Ways to Improve
Your NOAA Weather Radio Reception
The average coverage of any NOAA
Weather Radio transmitter is designed to be limited to an area within
approximately 40 miles of the transmitter. By limiting the range of the
transmitter, NOAA Weather Radio can provide more tailored broadcasts to the area
served as well as reducing the number of warning tones sent out over one
transmitter site. The actual range and quality of the received signal are
dependent on three main factors - the transmitter, location and quality of the
receiver, and beam blockage. In general, those living in flat terrain or at sea
and using a good quality receiver can expect reliable reception beyond 40 miles.
Those people living in cities surrounded by large buildings or living in
mountainous areas and using standard quality receivers may experience little or
no reception at distances considerably less than 40 miles.
- Quality of the signal
being sent to the transmitter
- Height of the transmitter
- Power output of the
Poor signal quality being sent
into the transmitter will result in poor signal quality being sent from the
transmitter. To ensure the signal quality going into the transmitter is of good
quality and consistent, monitor are being installed on many NOAA Weather Radio
transmitters to report automatically when signal quality begins to degrade.
These monitors also automatically report other potential problems at the
transmitter site such as power fluctuations, high signal to noise ratios, and
even if the air conditioner cooling the transmitter fails.
Since NOAA Weather Radio
transmits on the VHF (Very High Frequency) band, the radio signal is a
"line of sight" signal. The higher the transmitter antenna is located,
the farther it can "see" or transmit. Since the transmitter range is a
function of antenna height, height is often used to prevent one transmitter from
bleeding over a signal of a nearby NOAA Weather Radio on the same frequency and
triggering warning alarm tones for potential severe weather that isn't in the
designated listening area.
A third method of reducing the
coverage area is by reducing power output of a transmitter. While many
commercial radio stations broadcast at 100,000 watts, NOAA Weather Radio
broadcasts at a maximum of 1,000 watts.
Even though every effort is made
to reduce overlap of two NOAA Weather Radio transmitters on the same frequency,
there are times that a distant station broadcasts over the signal of a closer
station. There have been times when a transmitter located over 100 miles from
the receiver has overpowered the signal from a transmitter located less than 40
miles from the transmitter. While both transmitters were broadcasting at 1,000
watts, the more distant transmitter was located on a mountain and the antenna
was nearly 2,000 feet above sea level while the antenna for the closer
transmitter was only 600 feet above sea level. The conditions that allow NOAA
Weather Radio signals to travel considerable distances beyond 40 miles are
fortunately rare and listeners can be assured that warning alarm tones indicate
threatening weather in their local area.
Location of the
- Distance from the
- Type of construction of
the building the receiver is in
- Proximity of local
"electric noise" generators such as electric machinery, high
voltage power lines, and even fluorescent lights
- Sensitivity of the
As in real estate, there are
three important considerations for improving reception - location, location,
location! The more distant from the transmitter site, the weaker the
signal. Even the type of construction of the building affects NOAA Weather Radio
reception. Buildings with steel frames, cinder block or concrete reinforced with
rebar, and other signal blocking materials will significantly reduce signal
strength and quality at the receiver. Inside the building, "electric
noise" from electric motors, high voltage lines, fluorescent lights, and
other devices will cause static on your NOAA Weather Radio receiver. Try to
locate your receiver as far from any electric devices that may cause
interference to get the best signal.
Another important consideration
when buying a receiver is its sensitivity to radio signals, this is especially
important if you are in a fringe area. A better quality receiver may be able to
detect a signal as weak as 0.3 micro volts while a standard receiver may need a
signal strength of 0.8 to 1.0 micro volts before you can hear clearly. Compare
not only price of the receivers but also their sensitivity.
- Large building in cities
- Thunderstorms and other
Since the radio waves
transmitted by NOAA Weather Radio are VHF or line of sight, they can be blocked
or weakened if they have to pass through mountains, hills, and large buildings.
In fringe areas, even thunderstorms between the transmitter and receiver will
affect the signal strength (as well as interference from lightning).
To get the best possible reception
from your NOAA Weather Radio, get the best quality receiver (most sensitive) you
can. Ensure you are tuned to the correct
frequency for your local area,
even though you may be able to pick up a signal from another NOAA Weather Radio
it may not carry watches and warnings for your specific area! Try different
areas in your home or business to find the best location for a strong and
consistent signal. Generally, near windows will provide you with better
reception than if the signal has to pass through reinforced walls. In some
locations you may have to install an outdoor antenna to receive NOAA Weather
Outdoor antennas can be
purchased at many TV, radio, or electronics stores or you can even build
your own antenna.
If your NOAA Weather Radio does not
have a place to plug in an antenna, you can still benefit from an outside
antenna. Solder a "small alligator clip" to the center conductor of
the coaxial cable from the antenna and clip to the antenna on your radio.
An inexpensive VHF antenna or scanner antenna mounted near the roof with coaxial or shielded cable to the
receiver will provide improved reception for your NOAA Weather radio and allow
us to provide you with timely warnings and statements of hazardous weather
antennas should be installed carefully! Do not get close to power lines or other
hazards. Outdoor antennas should also be properly grounded to prevent possible
damage to your home from lightning.