Rich Warren: Wind turbines can hurt TV reception

Rich Warren: Wind turbines can hurt TV reception

Let's focus on TV reception, as inspired by an email:

"As I have an outside antenna here in Rankin, I have plenty of wind turbines to the west and southwest. Right now, the antenna doesn't work, but I believe it is due to the hail that damaged buildings, etc. I also have an inside antenna in the kitchen area, which used to work really good, but now gets only Channel 27 (most times weather permitting) and occasionally Channel 15 (Fithian weather permitting, too), and sometimes, it seems the cutout is in time with the running of the turbines. Does anyone else have this problem?"

Many people probably share this problem. Wind turbines pose a double-whammy to radio and TV reception. Their height, combined with moving blades, treat broadcast signals like a food processor, or they can reflect signals creating multipath.

While digital transmission provides a certain degree of correction for out-of-phase multipath, at some point the turbines degrade the picture into blocks and/or blank the picture and sound. Complicating this further, wind turbines never stand alone; dozens or scores of them populate acres.

There's little to be done about this. Your choices include erecting a powerful antenna pointed away from the turbines in hopes of receiving stations from a different area or subscribing to cable, if it is available, or satellite TV. The satellite dish looks above the turbines, so the signal should not be blocked or corrupted.

Before my ecological friends stop speaking to me, wind power provides essential non-polluting energy. It would be helpful if the owners of wind farms provided neighbors who no longer receive good TV reception with advice and aid.

A reader from Rantoul also poses an antenna question:

"I am looking into dropping our Mediacom cable TV and replacing it with broadcast TV and internet (keeping Mediacom for that part). I have been researching antennas. It appears that by mounting an antenna with a rotor on the roof, I can receive 22 channels. It's not a foreign concept, as 50 years ago we had a similar setup for analog TV at my parents' farm in Douglas County. Do you have any recommendations for an antenna or other tips?"

As suggested to the previous reader, satellite is an option because it is cheaper than cable, especially if you take advantage of a promotional package and keep renegotiating it. Otherwise, a roof antenna with rotor should capture at least 22 channels. I recently saw a good long-distance TV antenna advertised in this paper for about $65. A rotor costs about double that but is essential for receiving all of those channels. Depending on the height of your home and the design of the antenna, from Rantoul, you might even occasionally pick up Chicago TV stations.

Optimally, you need a combined VHF/UHF antenna, because WILL, Channel 12, really is Channel 9. All of the other stations are UHF. If you lived in Champaign, a UHF-only antenna probably would suffice, since Channel 12 puts out a fairly strong signal from Monticello.

VHF adds expense and complexity because of the longer antenna elements to match the longer VHF wavelengths. A powerful UHF antenna weighs little and its short rods require minimal space (and reduce wind resistance). Plan to spend $60 to $120 on your antenna, probably a small, in-line RF amplifier at the antenna output, and a good sturdy rotor that will cost about $125.

Finally, a reader wonders why his older smartphone encounters difficulties with some MP3s.

While MP3s are fairly standard, they come in a vast variety of data rates and fixed-versus-variable bit rates. Some players don't like variable bit rates. Lately, compressed sound has been evolving to more efficient MP4, which sounds better. Most MP3 players decode MP4, but some older ones may not. To further confuse things, a variety of other encoding formats beyond MP3 may not be compatible with some players.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be reached at