Stay On The Air! 4 Essential Summer Transmitter Must-Dos

By Jim Kuzman on Jun 26, 2024 9:56:03 AM

Don't put them off, or they might put you off the air

Every broadcast engineer tasked with the care and feeding of a transmitter site likely has a checklist of tasks to perform on a regular basis. The frequency of regular visits will depend on a variety of factors, including accessibility, proximity, time, and whatever else the universe sees fit to hurl at us on any given day.

The individual nature of each site comes into play as well; some sites ask for little beyond the basics, while others are situated in areas that attract unwanted guests bent on mischief or harbor cantankerous rigs that sense fear and time their outbursts to coincide with your vacation. 

But beyond the usual list of to-dos that can help stack the odds of an unplanned visit in your favor, the unique challenges that summer brings often require even more diligence if you have any hope whatsoever of enjoying some uninterrupted backyard chill time with a brat and a brew. 

Is it hot in here? 


Summer heat is at the top of the list. For climate-controlled buildings, making sure the HVAC system is up to snuff is critical. One of the easiest and least expensive items—yet one that is too often overlooked—is the routine replacement of air filters. This goes for the HVAC air handlers as well as the transmitters themselves. Not only is a dirty filter ineffective, but it makes blower motors work harder, reducing efficiency and shortening their life. 

Another item that should be on your inside HVAC checklist is the condensate drain, typically a run of 3/4” PVC that carries water from the evaporator to a floor drain or pump. The constant moisture in the line makes the perfect environment for mold and other nastiness to set up shop. Left unchecked, the buildup can restrict water flow enough to trigger the shut-off switch or route water to places you don’t want it to go if there’s no switch. Both scenarios result in an unplanned trip to the site, which will, of course, happen in the middle of the night. Regularly flushing the line with a bleach-water solution will keep the crud at bay. 

Cleaning the condenser coils outside will help maintain their ability to shed heat. Special spray cleaners are available for this job, and you’ll want to avoid the close-range high-pressure hose treatment to avoid damaging the rather delicate fins. Don’t forget to disconnect the power first, as you’ll likely need to remove the top cover and fan to clean the back sides of the coils.

You are not alone.


I don’t mean that in an encouraging, supportive way, although if you’re having a bad day and need a boost, please feel free. I mean the odds of you being the only living, breathing thing at the transmitter site are worse than being hit by a falling piano (which is 1 in 250 million, according to the Interwebs, a completely trustworthy source). 

Most of what’s out there means you no harm but can be annoying; mosquitos fall into that category, so a good bug repellent is a must. A fair percentage is just creepy-looking enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. But depending on your location, there are enough things that sting, bite, and give chase that poking around in the summertime requires some extra caution. From snakes sub-letting the ATU or enjoying the shade of some tall grass to a condo of wasps in the eaves to a mama something or other looking after her offspring, the lack of any regular (authorized) human traffic makes transmitter sites ideal locations for wildlife, most of which does not enjoy being surprised any more than you do. 

Arm yourself with a can of the good stuff with the 30-foot spray range, stay vigilant, and make sure the first aid kit is stocked with the usual arsenal of bandages, sprays, and ointments. 

If your site is in a dodgy neighborhood or out in the middle of nowhere, consider your personal safety as well. Let someone know where you are going, when you arrive, and when you leave. I’ll stop short of making any specific suggestions as to what you may need in terms of protection, but encourage you to be safe, know what you’re comfortable with, and be aware of any pertinent laws. 

Mowing and trimming.


Keeping the site well-mowed and trimming around the buildings, fences, and guy anchors not only makes for a nicer-looking property but also helps reduce the number of places unwanted inhabitants can set up shop. Snakes love the shade of tall grass, as do many rodents. No one wants to hear the sound of tall, rustling grass when they go walking after midnight—or before, for that matter. As a bonus, a site that gives a well-maintained appearance suggests that it is not abandoned, making it less attractive to thieves, vandals, and vagrants. Long-sleeve shirts and long pants are advisable to minimize exposure to plant-based enemies such as poison ivy and unwanted hitchhikers (I’m looking at you, ticks). 

Thunderbolts and lightning,
very, very frightening. 


Lightning strikes can wreak havoc at transmitter sites. Broadcast towers—especially those standing alone in otherwise flat, open terrain—are irresistible to lightning. Good bonding and grounding practices are essential, and these systems need regular inspections to ensure they are holding up over time. 

Anyone who has been at a tower site when a storm is rolling in can testify that it can be an eerie feeling. You can sometimes hear crackles and pops and feel a charge in the air. Keep an eye on the sky, mind the radar on your weather app, and trust your gut. 

The power grid supplying juice to the site is also at greater risk of suffering storm-related damage during the summer months, so if you are fortunate enough to have a backup generator at your site, now is a good time to make sure you have plenty of fuel and any routine mechanical maintenance has been performed so that it’s ready to roll when you need it.

Topics: Broadcast Engineering, 2024, infrastructure, Maintenance

Recent Posts


If you love broadcast audio, you'll love Telos Alliance's newsletter. Get it delivered to your inbox by subscribing below!