You’ve driven the miles, RV is parked and level, all the hook ups have been made and then the dreaded question is asked by your spouse: “When will you have the satellite working so we can watch TV?” For those with an unlimited budget, there are a number of options available to make RV satellite TV easy from the Wineguard KING Quest Automatic Satellite for DirecTV or the Dish Tailgater for Dish. These are fantastic products. I have a neighbor this week that has the Carryout G2 and from set up to watching TV was operational in about 10 minutes. I have to admit, I was quite envious. With some careful budgeting, Joan and I are working to purchase one of these excellent products next year.
So what to do on a budget? We have DirecTV back at the stick and bricks home so there was no cost to unplug the DVR receiver and place in the RV. My first attempt for the antenna set up was to purchase a standard DirecTV SWM dish antenna and roof mount stand. You’ve probably seen these on homes in your neighborhood where this stretched egg shaped dish is bolted to a roof mount tripod. After a little Amazon search, I found a combo setup for under a $100.
I’ll leave out of this post all of the steps to set up a dish. But I’ll share that one trick in my set-up to hit that microscopic thing hovering over the earth – ensuring you have the base of the dish perfectly level. If not, then the settings provided by DirecTV or Dish are useless.
So off we go to our campsite. Leveling the dish tripod ended up looking like something out of “Nightmare on LEGO Street.” It became comical with chunks of wood, rocks, anything that would level the tripod. It was almost impossible to make it stable at the only place I could see the western horizon through the trees. Pulling out the compass, the work started to zero in on the satellite. Minutes went to an hour and then another hour, needless to say I was frustrated then finally I hit it. Thank goodness there was no rain or wind. One thing was for sure, there had to be a better way.
The challenge was to stay on budget and find a better way to have a stable, level platform along with an alternative to the basic compass for alignment. First, toss the roof mount tripod. Really, I tossed the thing and hope I never see it again. What I discovered was an inexpensive surveyor’s tripod. Back to Amazon, I found a reasonably priced, all aluminum tripod by CST/Berger for $62.
The second challenge was finding a way to connect the dish to the tripod. TV4RV.com provides an excellent product milled from solid billet aluminum that will fit either a DirecTV or Dish antenna. One of the benefits to using this configuration is the ease in take down and reassembly. It takes a minute to screw the mast to the tripod.
Set up now is a 5 minute exercise. Find open space. Set the tripod. Use a small bullet level and raise or lower tripod legs till level side to side and front to back. Drop in dish and mast and screw tight. Connect the coax from receiver to dish LNB. Now it’s time to find DirecTV 101!
As I mentioned, I wanted to find an alternative to a basic compass. Since I’m not on an unlimited budget, I don’t have $500 to spend on an Advanced Installation Meter. iPhone to the rescue. I found an amazing app appropriately named Dish Align by Dayana Networks. I’m amazed you’re able to download this high quality app for free. Use couldn’t be easier. Select your center satellite from the list, press the compass option and the app provides both azimuth (left or right) and elevation (up or down) with a small red to green arrow to follow. My favor site for tilt is dishpointer.com. Just enter zip code and you’ll verify elevation and azimuth along with the correct tilt.
I’ll admit setting up a dish can be part science, part skill and part magic. Following the steps above, I’ve gone from set up to watching TV in 15 minutes. I’ve also had instances where I just can’t get it dialed in after an hour of frustration, then when all seems lost, bang you hit it.
One last item was anchoring the set up in the event of heavy winds. Recently we had one of those 4PM Florida raging thunderstorms. We lost our signal during the torrent as expected, but noticed no TV as the sun came out. Stepping outside I found the dish and tripod had been blown over. A minor $18 Wal-Mart investment for a 7 gallon camping water jug and a couple bungee courts was an instant remedy.
The set up works. It’s easy to set up and take down and regardless of the terrain where your best western arc can be located, you can level the dish in a matter of minutes. And using the Dish Align app can make RV satellite TV easy.
I love RV life. Jerry