I’m sure you have all heard that in 2009 all analog television signal transmission will cease. This applies not only to viewing television in your home, but in your RV too (I hear there will be a grace period but I’m not sure for how long). All analog TVs will require some type of receiver to convert digital, over the air signals, to analog signals that older TVs can display. With a receiver, you can still use your analog TV to receive digital signals, so there is no need to buy another TV! So what is the easiest way to deal with this problem in our RV’s?

Here’s how things currently work in your RV. Between your analog television set, TV antenna and a built in NTSC tuner you are able to pick up free off air programming like ABC, NBC and CBS channels. Analog television has been the standard broadcast technology since TV’s have been around. Analog technology uses magnetic waves to transmit and display the picture and sound you are seeing and hearing. When you are spending the night in a rural type area analog reception is poor, resulting in the poor color, snowy and static picture you see.

Several years ago local television channels started broadcasting a free digital signal in addition to an analog signal. Digital broadcasting technology transmits the information used to make a TV picture and sound as data bits, like a computer. Digital broadcast technology can carry much more information than analog technology, resulting in a DVD quality picture and sound that will never have a poor, snowy or static picture. The problem is your analog TV cannot receive digital broadcast signals, at least not until now.

Winegard recently came out with a digital HD receiver that connects easily between your TV antenna and your analog TV to deliver these crystal clear digital channels. I mentioned earlier that local channels started broadcasting free digital signals several years ago. To receive this free, over the air digital programming you simply connect the Winegard receiver to your TV and scan in the digital channels for the area you are staying in, using the receiver. The Winegard receiver has a built in ATSC tuner that decodes the free digital signals and displays them on your analog television.

Let’s say, for example, that you receive the local NBC affiliate broadcast in your area on channel 10. If your TV antenna is directed towards that station’s origin, and you turn your analog TV to channel 10 you receive the programming. This is an analog channel for the local NBC affiliate. This local channel is also broadcasting a digital signal. Digital channels are multicast, meaning you could pick up as many as six additional channels from the local NBC digital signal. Once you scan the digital signal into memory, on the digital receiver, the digital channel will appear on your TV as the standard analog channel plus a dash (-) or a dot (.) and a number.

It sounds more confusing than it really is, let me try and explain it better. I said a moment ago, as an example, that the local NBC affiliate is broadcast on channel 10 in your area. The digital channels for NBC might appear as 10-1, 10-2, 10-3 etc. 10-1 would be the standard digital channel for regular NBC programming. The additional multicast digital channels (10-2, 10-3, 10-4 etc.) might be a 24 hour news broadcast, 24 hour weather broadcast, 24 hour movie, sports, special features broadcast and more. So, not only is the picture and sound crystal clear, but you are receiving more channels. The same is true of the other local programming available in your area like ABC and CBS. When you tune in your digital channels all available multicasting channels in your area will be available.

If the Winegard receiver is connected to a High Definition capable TV you will receive any free, over the air High Definition programming automatically too. So when things switch over not only will you be able to keep your old analog TV in the RV, but the picture will look like it’s being viewed on a brand new TV.

Mark J. Polk

RV Education 101

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  3. My city is one of them that doesn’t have to make the switch, it sucks bad!

  4. Connie

    does anyone know if the new digital Winegard box will let us hook up both the living room and bedroom tv’s???
    In the ad it sounds like it is only for one tv.
    Our old Winegard is for both tv’s.

  5. Michael

    I purchased my two government-sponsored digital tuners at Walmart for about $15 each, after taxes and the coupons. They work as intended and will allow me to continue to use the old analog TVs in the house or motorhome until replacement is warranted. Boondocking, which is pretty much the only way we camp, is not a problem – the same $10 inverter that lets me charge my laptop or run the $25 DVD player from Sams also will run the digital tuner. The batwing antenna works GREAT – way better than the antenna I use in the house. The tuner works fine with my VCR, within it’s limitations. There are, to be sure, some limitations.

    A tuner is required for each analog TV. A tuner is also required for each analog VCR. You will connect either the TV or the VCR to the tuner’s coax output, then tune the analog reciever (TV or VCR) to the channel selected for the digital tuner’s output (channel 3 or 4). You may choose to use the composite output from the digital tuner (RCA jacks) if your TV is equipped with a line input.

    With one TV and tuner I connected the antenna to the digital tuner, the coax output from the tuner to the TV’s antenna in, the composite and audio (RCA) output from the digital tuner to the VCR’s composit input, and the VCR’s composite output to the TV’s composite input. The TV is tuned to channel 3, the output channel of the digital tuner. The VCR is set to record line input. With this setup I can watch and record digital TV channels with the restriction that the channel being recorded is the same one being watched. To record one channel and watch another would require a seperate tuner for the VCR. There is also no way to program the digital tuner to change channels automatically to allow unattended recording on more than one channel rendering much of the VCR’s programmed recording features somewhat useless.

    My other TV is not connected to a VCR so I just connected the digital tuner output to the antenna connection of the TV and tuned the TV to channel 3. When I choose to watch analog TV I just move the antenna connection from the digital tuner to the TV (I didn’t bother to buy the antenna switch).

    As an experiment, I connected a portable UHF TV antenna I’ve had for 25 years or more to the input of one of the digital tuners. I connected the output of that tuner to the cable input on my motorhome. That’s the park cable input, not the batwing input. It worked fine, and exactly as expected – both TV’s, each tuned to channel 3, received the digital channel selected by the tuner.

    For now, I have a digital tuner connected to the main TV in the motorhome and the second TV remains strictly analog. This gives us the flexibility needed for the next few months, and also makes me comfortable that there will be no significant problems with the transition next February.

    For those concerned about reception in fringe areas, what I’ve found is that I get a picture that drops out for a few seconds or tiles now and then rather than being annoyingly fuzzy all the time. I don’t receive a digital twin of all of the analog stations I get now, but I do get several stations that don’t even exist in analog. It’s a fair trade.

    My advice is to read the info at http://www.dtv.gov and order your two $40 coupons from http://www.dtv2009.gov. Get a digital tuner (converter box) with one of the coupons, read the instructions, and give it a fair try yourself. I guarantee it is not that big a deal. It will be a big deal, though, if you don’t do anything and don’t already have a digital tuner or cable source by next February when analog TV just dissappears.

  6. Dave

    I tried every combination (with my new Converter box) at home to program my VCR to record a show. I could not find a way because, as near as I can decide, the VCR can only be programmed for “whole number channels”, like 2, 5, 8, 12, etc. Not 12-1, 8-3, etc. Therefore, come next February, you will no longer be able to “advance program” to record a show on your VCR. The VCR will only serve to play VHS movies….If anyone has experimented with success, I’d like to hear how you did it.

  7. Jackie

    Terry, I think you are missing the message. As of Feb.2009 there will be NO analog broadcast. You must have a digital converter box. My question how big are the boxes and how close must they be to you TV? And am I getting it right that I will have to get two boxes for two TVs.

  8. Terry

    Did you ever hear about just using your old VCR (digital?) tuner in lieu of a new convertor box? Setting your TV on 3 or 4 and using the remote on VCR to tune to your standard analog stations. Of course, you probably will not get the multi-cast signals, but wouldn’t you get the main affilate station?

  9. norm la joie

    mr. polk is a little confused.
    all the converter boxes do the same. You will not get HD picture on a analog
    TV. The box changes a digital signal to an analog signal.
    There is one little item that has been added to the box.
    It automatically turns off after four hours to conserve electricity.
    If you leave and set your vcr to turn on and record in that time period, tough luck.
    Yes, art, you set your tv to ch, 3 or 4 and use the boxes remote.
    also, if you want to watch an analog ch., you have to remove the box.
    You cannot watch them with the box connected.

  10. Bob Adams

    There will be a big problem when this changeover occurs. As noted above, digital broadcasts will be very poor in fringe areas. The signal will drop out more drastically in certain areas that are blocked by buildings, trees, mountains, etc. With analog broadcasts we could live with a little snow and interference. Digital stops completely when the signal is not strong enough. I can hear the bitching now….

  11. John Crider

    Here’s some information about antennas. Analog TV uses two bands, VHF (for channels 2-13) and UHF (for channels 14 and up). The batwing antenna on RVs picks up both bands. There is no such thing as an HDTV antenna. The new digital TV stations are broadcast on the UHF band, so all you need is a good antenna that picks up UHF. I didn’t want to get a converter box, I got an HDTV for my RV, 26″ to fit in the cabinet space available. The batwing antenna works great with it, and should work well with converter boxes also. I’ve been in some areas where the analog stations are snowy, but the digital stations are really nice. But then again, if the signal is not really good for a digital station, you generally won’t see it at all!

    By the way, you should never need to know which UHF channel a digital station is using. Analog channel 2 may have digital channels 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc. which are really on UHF channels, but you have to explore in an HDTV’s setup or display pages to find out which UHF channel number is being used for each; the HDTV (or hopefully the converter box) works it all out internally.

  12. Allen Wolff

    It amazes me that Camping World is selling a Winegard Digital to Analog converter since it is a 110 Volt ONLY unit. What about us boondockers with 12 Volt TV’s who do not want to have our batteries eaten up by inverters?

    I purchased an Artec T3APro from Solid Signal (www.solidsignal.com). It operates on 12 Volts and has a wall wart for 110 Volt operation.

    I wired a fused 12 Volt line from the antenna amplifier box to the converter.

  13. Art Balof

    With multiple TV’s in my RV all run through the source selector box, do we need a separate digital converter for each TV or can a converter be placed at the source selector box? Our bedroom TV is in an enclosure that does not have space for a converter so, this is a problem if a separate converter is required for each one. It appears that a remote control is used for the digital converter so I would assume the converter wioll have to have line of sight with the remote to operate….is this fact?

  14. BOTH analog and digital use magnetic waves. You imply otherwise. Poor explanation.

    Analog works in rural areas, albeit fuzzily, because it depends on levels of signal on the carrier wave to determine what to show. When the levels are low or noisy, the resulting display is snowy.

    Digital sends the screen as a compressed set of numbers, in sequence, and representing an area of the display. The receiver has to receive all the numbers in a sequence to decode it, with very little room for error, relatively speaking. This is why digital TV will get blocky. Either the TV can’t decode it fast enough or more likely, something caused poor reception of some of the digits and that block got scrambled. Rather than show noise, it just delays that block.

    If it can’t receive the digits strongly enough, no picture. In analog, if it’s weak you might still be able to see something… Both use the same electromagnetics to get it to your antenna.

  15. John Brown

    Keep in mind, the digital to analog box will only work for one television channel at a time. If you want to operate more than on television at a time on different channels you must have a separate box for each television. Think of the box as a VCR or DVD player. As for switching between cable, satellite, and over the air television you have to know your different systems. Some, if not all, will not operate through combiner/splitters. The satellite antenna needs to be hooked directly to the TV. I don’t know all the different systems out there but I have a separate hook-up for cable and a separate hook-up for satellite on the side of my trailer. The cable hook-up goes to all TVs and the satellite only goes to the main TV. The converter boxes being sold out there range from around $49.99 to beyond belief. The rebate cards bring it down to affordable. As for antennas, I am not versed on the “batwing” but the antenna I have on my 2004 trailer works for analog and digital just fine.

  16. LeRoy Heath

    If you only put one box in camper ALL tv’s will be watching same channel. Also you will have to go to living room to change channels.

  17. George Wharton

    The biggest problem with using a Winegard digital converter (or any other box for that matter) is that it is NOT compatable with the batwing antenna found in most RV’s. If you intall the Winegard box between the antenna and the TV, it will not work. The batwing antenna needs 12v power to operate and the Winegard converter box does not provide it


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  19. marie williams

    I am very frustrated with the new hd boxes. It seems that if you connect them to the current batwing antenna that it interupts the cable and satelite options. Who is able to do the wiring correctly so that the living room and bedroom tvs operate indepentantly as they were originally wired to do? My installer had to wire in an A/B switch and has been very complicated to change between antenna, satelite& cable. Also do you need a new digital antenna instead of the batwing? I only get 3 channels with the new boxes and the signal is not good. I know there must be someone out there who specializes in RV wiring. Does Camping world have that capability or maybe the geek squad at best buy. I have already spent more than $300.00 for the installation I have now and if I have to spend much more money with the same results, I would rather invest that in new TVs. I would really appreciate knowing who that might be. I would welcome any advice. http://[email protected]

  20. Harold Hansen

    Here is something else some may want to think about since they are going to need to make changes/additions to their RVs. We had 25″ and 13″ TVs built into our cabinets and were envious of the newer models with updated flatscreen TVs. Instead of spending many thousands of dollars on a newer MH, we checked out a few cabinet makers and were able to install newer 32″ and 20″ TVs in custom made cabinets that look like they were factory installed. This resolves the digital issue, gave us much better and bigger pictures, and saved a lot of money buy not having to buy a newer RV and we are “state of the art”.

  21. Robert Ferris

    One of the problems that I am finding with digital is that it is either there or it is not there. With analog you could get a fuzzy picture at least. With digital if reception is not perfect you get nothing or it comes and goes. Digital is not perfect. There will be complaints because people will think that they will get perfect reception. I get analog reception a little fuzzy but the same digital reception is very irritating as it comes and goes so I loose some of the program. So which is better, fuzzy or off and on? There are no perfect answers. Maybe a new antenna would help. Good info about the fed rebate coupon.

  22. Sherm

    You didn’t mention today in your blog about the coupons that knock off $40.00, and that you can get two of them just by ordering them on the internet—plus, that must be a “high class”, expensive converter box that you mention, from Winegard. I’m sure there are many more on the market that are a heck of a lot cheaper, but still do a good job.

  23. Thanks for your article. In order to connect the new turner to my RV TV I will have to partly take it out of the cabinet. I have a “black box” used to change from antenna to cable to VCR, etc. Can the new turner be plugged in somehow to this “box” in order to keep from having to pull the set out?

    C. Skinner

  24. Hey good points! I found this site http://www.ezdigitaltv.com/index.html with a lot more detailed information on the subject. It talks about where to buy converter boxes, how to apply for coupons and there is connection info also.