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 reception?
There are two predominant Satellite providers; 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. 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 you local channels from the area you are in, or no local channels at all. Upon checking on this with Dish, i learned that you can have the locale changed. For example, if you live in the mid-west, but travel to the west-coast, you 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.
When I had Dish installed at my home, the technician 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 as well, but found that legally, 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. As well, you can call them at 1-800-472-1039 for any RV related issues. If you contact the home Dish HD facility, they may not be as up on RV service as "Dish for my RV".
Equipment. Basically you need a Dish HD antenna, and a Dish HD receiver to obtain service. 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 in the fixed environment (however, there are options for both for portable or fixed use).
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 all tend to be automatic as well, while some of the parabolic versions require manual elevation and azmuith adjustment. Which antenna type you desire depends on the level of reception, setup, and expense you want to incur.
Note that due to the smaller antenna sizes typically found with RV antennas, you may only be able to pickup one satellite at a time. Indeed, with my unit, sometimes when changing channels, it takes a few seconds for the antenna to re-align itself with the new satellite. 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 contrast, most home systems have a larger antenna which is capable of receiving multi-satellite signals without the need to re-align the antenna's elevation or azmuith.
Receiver. Along with the antenna, you need a satellite receiver. I use a Wally for Dish HD. It is inexpensive (under $100), but has no frills. It does have a remote, but the receiver-to-tv connection is only HDMI or composite video (no coax). This means you cannot distribute the signal to most of the TVs in your RV, as most have coax distribution systems. However, some newer coaches do have HDMI systems. For me, we have two TVs that we like to connect to - one inside using HDMI, and our outside antenna using composite video. Our bedroom TV stays on the broadcast antenna system.
Of course, should you want to spend more money, you could upgrade to a more fancy receiver...
Performance. Compared to our home antenna, our King Tailgater does not quite have the same signal reception. This is not surprising since the antenna in the Tailgater is physically smaller, so it "collects less signal". For this reason, we need to have a clear view of the southern sky. If there are any trees obstructing the view, you can just about forget reception. Even if someone walks in front of the antenna, we do find that we can lose the signal.
Part of the problem is that we are using our antenna on a tripod, about 3ft off the ground. Should we put the antenna on the roof of the RV, then we would not have issues with people or other RVs blocking the signal. However, I have not yet committed to the need to mount the antenna yet.
The coax that is routed between the antenna and receiver must be high quality (and is included with the antenna), and as short as possible. "Satellite Ready" (2300Mhz or better) coax is preferred. While many RVs do run coax for satellite use, it's been my experience that these installations may be marginal. Often the RV manufacturer will use sub-standard coax, or use installtion practices that induce signal loss. For example; too tight of a turn radius, poor connector installation, crushing or stapling through the coax, etc.
Coax cable manufacturers typically specify a maximum bend radius of 5x times the coax outer diameter. A sharper bend will almost certainly result in signal loss.
Given RG-6, a popular cable used for coax has a diameter of about 0.35" diameter, the minimum bend radius would be almost 2". I think you will find that in many RVs, the manufacturer doesn't even give this a thought. On my coach, I have seen bends that exceed this specification.
Anyting that distorts the round cross-section of the coax - including too sharp of a bend - or crushing the coax under mis-application of tie-downs, cable-ties, or cable-clips will result in loss of signal. This is especially true at the extremely high frequencies that Satellite Receivers operate at.
For that reason, in your initial setup, use the coax that came with the antenna. This means you will likely have to run the coax through a window or door of the RV, but do this for the setup. Once you get everything working, then you can attempt so use the RV's coax (if you have it). That way, you will know if you have a coax or receiver issue. My coach is new, so I luckily didn't have any issues with using the factory coax. But I know several cases where owners had to re-wire the coax in their coach.
There are almost too many options, yes? The King Tailgater to the left is the one I bought. It only has a single coax-to-receiver port, which allows connection to a single receiver. The more expensive - smoke color antenna has two coax outputs - allowing two receivers to be used simultaneously (at $7 more per month).
Receivers typically differ between the options (coax output, DVR, etc), but make sure the particular receiver you choose is compatible with the antenna you buy. Not all are. If in doubt, consider the Wally.
Also, you can often buy a receiver and antenna as a package which may be discounted.
Roof Mounting Options.
While antennas such as the King Tailgater are designed to be portable, you can sometimes roof-mount them. As well, they often have mounting kits for a roof-mount, ladder-mount, and window mount options. These kits will differ depending on brand and model of antenna you pick, so some research may be in order to get the antenna that is right for you.
Of course, you will have to determine if the roof is strong enough in the area you have picked out as well as a suitable path for the coax. Some RVs, such as my Thor/Four Winds Class C was advertised as "Satellite Ready" which actually meant there was a steel mounting plate under the roof for mounting a Satellite Antenna.
Do it yourselfers often run the coax down an existing roof vent - either the refrigerator roof vent (not all refrigerators have a roof vent), or even the external part of the stand pipe to the holding tank. Again, this is highly dependant on your RV, but above all, make sure you follow these percautions:
My preferred method of cable entry is with a dedicated entry plate or gland as this minimizes the amount of exposed coax that must be run to reach the stand pipe or refrigerator vent. Ideally, the entry plate will be located mere inches from the antenna. The longer the distance from the antenna to entry point, the more exposed the coax will be, and the higher chance of it becoming snagged on something.
Coax Routing Options