Back to Basics: Obstructions

When you’re pointing an antenna or dish, you have to be aware of obstructions. An obstruction can be anything: a tree, a hill, even a person. It’s anything that comes between you and the broadcast source.

Finding obstructions when you’re pointing a TV antenna is easy. We recommend a site like TVfool.com to figure out where your towers are. Then go up on the roof with a compass and point yourself in the direction of the towers. If there’s something big between you and the sky, well what you have there my friend… is an obstruction.

What about with satellites?

Obstructions can be a little harder to figure out with satellites, because you have multiple satellite locations and you have to figure that the satellites are up in the sky, not on the ground. We prefer a site like dishpointer.com to find where the satellites are; it will even show you on a google map and draw a line that will help you figure out those obstructions.  You can also try the Winegard Signal Finder app which lets you use augmented reality features on your phone.

An app or a web site isn’t always going to be enough, though. You need to also keep in mind the elevation angle of the dish; a ground-based obstruction like a tree might not be a problem, but a power line that crosses at just the right angle might be. Just looking at things through a phone or from a satellite photo might not tell you everything you need to know.

In a perfect world, we’d all put our antennas up plenty high in the middle of an open field, but in the real world, there’s always something to worry about that could get in the way. When you’re making plans for an antenna or satellite installation you need to look at all the possible issues.

Try to be future-proof

Remember that obstructions may not be a problem today but with luck you’ll use that satellite dish or antenna for many years to come. Will that sapling turn into a tree that blocks your line of sight? Will that open space behind your house be home to a subdivision in the future? It’s impossible to know everything that the future can bring but it’s possible to make educated guesses. The future shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the best that TV has to offer today, but you should make backup plans in case some of those future worries turn into problems in the present.

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.