GETTING BACK TO BASICS
This month we had a visit from Mark Bruss, a customer who first bought our products 4-5 years ago when he and his wife Dale started full-timing. At the time Mark had SDTV (standard definition television) with Dish Network and used a Dish 500 dish. He purchased our Standard-Duty tripod which we sold on eBay at that time.
When he upgraded to HDTV (high-definition television) and needed a larger dish (1000.2) he choose our Heavy-Duty model and has been using it ever since. It was Mark's improvement to the bungee hook that prompted us to use that modification on all future units. (Thanks Mark).
Mark and Dale have their own website where they keep detailed information on the many products they use while full-timing. Their site is a must-read for both the new-be and the old-timer as it has a wealth of valuable information. It also has a section regarding satellite TV.
While he visited us, Mark asked how I happened to get into this business. I explained that I was semi-retired about 6 years ago and had started to use our RV more often. I only had a single LNB Winegard dish and could only get partial programming with our Dish Network system, since it required I hit two satellites - 119 and 110.
I managed to pick up a used Dish 500 on eBay for next to nothing. It had a Dish Pro LNB and didn't work with my Legacy system. (I was really new to satellite TV at that time. What did I know from Dish Pro and Legacy??) Fortunately, a local installer agreed to swap my Dish Pro LNB for a Legacy at no charge and I was ready to try again.
My former dish, the Winegard, was tricky to set up at times. I didn't really know why until I started digging into the do's and don'ts of dish setup. The first "do" was to have a "plumb" mast starting point for the correct elevation setting. Previously, I would just set the dish on the ground and try to point it in the right direction, after setting the elevation to the correct setting. If the ground was not level (few campsites are.) I could be off 10 - 15 degrees depending on conditions.
So, my first challenge was to find a tripod with adjustable legs that could be leveled. I looked on eBay, Camping World, all the usual places - nothing out there. I happened to be in a Big Lots store in town and saw a camera tripod that was quite sturdy, had adjustable legs AND a built-in level. I wondered if I could modify it to mount my Dish 500 so I brought it home to try.
I spent about a week of tinkering and ended up with a tripod that nicely held my Dish 500. I could easily set it up and level it, regardless of how uneven the site was. It also had a hook underneath that allowed me to attach a bungee cord to anchor it down. Plumb problem solved - plumb easy!
The next problem I had when aiming my Winegard was that the satellite never ended up being where the compass said it was supposed to be. It was often as much as 20 degrees off that mark. I knew that the compass needle was being moved some by the steel of the dish but I didn't know just how much. Then I learned (from the internet) about other influences on the compass, like the RV and the tow vehicle, or ANY large, steel body. I needed to be able to aim the dish accurately but not have the compass anywhere near the dish at the time.
Then it occurred to me to think "outside the box". Don't aim the dish - aim the tripod. As luck would have it, the tripod I bought was made of aluminum and plastic - no steel what-so-ever. I modified the compass so it could sit on top of the tripod. Then I turned a reference point on the tripod to the direction I needed to point the dish. I set the tripod down and anchored it. I then mounted the dish and aligned the LNB to the reference point. BINGO! a signal the first time!
We went on several RV trips and my new system worked great. It even withstood ocean winds at the beach without losing signal lock. It occurred to me that this might be something I could sell on eBay so I went back to Big Lots and bought a few more tripods as a trial. I converted them and put them up for sale on eBay and now, six years later, the "eZee-Aim©" system we developed still works great.
I believe the point of my long story is - sometimes when you are having difficulty getting that signal, take a step backwards and go back to the basics - Are you starting with a plumb mast? Are you pointing the dish in the correct direction? (No large steel structures nearby.) Do you have a clear field of vision for the dish? No trees or hills in the way? If you eliminate some or all of the variables it makes finding that satellite much easier.
This month we introduced two new items for satellite users. Sometimes the simplest things can be hard to find, so we try to be your one stop shop.
3' RG-6 Cable - When using a satellite finder to tune in your dish you need to attach a short RG-6 cable to the LNB and run it down the LNB arm. Then you can attach it to the LNB input of the satellite finder, attaching the cable from the receiver to the Receiver input of the finder. $1.95/each.
Package of 3 - RG-6 Couplers - It's always a good idea to have a couple extra couplers around as they easily get misplaced. Use them to couple 2 lengths of coax together. Pkg. 3 - $1.50.