Going to Antenna—A Consequence


Last night, Lake County Illinois had some fierce lightning going on. When the cloud is ready to make a lightning flash, nature has its ways of determining the most effective path between the cloud that wants electrons and ground, which has an infinite supply of electrons (not really, but for the math, it works out to treat our planet as an infinite supply). That path will flow through the air to the ground for most of the Earth. That said, antennas connected to ground can offer a better choice. Last night, that choice was made with my antenna. When lightning strikes, damage happens.

My antenna is grounded, but some of the surge also went through the coax cable anyhow. I’m happy to report that all the signal goes through a small, $14.99 Maganovox 10 dB Signal Amplifier (model M61116). This unit helps make sure that I don’t lose signal strength at the point where the signal branches to 4 separate locations within the house. When the lightning struck last night, this little job sucked it up and died, protecting all my other equipment. I just purchased another 2 today-one as a replacement and one as a backup. Given that I’m spending $0/month for television access, I’m willing to incur this cost once in a while.

A question you might have is “How did Scott figure this out?” Basic troubleshooting came in handy. Trying to watch the news this morning showed no signal on any channel. Seeing that this was true on multiple TVs told me that a major part of the system was down (presented in order of effort to fix):

  • No power to amplifier. Causes: circuit off because the switch was flipped or the circuit breaker was tripped. I checked the switch to the circuit and it was on. None of my breakers had tripped, so this wasn’t the cause. Had either of these been the cause, it would have been under 2 minutes from start to finish.
  • Signal amplifier broken. Means I need to replace. With one on hand, it takes more time to setup, check, and replace. Should be a 20 minute job. Tools for me to check: one signal splitter, a ladder, and a helper to see if the TV shows a picture after running the test. Next time I run this test, I’ll bring up the replacement amplifier too, so I can finish the job quickly.
  • Check for antenna damage: The only thing I can think of hear is maybe a case where the coax got ripped out of the antenna. The fix here is to replace the connector on the coax cable. Should take about 45 minutes to fix. Tools: wire stripper, coax connector, cable connector tool (either an electric drill or a crimping tool). Setup and cleanup are the killers on this one. Doing the work takes no time at all.

Any other problem would require research, so I hit these in terms of likelihood and ease of checking. None of the circuit breakers had tripped, so I went on to look at the amplifier. I went up to the attic and disconnected the antenna and the master bedroom from the amplifier. I joined those two over a splitter and checked out a normally strong signal (for me, this is WTMJ 4 out of Milwaukee). Since WTMJ came in, I knew where the problem was. I drove over to Menards, picked up the replacement amplifiers, and replaced the broken amplifier, reconnecting the antenna and master bedroom again. That continued to work, so I moved the remaining cables and was back in business.

Totally worth the frustration since I’m in control of when the TV comes back on, not Comcast/Time Warner, etc. And my cable is never out when some digging is going on.

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