with adequate signal.  This type of unit is powered directly from the  power point.   There has been some very poor product sold in recent times; in actual fact by definition a distribution amplifier claimed by some shopkeepers to be a booster that plugs into your tv outlet.   They are very poor performers and the approach is all wrong.   Why?  –  you are amplifying a weak signal after it has travelled down the cable, through the poor outlet and in many cases very poor fly leads – it has just got a whole lot weaker.    It is a bit like trying to fix a leaking tap with some “blue tac”.  It might work for a moment but then starts failing again.   These amplifiers typically are needed for more than 6 television points and that is provided the signal at the antenna is adequate.  Typical cost for a commercial grade $400

Single-Channel-Amplifier

 

Single Channel Amplifier – A single channel amplifier is for one channel only. Eg 2,7,9 and 10 would require four single channel amplifiers.  Commonly called a “head end” and is usually mounted within  a rack for supplying signal to 100 or more homes.   We currently service villages with over 200 homes and this unit is used.    Typical cost $2,000

Boosters/Mast Head Amplifiers

It has always been true that it is not the gain of the booster but the sensitivity of the booster that separate a good choice from a bad choice.   A couple of examples:

Signal is okay at the antenna terminal but the cable is long so a high gain booster/masthead unit would be a good choice.   The signal is okay so by placing the booster at the antenna terminal the signal will arrive at the end of the cable and can be viewed or a distribution amplifier be fitted to provide signal to a multiple number of outlets.   Difficult signal areas use this type of technique because the signal is in the valley but not available on the home so the solution is to run a cable back to the house.   The power is provided from the house.

However weak signals at the antenna require a different approach. The thing we want to do is preserve the signal quality we have.  The way to do this is to ensure the sensitivity of the amplifier is as good as available.   What does sensitivity mean.    All electronic devices produce noise.  This noise in the circuit is something the electronics industry battles or tries to eliminate as every improvement improves the performance.   When you try and get a lot of signal out of signal that is weak you produce noise.  High gain boosters do exactly that.   A caravan antenna is just supplying a TV that is very close so it makes far more sense to have a masthead amplifier /booster that produces minimal noise thus it does not destroy the television picture.  explorer-rv  caravan antennas do this. They are designed for weak or problem television signals.

So when we read all about the massive gain of some devices sold to the public for weak signals we smile and know our competitor is lacking real knowledge and experience.

There is more to this subject.  However the caravanner or RV traveller does not have to worry if buying from the explorer-rv range as we have made or  selected the very best combination of antenna and amplifier for fringe area reception.    The grey nomad will find our product works on the outback tracks when others do not.

 

RELATIONSHIPS AND TELEVISION PICTURES ON THE ROAD……

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Human emotion and reaction are very visible when the favourite Television show is on and the picture keeps pixelating.  We have known even a TV screen to be broken.   Marriages become strained.  This is particularly true of the caravanner who is saying “is that right now” and the answer comes back “no”.

A lot of the problem is because companies today and individuals are offering services without any real fundamental knowledge of the service or product they are offering.

Recently an imported van arrived in our workshop for the repair of a “Jack” antenna.   The owner said it never worked from the first instance it was installed.    This was an antenna with a built in mast head amplifier. (refer to our blog on boosters/amplifiers)   The owner also had a foldaway antenna which he used when signal was in abundance.     They had attempted to marry the two methods into one and completely botched the job.   There was no way it would ever work as voltages were reversed (not harmful just 12 volt dc) but the result was no signal.    They had used adaptors in quantity, poor quality short leads which all added up to a disaster.

The Jack antenna includes a high powered mast head amplifier unfortunately which means in extremely weak signal situations it will not work.   The purpose of the mast head amplifier built in is to boost weak signals.  It will not do this as the sensitivity is very poor.  It will work in regions of reasonable signal levels but it is possible in high signal levels it will overload the Television set. Unfortunately the power to it cannot be turned off.    Again explorer-rv have covered this eventuality  in their design.  You can bypass our amplifier when signal levels are high.

We have included pictures of the poor products provided by uneducated organisations that offer fixes without any real knowledge of what parts and how to use.    Our customer has been working on the assumption he did not really know what he was doing.  No-one could have got it to work.  He was advised that it will probably work 70% of the time as the power of the amplifier will destroy very weak signals.    It is a pity that companies when importing product to sell through a network of distributors do not seek advice from professionals before placing the product on the market with some simple tweaking a “Jack” could be improved.

Television signal is an energy with very particular characteristics. To perform they must have a receiving device that matches the energy being transmitted.    This is the very basic fundamental. There is a very old saying which fits   –  you cannot make a silk purse out of a soar’s ear”       In other words you cannot bypass basic physics and expect a great result.  Something that all convenient devices are attempting to do!

So if you are spending time and upsetting your partner  trying to get a picture – give us a call and get a real answer.

Sally Garden

FounderCollage-for-Blog

CONNECTION KITS HAVE STAINLESS STEEL FITTINGS WHERE POSSIBLE!

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Our connection kits include stainless fittings where weather protection is needed.  We have sourced stainless steel nuts as in the early days our customers told us the nuts rusted and left marks on the side of the RV vehicle.   We fixed this by sourcing from overseas stainless steel nuts and provided stainless steel washers for all external fittings.

A weather  boot is also provided for protection when the fitting is not in use.   We cannot use stainless steel for the part of the fitting that carries the signal.  To do so would impact on the quality of signal distributed to your TV set.   So fitting the weather boot when not in use is very important from a longevity and best results viewpoint.

The connection kits have been refined today to be of the highest quality and what makes them even better  – they are designed, tooled, manufactured and package in AUSTRALIA.  Most of products have the explorer brand embedded in the plate.

 

Thru-the-wall-Connections-kits

WHAT IS TELEVISION SIGNAL ?

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TV signal is energy and it moves through the air at the speed of light approximately – very fast! Each channel you view has a unique energy not shared by any other channel. So if you have 5 networks operating in a given location then you will have 5 different lots of energy to capture.

It moves at the speed of light and arguments persist today as to whether it is a particle or a wave! My opinion is particle.

Electricity is also energy but we have learnt to capture it and control it. We have attempted to do the same with Radio Frequency Signals (as they are known) However we have not done as well with this form of energy because it is subject to temperature, topography, altitude and the frequency selected.

TV signal is a natural phenomena that man has learnt to use to send information to you via a transmitter that then sends the signal to the Television Antenna System. Satellite is exactly the same but the signal instead of from a transmitter on a nearby hill comes from a Satellite in space known as a transponder.

Everywhere you go the TV channel changes energy. This is known as the frequency. An antenna must be designed to pick up this frequency. This is what makes a caravan antenna unique because unlike the antenna on your home (picks up 5 or 6 channels) your caravan antenna must be able to pick up all channels available on the continent. Some 50 or so.

Caravanners are frequently confused between a channel and a network. They are different things. A network is responsible for the program and this same program can be sent out on many different channels.