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Satellite TV In a Motorhome or Caravan
Why Watch TV in your Motorhome / Caravan
Some people ask why you would want to watch tv whilst away, but the answer can be you may be entertaining children / grandchildren, the weather might have turned and you are confined to your van due to rain etc, there may be an important program or sporting event you really want to watch.
There are any number of reasons and most of all, because you want the facilities in your motorhome / caravan to match those you have at home to really make a holiday a "home from home"
Satellite / Frequency Changes
Much has been said of the satellite changes that have taken place over the last 12 months or so, with people worrying they will not now be able to receive TV when on Holiday abroad.
Some people will no doubt be delaying purchases believing that a new system is on the horizon which will receive UK TV All over Europe. This isn't the case, manufacturers cannot invent a special gadget to resolve the difficulties with receiving satellite television on edge of footprints.
Fundamentally nothing has changed, i.e. to receive a UK Satellite TV signal away from home the simple caveat of biggest is best will still apply.
An 85cm satellite system has far more chance of receiving a signal vs a smaller 40cm system. The Only technologies that have a bearing on reception of UK TV abroad are as follows:
- Dish size. (Bigger the Better)
- Skew Angle of the LNB (This can be either manual or automatically adjusting (autoskew).
- LNB Noise Level. The better the quality of the LNB i.e. the lower the dB level then the better it will be at sifting signal vs noise levels.
- Receiver Used. Some receivers have better reception when used in fringe areas.
Freeview in the UK
Freeview is a free to watch service and offers up to 50 TV channels, and 24 radio stations plus 4 HD channels. In fact most of the nations favourite programmes are available free on these channels.
What do I need to watch Freeview TV in a Motorhome / Caravan
Freeview is transmitted through normal aerials and so no dish is needed. Freeview reception in a motorhome needs the following items:
- Freeview compatible Aerial - See our range of Motorhome / Caravan TV Aerials
- Either a Television with integrated Freeview receiver (Such as Avtex L185DRS 18.5" TV / Avtex L216DRS 21" TV or a Television + a Standalone Freeview Receiver.
Are there any ongoing costs with Freeview ?
No, as the name suggests, Freeview is 100% free to watch, no license fees or ongoing subscriptions.
Can I receive Freeview abroad ?
No, Freeview is transmitted only in the UK. For European TV Reception of UK Language channels such as BBC1 etc you will require a Satellite Dish based system.
What channels can I watch on Freeview ?
Due to the ongoing nature of changes to Freeview channel listings we no longer list them here and instead they can be seen on the Freeview website at http://www.freeview.co.uk/whats-on/channels#
SKY offers a service called FREESAT - which offers viewers over 240 Digital TV Channels + 85 Digital radio channels + 6 Free To Air HD Channels with no ongoing fees. A one-off payment of £175.00 will buy a Sky HD digibox, a viewing card, a dish and installation. It won’t be necessary to connect the digibox to a fixed phone line and, apparently, there are no restrictions.
Better still for many people, it’s also possible to buy a FREESAT from Sky viewing card for £25.00, again with no subscription charges. The card can then be used in any SKY digibox – after it’s been activated by SKY – and enables the viewer to receive the same channels as someone buying the £175 package.
Programmes which require a SKY subscription such as SKY One, E4 & ITV 2 will not be available on the FREESAT service.
To get FREESAT, phone SKY on 0870 240 5651 or visit their website at http://www.sky.com/shop/freesat/home/
Can I receive Freesat from Sky using an Aerial ?
No, to receive Freesat from Sky you will require a satellite Dish, this can be either a manual satellite kit, portable satelite system, satellite dome or automatic satellite dish based.
What Channels can I watch on Freesat ?
As the list changes are ongoing we do not display the channel listing for freesat here, instead consult Skys own list of Freesat Channels
Free To Air (FTA) Television
Free To Air (FTA) Channels are TV Channels broadcast in unencrypted format meaning no specialist hardware or viewing card is needed to watch these channels apart from a standard FTA Receiver.
These channels do not appear on the Freesat or Freesat From Sky Electronic Program Guides (EPGs)
Satellite Equipment in Motorhomes & Caravans
What Equipment do you need for Satellite TV in a Motorhome / Caravan ?
There are a number of options available to you when considering using satellite tv in a motorhome or caravan. Broadly the options are Manual and Automatic, although there is at least one manufacturer who markets what they call a "semi automatic" system whereby the height is manual but the azimuth is circuitry and motor controlled.
Manual Satellite systems for motorhomes can be further broken down into fixed or tripod based, i.e. a fixed installation could be a through the roof system such as the Maxview CrankUp or Globesat systems, whereas the mobile versions could be a multimo or other dish affixed to a mast / ladder or freestanding tripod.
Which Satellite Dish ?
The dish is the aerial which collects the signal from the satellite. A dish although thought of as a parabolic shape does not have to be this shape and comes in variants such as Planar / Cassegrain & Passerine. Examples of Planar systems are the Avtex Snipe and the Camos Crankup Flat Sat System, passerine systems are not widely utilised in the motorhome industry although systems like the Globesat satellite system still persist.
Satellite Dome Systems
Satellite Dome systems have gained popularity over the last few years and are simply standard satellite dish based systems encased in a satellite transparent outer casing. Their popularity is no doubt down to their small roof footprint, usability in high wind conditions and lower pricing than other fully automatic systems, but the price of a dome based system is the dish size within.
Furthermore, dishes on motorhomes or caravans come in a wide range of sizes from approx 40cm up to some huge >1m models. Portable satellite tv dishes vary from 30cm diameter to 85cm. Larger ones – 1M and more - are used in areas where the satellite signal is weak but are usually not practical unless you intend to stay in one place for a reasonable period of time and the sizes of these huge manual dishes requires a considerable amount of storage in your motorhome or caravan. Although the size of a satellite dish has the biggest effect on what you can receive, the location you are using it in has a large bearing, it is not simply a matter of “bigger is better”. The design of the dish and the L.N.B. (see below) also affect reception. Different channels are broadcast in different ways and may not be available where you are.
In order to work out exactly what size dish is preferential in order to receive a signal in a particular location, it’s necessary to look at a “satellite footprint map” such as those on the SES Website, remembering that the dish size alone isn't the only variable that needs to be taken into consideration.
All satellite dishes have a L.N.B. (Low Noise Block). The LNB is the part of the dish which receives the signal from the satellite. In the case of all domestic and some mobile satellite dishes, it’s the mushroom-like half dome object mounted on an arm and pointing towards the dish’s centre. The quality of the L.N.B. is vital for the reception of a strong, clear signal and a good L.N.B. attached to a small dish can be just as effective as a large dish with a less efficient L.N.B. Some dishes such as the Kathrein do not have visible LNBs and correspondingly have a flat surface.
For the sake of convenience both in use and when stowed away, the smaller the dish the better. Teleco have taken this to the maximum with their FlatSat Range of systems which are only 17cm tall when in driving position. Some satellite dishes have their L.N.B.s located behind the dish and this results in comparatively small dishes whilst retaining the reception characteristics of much larger ones. The Multimo & Globesat models are designed to be very efficient indeed and can be used in locations where a similar sized dish with a standard L.N.B. would not give good results.
The Maxview Crank Ups & Similar systems offer the convenience of a permanently mounted system but without the associated high price tag of a fully automatic model. These satellite systems are permanently installed on the roof of a vehicle but are raised manually from inside either by pole or a crank device. They are very easy to install and with a little practice they are also easy to use.
Setting these systems up is just a matter of a few minutes or less (once practiced) but, for the ultimate in convenience a fully automatic satellite system is ideal for motorhomes & caravans.
Satellite Dish Mounting Methods
A dish can be mounted either temporarily i.e. a tripod or base free standing model (Multimo) or indeed the new wave of portable systems such as the Maxview VuQube or Travel Vision systems which offer the flexibility of siting the satellite kit in an area with line of sight access to the satellite sysyem but with the ease of an automatic system.
Permanent mounting systems are those which use either mounting plates or feet to securly affix the system to the roof of your vehicle.
A permanently mounted satellite dish is most convenient but, in some cases, not desirable or possible. Temporary mounting of a satellite dish can be achieved using a tripod stand fixed to the ground, a suction mount attached to a flat surface such as a roof, for example, or a bracket attached to a pole or ladder. These methods are very simple to use but even permanent mounting is well within the capabilities of any competent handyman.
The Multimo has a flat base and can simply sit on the ground or on a table. One useful feature of satellite transmissions is that the signal can pass through certain materials, including plain window glass and the kind of plastic that caravan windows are made of. Therefore, in areas where the signal is strong, a Multimo satellite dish can even sit on a table inside a vehicle or an awning bearing in mind line of sight to the satellite itself. The base can be removed if required and the dish attached to a tripod or pole using the clamp supplied.
The Maxview Crank up system is very popular due to its innovative system of operation whereby an internally mounted crank can lift the dish and turn it horizontally to the required azimuth position all whilst still inside the motorhome, useful in inclement weather.
All the satellite dishes we sell are completely weatherproof.
Digital receiver (Digibox)
One essential item which is needed to watch satellite TV is a receiver aka a Digibox. The SKY digibox is the best known in the U.K. and, if you want to receive SKY’s subscription channels, you must use one, along with a subscriber viewing card.
There are many different makes of satellite digibox with all of them having essentially the same features and they all receive the signal from the dish, unscrambling it if necessary and then converting it into a form which a television can use. The receiver is connected by a co-axial cable to the dish (with maybe a satellite finding meter inline) and to the TV via a SCART or R.F. lead, both of which are usually supplied.
Most domestic receivers run on standard mains voltage of 230V and should run without problem from as small as a 150-watt inverter. More modern receivers built specifically with the motorhome market in place are Free To Air receivers, run on 12v or 230v and are HD capable such as the Rockdale satellite receivers or Comag receivers.
Viewing Cards - Subscriber or not
Many channels are free to air and no viewing cards are required to decode the channels, however some are transmitted in an encrypted form and require some form of translation as supplied by the card. The viewing card slots into the digibox and gives it permission to decrypt some or all of the channels being transmitted by the satellite. Without a viewing card, many channels are still available as listed http://www.lyngsat.com/astra2d.html shows the channels (Note refer to the colour key at the bottom to see which channels are transmitted in digital / clear)
If you decide that you have to have all the encrypted channels from back at home and need to be watching your favourite soaps such as Eastenders / Coronation Street, the contact Sky and start an account, they will then send you a viewing card. It must then be activated before it can be used.
How to Activate a Sky Viewing Card
To activate a sky viewing card: insert it then get the box and card details from the service menu: Services 4-5. The broadcaster needs to know the name, address, card number and box number and also the subscriber number for a subscriber card. The card should then be activated within a few hours but it should all be left connected and switched on until the card is working properly (Make sure you are on hookup or have sufficient battery power to remain connected and switched on !!)
When that’s been done, the card should have been programmed by SKY and be ready for use. The people at SKY will explain exactly what to do and how to do it.Note that using this viewing card outside the UK is considered to be a breach of contract so, if BskyB find out, they'll transmit a signal to disable your card.
Note: Every viewing card is matched to the digibox in which it is to be used. Cards can be moved from digibox to digibox but subscription channels will not be available and there is a chance that the card may be de-activated under certain circumstances (see above).
Receiver Power Requirements
If you want to use your standard home digibox in your motorhome or caravan or if you have a non 12v version digibox, you will need to run it from 230V: because a satellite receiver has a low power consumption a cheap low power 150W inverter is all that is necessary for powering it from 12V. The inverter can be simply plugged into a standard lighter socket.
Other satellite finding accessories
A sat finding compass is useful for checking the direction in which the dish must be pointed. You can also look around to see if you can spot either household dishes or other motorhome or caravan dishes that are deployed and see which direction they are pointing in.
As satellite transmissions operate on a very tight beam the satellite dish must be positioned absolutely precisely and, if it isn’t, you will not get a picture. With the help of a satfinder meter, the job takes only a few seconds. A satfinder is a small meter like device which, using some form of indicator (visual and sometimes audible), makes locating a satellite easy, reliable and quick. An additional advantage is that it’s not necessary to be able to see the screeen. The satfinder meter is connected inline between the dish and the receiver and should be disconnected when the satellite has been found. There are more upmarket and intellgient finders available such as the Teleco DSF80 which can ensure you are not trying to align to the incorrect satellite
Any TV wil be ok to receive satellite transmissions, but it may be worth spending a little more to purchase one with an integrated receiver as this saves all the extra cables interconnecting between receiver and tv and the extra power requirements / leads. Avtex televisions are the market leader for motorthome and caravan televisions and their DRS models come with integrated Analogue / Digital (Freeview) and Satellite receivers meaning no extra receivers are needed.
Satellite in a Motorhome / Caravan Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Record / Watch Different Channels ?
Some receivers like Sky+ / Sky HD receivers allow you to watch one channels whilst recording another. This could be useful if you were heading to a location where you knew you would not get reception (Out of footprint / Under cover) and you could then watch your pre-recorded tv programs.
This is possible in your motorhome/caravan with the use of a Twin LNB system.
Can passengers Watch TV Whilst Driving ?
Yes, some systems known as "in-motion" systems allow your passengers to watch tv whilst you are driving, they use sophisticated tracking technology to allow them to do this and they are invariably satellite dome based systems as a dish would act like a huge sail if raised whilst driving.
Will I damage a Dish if I forget to put it down when driving ?
No, Nearly all modern motorhome satellite dish based systems are wired during installation to the ignition circuit and so when the ignition is turned on the dish automatically folds down to prevent damage.
Can I watch TV in Spain / Italy / Greece / Portugal (Insert country far away here) ?
If you are thinking of watching watching BBC, ITV & Channel 4 in these type of countries then we would say that it would be highly unlikely you would get reception unless you have a dish of at least 1.5 metres and preferably 2 metres in diameter. You may hear other motorhomers and caravanners say they received these channels with a much smaller dish, but these stories can usually be taken with a pinch of salt unless extra-ordinary weather reception conditions took place.
Can I use my digibox from home?
If, when you signed up with SKY, you were given a subsidised “digibox”, you probably signed a contract requiring you to leave the “digibox” connected to a ‘phone line for at least 12 months. You are still free to buy a second “digibox” and take it away with you. However, when you’ve had a “digibox” connected to the ‘phone for 12 months, you are free to disconnect it and take it wherever you like.
Useful websites for information about satellite tv in a motorhome or caravan
- http://www.lyngsat.com/ :: Excellent information portal on satellite channels and frequencies
- www.bbc.co.uk/digital/tv/ :: BBC digital services
- www.satcure.co.uk :: General Satellite TV Information website
- http://www.ses-astra.com/backoffice/findAChannel_en/index.php :: specific info on which channels are broadcast using which footprint:
- www.sky.com :: SKY Main website
- www.free2view.tv :: SKY “Free2View” viewing cards:
- www.freeview.co.uk :: Generalised freeview information portal
A full range of manual and automatic satellite TV systems and accessories can be found on our website at www.outdoorbits.com