Whether it’s for the news, weather or a favourite soapie, many caravanners like to watch television while on the road. Yet caravan television can be less than satisfying. Here’s a guide to the best equipment and how to improve reception.
Generally, your caravan television options come down to a digital set with antenna, or satellite television. If you’re using digital TV, there are a few things to consider:
- You could use a spare television from home if it has a 12V adaptor, but it’s not ideal as household appliances aren’t designed to withstand Outback roads.
- A combined television/DVD player is optimal, so you can watch DVDs when reception is non-existent.
- Alternatively, buy a USB tuner for your laptop, though reception will be limited by the strength of signals available to the tuner. Laptops are handy for watching DVDs and streaming shows when you have an internet connection.
- To ensure there’s reception where you’re heading, check the myswitch website to see what coverage is available.
The free-to-air VAST service provides satellite television throughout remote Australia and areas with poor reception. You will need to buy an approved satellite set-top box and dish of at least 65cm diameter (80cm will ensure reception to the tips of Cape York and WA). Access is through a supplied smart card, which must be registered every six months.
Some VAST appliances are only designed for 240V, so it’s advisable to have an inverter to use it on 12V.
Unlike the average household antenna, a caravan antenna has to be capable of receiving signals from thousands of transmitters that all send their signals differently.
Some signals are vertical, some horizontal, so find an antenna that can receive both. If you’re not sure which is prevalent where you are, check out the antennae on local houses or the caravan park.
A UHF/VHF antenna offers more options and you’ll need a booster or amplifier for reception in the country. For optimum impact, mount the booster inside the antenna or as close as possible to the aerial on the outside of the antenna.
If you think you should be getting better reception, there could be a number of factors causing interference.
- Multiple phone providers competing for the available air space can wreak havoc on performance.
- Where are you parked? If you’re surrounded by tall gum trees, they are possibly blocking transmission, as will other landforms such as mountains, waterfalls and the common problem of distance.
- LED lights can interfere with reception. Turn them all off then back on one at a time to see.
- The antenna won’t work if it’s not receiving enough power, particularly when operating on 12V – use a meter to check.
Digital signals come in on a narrow bandwidth so can be hard to pinpoint, but a signal finder is a relatively inexpensive solution – plug the antenna lead in and rotate the antenna until all the LEDs light up.
Satisfying television reception wherever you travel isn’t to be taken for granted, but you can boost your chances by first investing in a quality TV set, amplifier and antenna.
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