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Mod #80: Satellite Dish Mount

Posted By ModMyRV On April 28, 2009 @ 6:39 pm In entertainment | 27 Comments

This mod comes to us courtesy of RV.net senior member professor95, otherwise known as Randy Agee, and is copyright with all rights reserved.

So maybe having satellite TV reception wherever you happen to be isn’t high on the list of most campers. But for some it’s a great convenience, perhaps offering entertainment for a group camp party for example. Or maybe just some casual movie entertainment while turning in for bed. Whatever your justification for bringing a satellite feed along while camping, here is a mod that will make your digital camping adventures that much easier.

Mod Difficulty:

The next time you are out camping, look around at the number of satellite dishes that are set out to pick up the signal from a distant satellite over the southwestern horizon.

I am not referring to the $1,000 plus domes mounted on the rooftop of fancy motor homes. I mean the conventional dishes used for both Direct TV and Dish Network. Direct TV will give you a free dish and tripod for your RV with a new subscription. Dish Network doesn’t offer a free dish, but if you look around it is easy to find a used dish for little or nothing.

My daughter, who lives in an apartment complex, has given me several that she found in the trash. When a tenant who has a dish moves they apparently just throw them away!

I have also found used dishes in thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. There are literally hundreds for sale on e-Bay, but the shipping on a dish can be pretty high even if the purchase cost is low.

Of course, you also need a receiver for your RV. Most folks just unplug one in their home and put it in the RV when they go out camping. Others pay the extra $5 a month for an additional leased receiver and keep it in the RV. In any event, if you have a satellite subscription at your home it is either free or inexpensive to add one to your RV.

The biggest problem with a dish and a RV is not so much how to mount it, but more of a “where to store it” space issue. A conventional steel tripod, pole and assembled dish can take up a considerable amount of valuable storage space.

The photos show some of the innovative ways that a dish can be mounted or modified to reduce storage space. The one I really like the best is the “upside down” dish mount that disassembles and sets up on the ground or picnic table. With an inverted dish the compass direction and skew do not change. The elevation is set by subtracting the conventional angle from 90 degrees. For example, with a conventional elevation of 32 degrees, the upside down elevation will be 90 – 32 = 58 degrees.

I made my original upside down mount from PVC pipe. It proved to be too light and flimsy. My second upside down mount (shown) is made of galvanized pipe. It breaks down easily for storage and is heavy enough to hold the dish firmly in place. Note the welds at the base of the LNB arm have been drilled out and replaced with 1/4” bolts and wing nuts for disassembly. A hole has been drilled in the arm to bring the coaxial cable out so it does not interfere with the bolts used for attachment.

The mount on the ladder rack also works well and requires zero storage space as it is lowered for transit and just stays on the ladder. This is accomplished with 1-1/4 OD tubing from the chain link fencing section at Home Depot placed inside a 1-1/4 ID piece of conduit from the electrical section. You will need to weld on a lock nut so you can secure the inner tubing to any elevation or rotation.

If your RV has a smooth fiberglass side, you may want to consider a home brewed suction mount. Harbor Freight Tools sells the suction mount. You just need to attach the dish mount arm. This mount will stay on the side of my RV for weeks without coming loose.

An old camera tripod can make a good mount. You will need to take a piece of 1-1/2” EMT and weld a 5/16″ fender washer over one end. A 5/16″ fender washer will have an outside diameter large enough to cover the end of the mast pipe. With the washer welded to the tubing you can drop a bolt through the hole and attach the mast to the tripod. The camera tripod is a real space saver compared to a conventional tripod.

If you pull a 5th wheel the dish mount and mast can be attached to the pin box. You can pull with the dish in place if desired. Of course, if the satellite position is behind your RV, the front mount won’t work to capture a signal. In that situation, drop in a flagpole and fly your colors!

Lastly, the problem of aiming the dish so that it picks up the signal is often a major frustration. The Dish Network “point dish” software built into the receiver is too slow. Direct TV has better software for aiming a dish. The aftermarket analog Satellite Signal Finders are, in my opinion, almost useless.

My solution is to use a good (note the word good) digital signal level meter. Mine is a Signal Logic and is a tremendous help. Since it has its own power supply, I do not need the receiver attached and can move the dish and meter around freely while watching or listening to the signal level on the meter. I can normally set my dish up in locations where others cannot get a signal for trees or buildings.

Professor Randy T. Agee, E.Ed.
Copyright April 26, 2009
All rights reserved

ModMyRV recommends these parts for this mod:
Grizzly H5848 4 Head Suction Cup
RCA DirecTV DKIT96 Digital Satellite System Dish Mounting & Wiring Installation Kit
Camco 42031 RV Satellite Dish Anchor
Antennas Direct 75 Cm J-mount/mast

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