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TV Antenna Amplifier Helpful Hints:

There is quite a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about how a TV signal booster works and we get calls every week to help sort these out.

Keep reading and I will give you some helpful information and simple tips to put you in the know!

I am going to zero in on the Sunshine Coast TV systems as this is the most relevant.

Unlike in capital cities where you can use an antenna on the top of the TV or in the roof, on the Sunshine Coast we need an outside antenna on the roof on a mast. Because we have a hilly terrain and also because we usually have more than 1 TV outlet in the house or Unit (even if no TV is connected to the other point) this requires most homes to have a TV signal Amplifer to simply make the incoming signal stronger before it gets to the TV.

The TV signal booster works very much like your Hi Fi Amplifier does for music- as you turn it up the sound gets louder and louder. The TV signal booster is also an amplifier except that it amplifies TV signal and is usually set to maximum all the time (or sometimes with just a small amount of adjustment)

So here is where it usually gets confusing – Firstly – It will really help if you understand this next bit of Technical history so please don’t skip it – The correct name for a “TV signal booster” is a TV Signal Amplifier. And the most common type of Amplifier used on the Sunny Coast is called a Mast Head Amplifier because it is installed in a weatherproof box on the mast on the roof. When these first came out our TV masts where usually 3-5 metres high and the rule was you installed the Amplifier within 1 metre of the Antenna and the antenna was always installed at the head of the mast which in this case means the top of the mast so the Amplifier was called a Mast Head Amplifier and over 90% of the house and unit blocks on the coast have a Mast Head Amplifier on their mast.
NOTE: Mast Head comes from the sailing term referring to the top “head” of the ships mast.

They also were sometimes called “Boosters” because they “Boosted” the signal and many people liked the shorter simpler name so it stuck but it is not precise enough and so starts the confusion – The Mast Head Amplifier was a very clever solution to getting the Amplifier as close as possible to the Antenna and it replaced the earlier type of TV Amplifier which was officially a “Distribution Amplifier” or “Splitter Amplifier” which plugged into power right behind the TV set or in the ceiling. These were also called Boosters and the name stuck.

So when Mast Head Amplifiers came along they had to get the power up to the roof and up the mast to the Amplifier and this was done by putting a power transformer (Power Supply) downstairs behind the TV which plugged into 240V power. Then it converted this to a safe, low voltage and then we plugged this into the TV socket on the wall and sent this small trickle of voltage up the TV antenna cable to the Amplifier and this turned the Amplifier on and kept it powered up and working and it sent the amplified TV signal back down the exact same cable to the TV!
And everyone thought this was great and the Sparkies loved it because now they didn’t have to put a power point up in the ceiling for the Distribution Amplifier because there was already a double power point downstairs behind the TV!

But the trouble started as people rented houses, sold their houses and then tenants moved in and out and new owners moved in and out and no-one told anyone that the little black box behind the TV that was plugged in to power up the TV Amplifier on the roof, belonged as vital second half of the Amplifier and needed to stay.

In fact because it was the part people could see they were often told, even by well meaning Technicians, that the black box (Power Supply) was their “Booster” because most people have never seen the other half up on the Mast.

So when people moved they unplugged it along with the TV and took it with them (because it was their Booster) and the next people who moved in – surprise surprise – they have no TV signal and they don’t know anything about the missing black box (Power Supply).

So next thing you know someone comes out or they go to the electronic shop and they get sold a “booster”(which is the Power Supply type they need) and plug it in and it fixes it. (although sometimes they get sold a “Booster” which is a Distribution Amplifier type and it doesn’t work).
So now we have a bunch of people who have been told that the black box – which is a low voltage power supply – is a “Booster” and of course when they move they take their “Booster” with them and the saga continues.

So that is the full story and I hope it helps explain some of the frustrations you have had with TV systems over the years.

Now here is the short version:

1. On the Sunshine Coast 90% of the homes, duplexes, units complexes and high rises have a Mast Head Amplifier on the Mast just below the Antenna to amplify their TV signal to ensure good TV reception.
2. These Mast Head Amplifiers are sometimes called “Boosters” – They are the same thing but, Mast Head Amplifier is more accurate and should be encouraged in invoices and reports.
3. All Mast Head Amplifiers, to work, require a second part called a Power Supply which is a low voltage transformer which MUST BE plugged into the CORRECT TV outlet or cable to power up the Mast Head amplifier.
4. Without the Power Supply plugged in the Mast Head Amplifier will not amplify the incoming signal and in fact when not powered up it will usually STOP any TV signal from getting through.
5. All new Mast Head Amplifiers are designed to work with 12-14V 150ma DC Power Supplies, most will cope with 18V DC power supplies. They will be damaged by 15V, 17V and 22 V AC power supplies.
6. The most reliable power supply we have found is the GME Kingray model PSK06. The other choices are Matchmaster’s PSD14P and Hills PSU10P.
7. The Power Supply or Power Pack is NOT a Booster, all it does is provide DC power.
8. If you encounter TV Amplifier Power Supplies that have 15V AC, 17V AC or 22V AC we recommend replacing them with a PSK06 (14V DC)
9. The new Digital TV splitters in the ceiling will also be damaged and malfunction if an AC power supply is plugged into it.
10. When building a new house we would encourage the installation of a GPO in the ceiling beside the manhole and the installation of the power supply there.
I do hope this information is of assistance.

Hey Phil, I plugged the correct Power Supply in and still have no TV reception – what can I do??

Top 5 solutions:

1. The most common reason is that you have not plugged the power pack into the correct socket. Some homes have a specific socket that the Powers Supply must be plugged into at which point all sockets will work. Try it in the family room and the lounge room and even the bedroom sockets, one of them should work.
2. You have done everything right and the system is working but you have tuned the TV in earlier when you had no signal so the TV has no stations set. Do an autotuned on the TV and you are good to go!
3. You have done everything right with the power supply but you have a faulty TV lead or it is not plugged in all the way. Check it and replace it if you are in any doubt
4. The wall socket can be loose or corroded so the Power supply is not making good contact. Give it a clean or see if you can tighten the socket – otherwise time for a service man.
5. You have the TV cable running to the DVR or Foxtel box first and then to the TV and they are switched off at the mains. (when disconnected from 240V these items stop passing TV signal through) Turn them back on at the mains or bypass them and your reception should be restored.

Until then keep smiling
(it will make ‘em wonder what you have been up to!)
Phil & the Sunshine Team