Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!



Digital Transition Answers

How to Cope Without Battery-Powered Emergency TVs

September 5, 2008 12:39 PM

One of the things that has bothered me about the conversion to digital broadcasting is the elimination of the battery-powered emergency televisions that are used by thousands of people during severe weather, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes and other calamities as a useful information medium.

The hand-cranked and battery-powered televisions that were a staple of every emergency kit are becoming obsolete. If you have followed my thoughts on this subject, you know this has been one of my greatest concerns.

Living on the hurricane-prone upper Gulf Coast, I have many times relied on my battery-powered TV to get pertinent information and to be able to see, even if in black-and-white, the radar images of numerous tropical storms and hurricanes.

I found a functional solution to that dilemma this evening on the Solid Signal Web site.

Winegard has a digital-to-analog converter box that has analog pass-through powered by an AC adapter that powers the converter box with 9 volts DC. Winegard also has a battery pack adapter available for use with the converter box in which you can install six D batteries to power the converter box for up to 18 hours.

This, to me, is a viable option for those of us who are close enough to the digital television transmitters to receive the signals.

The pre-amp I have installed on the high-gain antenna that I use for distant stations will not allow signals to pass through when the electricity is off. However, I am close enough to the transmitters that if I were to install a smaller, fixed antenna aimed at the local stations, with a straight coax drop-down to the back room in the house, I would be able to receive the digital transmissions. I have stated before that this was something I had on my long list of things to do, but still, I was perplexed as to how I would power the converter box until I could get my generator going. Now I have a way to do that.

The battery pack is only compatible with the Winegard converter box, but this may be the answer for me. The converter box sells for $61.99 plus $9.95 for shipping, but is eligible for the $40 government coupon if you have one. The battery pack that plugs into the 9-volt jack on the back of the converter box sells for $14.99 plus $4.95 for shipping.

The converter box can be viewed here.

And the battery pack can be viewed here.

I am glad to find these products because this is something I have been pleading for.


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Comments (6)

Linda Rudd:

First thanks for the info. I need some more information about how this all connects together before I spend the money. I hope you can help me.

I have a little Magnavox B&W 5.5" TV that runs on battery or 120v thru an adapter that has one of those little hollow aluminum tube sleeve connections. I see on the back that it has a connection for I think an external antenna that looks like the type of connection that I see on things like my computer mic and mouse. But this is not the same kind of antenna connection that I see on the back of my little analogue tvs. So my question is how does this converter box and battery pack all connect to my battery powered TV? Does the converter box have a options of connections?

I hope I've been able to properly describe this for you. I just went thru Hurricane Ike and if it wasn't for my little Magnavox I would have been isolated for a week without electricity.

PS. Yes, the radio stations did simulcast for about the first three days but after that they returned to their regular broadcast.

mary... the cat lady:

Hi Linda,
You and I both just went through Hurricane Ike, and I hope you came out as OK as I did. I know many, many others did not.
You did a great job of describing the conections on the TV. I will try to walk you through the hook-up.
You will need an external antenna of some sort to achieve this set-up. If you are not too far from the broadcast towers, you may be able to do this with an indoor antenna, but you will probably need an outdoor antenna. It would help to know what area of southeast Texas you live in. That would help me determine what kind of antenna you might need.
As far as the hook-up goes, here is what you will need to do, and I hope my descriptions are adequate: Connect the coax from the antenna to the antenna in connection on the back of the converter box. You will have to connect another length of coax to the "TO TV" connection on the back of the converter box. To the other end of this piece of coax, you will need an "F" to 1/8" sdaptor. These have been available at radio shack and indeed may still be. The catalog # for this item is278-257. Attach the loose end of the coax to the adaptor and plug the 1/8" jack into the antenna in on the back of the 5.5" TV. Hook up the A/C converter or the battery pack to the converter box, and you will be good to go. I actually ordered my battery powered converter box yesterday.
I ordered my converter box and battery pack from the Solid Signal web site at solidsignal.com. The model number for the converter box is RC-DT09A and the battery pack model number is RC-BP9V. If you got the Solid Signal web site, just click on the Winegard logo on the home page and look for the converter box. Once you are on the converter box page, there will be a link to order the battery pack.
If you need any more help, please let me know, especially about an antenna for the converter box. It would be a really good idea to get all this set up before next hurricane season, so good luck, and once again, I hope you came out OK with the storm.

Linda Rudd:

Thank you Mary!

I am in Friendswood which is between Houston and Galveston on the opposite side of I-45 from Clear Lake, Webster, Seabrook and Kemah. I only lost three trees but the wind must have been terrific. I evacuated to Port Lavaca when I saw Ike turn towards Galveston. I was living near downtown Houston when Alicia went up I-45 right over my house and I had no desire to go through the sounds in the darkness again. That alone is too stressful!

My little Magnovox got good recpetion from the Houston network channels after the storm even though the little built-in antenna was damaged. My outdoor antenna bit the dust with Ike, but I had switched to cable last year for my TVs and computer and hadn’t planned on replacing my outdoor antenna. What do you think? Can you recommend a good indoor antenna to me?

Your explanation was perfect. I’m a visual learner so I drew a little diagram of your instructions and all my little pictures fit together with no left over pieces … LOL. I checked the Radio Shack website and they do still have the “F” to 1/8” adaptor.

So the coax from an external antenna goes into the back of the converter box. A second coax goes from the To TV connection on the converter box with the loose end connected to the adaptor that plugs into the external antenna port on my little TV. Then the battery pack or the AC adaptor plugs into the power port on the back of my little TV.

I’ll apply for my coverter coupon this week so I can get all my pieces together before there is a run on the market!!

I see you are in the Port Arthur area? Y’all have really had your share of hurricanes these last few years. I’m glad to read you made it through this one okay. Ugh.. Bridge City, sad.. like Galveston and Boliver/Crystal Beach.. terrible. My mother lives in Jasper and Rita tore the heck out of that town. Unfortunately, I evacuated there when Rita was headed towards me only to end up having to get my mother and evacuate to Center. Getting back into that area of East Texas was very difficult. I think they were without electicity for about three weeks. Almost all the poles had to be replaced.

Thanks again. I’m going to spread the word to my family and friends.

mary..., the cat lady:

Hi Linda,
The good news is that you are pretty close to the TV antenna farm for the Houston/Galveston stations. The antenna farm is located just east of Missouri City, so you won't need too big of an antenna to get at least a few stations. Enough to keep up with what is going on as the storms roar inland.
The bad news is that an indoor amplified antenna would need to be powered by electricity, which defeats the purpose of the battery powered converter box and I am not sure you can find an indoor rabbit ear non amplified antenna anymore. You could search for one though. You are close enough that it might work. If you can't find one, or it doesn't work, here is what I would suggest...
Replace the outdoor antenna that bit the dust wiht Ike. You are close enough to the transmitters that you could possibly mount the antenna in the attic. That would protect it somewhat from an all out assault on it in the open. You don't want to add an amplifier to it because when the lights go out, the signal will not pass through. A small or medium antenna would probably work, but I would suggest to get the biggest one that is pratical to mount in the attic. Just be sure to point what looks like maybe west-northwest. But still, you might try looking for an unamplified rabbit ear antenna to see if works. I actually just went to the Solid Signal web site solidsignal.com and found two Channel Master VHF/UHF antennas that might fit the bill. One is the CM 4020 for $22.99 plus shipping and the other is the CM 4010 for $18.99 plus shipping. Make sure you can send them back if they don't work satisfactorily. I hope this works, so let me know, OK?
There was one thing in your post I was concerned about. You had everything OK up to the part about the battery pack if I understood what you were saying. The battery pack that is compatible with the converter box (or the AC adaptor) plugs into the back of the converter box. The TV will need to be powered either by a seperate AC adaptor or with batteries placed inside the TV itself. Usually there is a sliding door to access the battery compartment under the 5.5" TV. It is like the battery compartment for a remote control, but much, much bigger. Also, be aware that there is sometimes a switch on the back of the TV to switch from "External Power" to "Battery Power" to "Charge". Be sure the switch is set to the right position or else you will end up like me and throw away a whole set of batteries that I thought were no good because I did not have the switch in the right position...Duh. I had forgotten that it was there. Geez.
Otherwise, I think you had a good grasp of everything else.
I know what you mean about not wanting to go through a hurricane again. Humberto came up so fast that I did not have a choice. It still astounds me that I went to bed about 10:30 and it was barely a tropical storm, and woke up about 5 hours later with a hurricane raging outside my bedroom window. Unbelievable. I am so glad that I evacuated for Rita and Ike. Those were absolutely the best decisions I could ever make.
Please, if you have any questions, post back and let me know.
Take care, and I hope life gets back to normal soon.

Linda Rudd:

LOL.. You're right, the battery pack goes to the converter, the TV already has batteries! Duh!!

I guess my brain is still somewhat disoriented.

Thanks for pointing me to the website for the indoor antenna. I don't have much of an attic because the way the house is designed. There might be 6 feet height up there but not any room to even turn around in. I'll get someone to check it out for me before I go with the indoor antenna.

I will let you know when I get all my pieces gathered up and put together. And I do thank you for taking the time to explain this all to me. Appreciate you more than you know!


Re: Battery Powered Digital TV Converter. I looked all over for a digital tv antenna. I found a battery operated digital TV converter kit that is available at http://www.batterysavers.com/Battery_Operated_Digital_TV_Converter.htm . It seems easy to set up and easy to use. Has anyone ever had any experience with this before? I'm buying one tonight to try it out. Please post if anyone ever used this kit before.

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