Why have satellite TV in your RV? If you are out for a short trip with family or friends, you may not want TV in your RV at all, but if you are looking for evening entertainment, are solo, or are on an extended trip, a good TV connection can enhance your RV experience. The means by which you can watch satellite TV in your RV are increasing. We will outline a few ways.
First, the disclaimers. The two authors of this piece represent two ends of the spectrum. One has a residential Dish account using a 3 head dish and the Hopper 3 in his RV. The other has a Hopper 3 at home and a 211z receiver with a roof satellite dish in his RV. There may be other possibilities that we miss, and our experience is based on Dish Network as the provider. We have no information about using DirectTV.
To get satellite TV in your RV, you need a receiver, a satellite dish, a TV, and good coax connections between them. You need a Dish account that is compatible with your receiver. More importantly, there are compatibility issues between certain dishes and receivers.
One way to get satellite TV in your RV is to have a satellite dish compatible with your home receiver. You may need a tripod, a satellite location meter, and a means of connecting the dish to your receiver. Then, you could disconnect your receiver in your house, sit it on a shelf in the RV, set up and align the dish, connect the coax cable from the dish, plug into 120v power, and connect from the receiver to the TV. With that setup, you would have virtually the same TV capabilities and programming that you have at home. BUT - it requires a compatible dish.
Today, the hottest new DVR is the Hopper 3. It requires a residential account rather than an account targeted at the more mobile RV world. To get full function, it requires a 3 head Hopper 3 dish.
So, a key element is planning so your account and your equipment will be compatible. Here is a link to a guide to some antennas and their system compatibility.
DVR’s and RECEIVERS
The difference between these two is a DVR can record, while a receiver needs an external hard drive to record. The following link shows which receivers are compatible with an external hard drive.
The link below shows what receivers are available.
One caution - If we understand things right, the Joey receivers are for multiple TV’s in one home. They take their signal from the main DVR in the home, not from a satellite dish. Thus, in our RV world, they are only useful in a multi-TV RV, as they will not work if not near the main DVR.
RESIDENTIAL TYPE SYSTEMS
The highest end of this type of system is built around a Hopper 3 DVR. It can record up to 16 channels, and hundreds of hours of HD media. It uses a 3 head dish. On a tripod, it must be manually aligned either by using a very expensive meter, or by doing an approximate alignment, then having one person to tweak the dish alignment while another monitors the signal strength inside the RV. Some models can mount on an RV roof and align automatically. The dish and receiver tie into three satellites - 110, 119 and 129. Conventional barrel connectors for the coax cable won’t work. You need high frequency cable connections. But, if you have all that, you have a system equal to any home system.
A mid-range residential type system would be based on an older DVR such as the 612, 622 or 722. It would use a 2 head dish and standard barrel connectors, and would connect to two satellites with one setup. This setup would allow recording two channels at once, and the receiver could hold hundreds of hours of SD media, and somewhat less of HD media. The dish would be on a tripod, you would use a meter to align the dish, and a coax cable to connect the outside of the RV.
Simpler systems might use a receiver such as the older 211k or 211z receivers or the newer Wally receivers. These use a single head dish, either roof mounted, a single head dish on a tripod, or a tailgater. These dishes may be either manually aligned or self-aligning. They are limited to receiving a single satellite and a single channel at one time. If you want to record a program with these receivers, you need to add an external hard drive to your system. There is a moderate one time setup cost to do this.
With any of these, you can use the same DVR or receiver in the rig as in your home, as long as the dish is the same at each location. Simply unplug from one location and plug in at the other.
With a growing number of RV’ers wanting to make use of Dish Network programming while on the road, Dish set up a type of account called Dish Outdoors. It is not for the Hopper 3. Rather, it uses a simple receiver such as the 211 or the Wally in your RV. It uses a single head dish, which can be a roof mount, a dish on a tripod, or a tailgater. It can also use the Dish SK-1000 roof mounted triple head dish. If your dish is on a tripod, you will have to manually align it. Some roof mounts and some tailgaters are self-aligning. Single head dishes can make use of one satellite at a time, but can switch the alignment from one satellite to another, as needed. This setup is often a low cost option added to a permanent residential setup, such as one with a Hopper 3 dish and receiver.
Just as you can only receive one channel at a time, your ability to record is limited. The 211 and the Wally can record using an external hard drive. The biggest advantage of these setups and the Outdoors account is that when you are home, you can put the RV account on hold, and when traveling and the Outdoors account is active, it may cost as little as $7 per month extra on your existing home Dish account. That makes it a great package for someone who is in their RV for weekends and a few longer trips every year.
If your Dish account includes local broadcast stations, those are transmitted via a spot beam from the satellite. The reception area for that spot beam forms an oval on the earth’s surface with an east-west reception range that is less than the north-south reception range. For example, if you are in Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, your broadcast stations will be from Albuquerque. In Newport, Oregon, they will come from Portland. If you are in the Grand Teton or Yellowstone area, they will come from Idaho Falls. When you travel to a new area outside the oval that covers your home, if you want to receive local broadcast channels, you need to change your Point-Of-Service address.
For Dish Outdoors accounts, Dish offers an app called MyDish. It allows you to change your Point-Of-Service address yourself. If you have a residential account, you must call Dish tech support and have their personnel change your Point-Of-Service address. Once a change is entered, in about 20 to 30 minutes of use, your receiver will be reconfigured for the new broadcast channels, and you can watch them.
If you are traveling and moving frequently, there is no need to change the Point-Of-Service address every night. Most channels will work without that. You only need that if you want to watch local broadcast channels.
SOME OTHER THOUGHTS
If you use a tripod, the web site TV4RV.com has some nice tripods, more functional for the RV lifestyle than a conventional home tripod, as well as some other stuff for helping with satellite setup. Whatever tripod you use, either tie or stake it down, or hang a substantial weight (a rock, a 5 gallon jug of water, etc.), from the center of the tripod, near to the ground. This is to reduce the chance of the tripod blowing over in a storm or wind. It does not prevent a moose from knocking it over…
Satellite meters range from the very simple and relatively inexpensive to the professional units. A simple one will tell you if you are receiving a satellite signal, but cannot discriminate between satellites. It cannot tell you if you are connected to 105, 110, 118, 119, etc, or if you are connected to a Dish or a HughesNet or a DirectTV satellite. It just tells you if it sees a signal. The pro models will allow you to identify the satellite to which you are connecting.
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to each decision you make. A roof dish is the easiest to set up when you get to a campsite. There is no need to go outside, possibly in rain, and there is no need to connect or disconnect coax cables. Get your rig level, raise and point the dish, check the signal and tweak the alignment, and you are done. The trade off as compared to a dish on tripod or a tailgater is if your campsite has a tree in the way, you may get no satellite, because your dish location is fixed. A tailgater setup is the next easiest because they are self-aligning. You do have to go outside to connect or disconnect the coax, but that is offset by the ability to place the tailgater to see past a tree of other structure. A single head LNB on a tripod gives flexibility of location, but will only connect you to a single satellite without realigning it. A residential setup with a dual or triple head dish and compatible receiver is the hardest to set up, demands a tripod, but gives you the best service.
Possible causes of poor or no signal include:
Trees or buildings in the way
Heavy storm clouds
A poor coax connection
A poor dish alignment
A problem with the receiver, or
A problem with the LNB, the part on the end of the dish arm that receives the signal.
Keep it as simple as possible.
A) If you have been watching TV and you lose the signal, most likely, either something is blocking the dish or the dish has been moved. Look for storm clouds, then check the dish alignment.
B) If you just relocated and you now are getting no signal with the new setup:
> If you are using a tripod and meter, check the signal with the meter at the dish. If no good, either (most likely) you are not aligned properly or (unlikely) you may have a bad LNB. Tweak the alignment until you get a signal.
> If you read a good signal at the dish, check at the receiver end of the coax with the meter. If you have a signal at the dish but not at the receiver the coax connections have a problem.
> If you have a signal on the meter at the coax connection to the receiver, reboot the receiver by unplugging it, waiting 10 seconds, then plugging it in again.
> If you are using a roof dish or a tailgater, follow most of those steps if you have a satellite meter. Re-do the alignment if you don’t have a meter.
> Use a multimeter and check for 13.8 to 20 volts at the dish end of the coax cabling. If the receiver is working and the cable is connected, that voltage should be there. No voltage there means either a problem with the coax or a problem with the receiver.
C) If the setup has worked in the past but is not now working, the incompatibility issue does not apply. Once you have done all the above tests that you can do, and have ruled out compatibility issues, a problem with the coax, or as far as you can tell, a problem with the receiver, go to the LNB with a multimeter in hand, remove the coax connection from the LNB, and with the receiver on, check the voltage in the coax. It should be 13.8 to 20 volts. It then sounds like you might have a bad LNB.
If all the above fails to establish a connection, call Dish tech support before you order any components. The receiver may need to be re-authorized, a setting might have been lost, or the receiver may be failing. Either way, they can help you diagnose beyond the above tests. Our experience has been that the Dish tech support people have been highly motivated to serve their customers. Our calls to tech support have been unfailingly positive and helpful.