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Adding a Dish HD Satellite Receiver

 

 

While the subject matter of this discussion is primarily focused on Dish HD, much of the information applies to other satellite providers, such as DirecTV.

 

Since you go into the great outdoors to get away from it all... why would you want to drag along a Satellive TV antenna?

I get that. But if you are a full-timer, or retired and camp a significant number of days, you may want to keep up on the news, or at least have a method of watching the weather. Sure, you can do this with your smart phone, but what if you do not have cellular reception?

There are two major Satellite providers in the US; Dish HD and Direct TV. Of the two, in my view, Dish is better for RV'ers. I did read that 85% of all satellite setups are Dish HD, and it does seam that I see many more Dish antennas at the campground than Direct TV.

Dish tends to cater to RV'ers with RV-only packages (so you don't need satellite service at your home). These start at $40 or so a month, and are no-contract - which means you can start or stop the service on a monthly basis without any setup or disconnect fee.

And the best option in my view - that is, if you have satellite service at home - you can add Dish to your RV for $7 per month - which is simply the cost of an additional receiver. Since you have to buy the equipment, this is also a no-contract add-on, and you can start or stop this service on a monthly basis as well. The other great benefit is you get all of the programming you have in your home system.

But there is one issue I suppose, and that is local channels. By federal law, they must provide local channels from the area you are in or no local channels at all. This includes the area you are in with your RV. For example, if you live in the mid-west, but travel to the west-coast, you will not receive your mid-west local channels. However, can call Dish and have your locale changed for the time period you are camping. That will give you local channels in your new area. However, if you also have your home satellite active at the same time, those TVs will lose local channels as you can only specify one locale at a time.

I really don't see that as a problem as we still have our terrestial TV antenna system for local channels. Additionally, if you have a Dish Wally receiver, you can buy an inexpensive USB TV antenna tuner so you don't even need to re-configure your TV for broadcast reception.

Does anyone else think the King Tailgater looks like Darth Vader's helmet? But I digress...

When I had Dish installed at my home, the technician (wink, wink) told me that all I needed to do is to buy the antenna, and I could take one of the receivers from home. I did check on that with Dish, but found that according to the contract, the system in my home is a leased system, and it violates the lease to do so. But a new receiver is less than $100 - although you do incur the $7 per month charge for service.

Dish also has a dedicated website www.dishformyrv.com for RV service.

Dish contact numbers:

  • Purchase equipment: 1-800-472-1039
  • Service, resets, trouble: 1-800-333-3474

 

 

 


Antennas


 

Basically you need a satellite antenna and receiver to obtain service, as well as sundry components such as cables and antenna mounts. There are two basic types of antennas; radome (like the King Tailgater) and parabolic. Radome antennas are typically used for portable use, while the parabolic are more often found when you need a higher performance system.

The overwelming difference in the two is the radomes tend to be smaller - which means they may not pick up as much signal. Also, if you have a motorhome, you can buy a version of a radome antenna that can automatically track the satellite as you are going down the road.

The radome versions tend to be automatic; meaning they can scan the horizon and lock onto a satellite by themselves. This is accomplished with a set of adjustment motors or servos internal to the radome. Some parabolic versions are also automatic, but others are manual - requiring the RV'er to manually adjust the antenna's orientation (elevation and azmuith adjustment). Which antenna type you desire depends on the level of reception, setup, and expense you want to incur.

Size does matter. If you want HD (High Definition reception), your antenna selection may be limited. DirecTv for example only offers HD if you have a larger size antenna while Dish offers HD reception with the smaller portable antennas.

Another significant difference between antenna types is while the portable radome antennas can sometimes provide signal to two receivers, they can only provide signal from one satellite at a time.

This then limits receiver reception if you have a 2 receiver setup. This means both receivers must be receiving broadcasting from the same satellite.

In the graphic to the right, you can see that the small antenna can only receive signal from a single satellite at a time - in this case, the center satellite. It is just too small to capture multiple satellites simultaneously.

Therefore both satellite receivers are limited to channels on that satellite. Receiver 1 can view channel 2 and receiver 2 can receive channel 5 simultaneously, but neither receiver can view channels 1,3,4,6,7, or 9.

 

Indeed, with my antenna (King Tailgater), sometimes when changing channels, it takes a few seconds for the antenna to re-align itself with the new satellite.

 

Popular Portable Antennas

Antenna Model Radome Color Coax Connections Simultaneous Satellites Model
King Tailgater 1 White
1
1
VQ2500
King Tailgater 2 Smoke Black
2
1
VQ4500
King Tailgater 3 White
1
1
VQ4400
Winegard Playmaker White
1
1
PA1000
Winegard Pathway X1 White/Black
2
1
PA2000
Winegard Pathway X2 Grey
2
1
PA6002

 


 

In contrast, the largre RV antennas (including home systems) have a larger antenna capable of receiving multi-satellite signals without the need to re-align the antenna's elevation or azmuith.

These antennas have the capability of capturing multiple satellite signals simultaneously - although not necessarily equal signal strengths (which is why you might lose some but not all channels during a thunderstorm). The signals are typically sufficient to provide adequate reception.

In this setup, either receiver can view any channel on any satellite simultaneously.

If you desire multiple receivers having the ability to access multiple satellites simultaneously, you generally cannot use a portable radome; you must use the larger antennas such as the Winegard SK-1000 or TR-6100.

 

Multi-satellite Antennas

Antenna Model Radome Type Coax Connections Simultaneous Satellites Model
Winegard Trav'ler Automatic
3
3
SK-1000
Winegard Tripod Manual
3
3
TR-6100

If you want true simultaneous viewing of signals from different satellites on a single antenna, your choices are limited (inexpensive, or expensive).

 

 

So how do you know if the antenna supports multiple satellites simultaneously? You will have to look at the technical information. For example, here are three different specifications of currently available antennas:

 

 

So the first two examples are clearly defined as to whether or not they will support different satellites simultaneously. But the last example is a bit shady. I guess they don't want you to know that their antenna will only support one satellite at a time.

HD. Some antennas will support HDTV, some will not. Typically, HD requires a stronger signal, so the larger gain (and physically larger) antennas do a better job. Again, most antennas will provide that information in their technical specifications. But you are out in the wilderness... with the wind in the trees, the babbling brooks, and the Loons calling on the lake. Is HD really that important?

Some Oddballs. There are also a few unique antennas out there. One of the strangest is the Winegard RM-DM61 rooftop crank-up antenna. It basically replaces your existing Winegard Sensar style broadcast antenna - although you may have to drill a few new holes. But it also includes a replacement for the Sensar broadcast antenna.

If you have a motorhome, and your passengers absolutely need to get their TV for the day, you can buy an in-motion antenna, such as the King Dome KD-3000 (not the KD-2200), or the Winegard Roadtrip RT2000. These antennas are single satellite viewing only.

 

There are almost too many options, yes? I bought the King Tailgater 3 (VQ4400). It only has a single coax-to-receiver port, which allows connection to a single receiver.

 


Last reviewed and/or updated May 25, 2017