Does anybody in Chicago use Direct TV ?

I live in the mountains east and north of Los Angeles. Last summer, when I bought my house, I ordered Direct TV for television service as the cable company wouldn’t even schedule an installation until the escrow closed. I had no complaints about the TV service until the first snowfall. I had no service for two days. I called Direct TV and was told that snow interferes with the signal (duh !) and there was nothing I could do. I had a satellite dish in New Hampshire in 1994 and 95 and never had this problem. The next time it happened I called and finally got to a technical advisor who told me there was such a thing as a dish heater but Direct TV had nothing to do with them. He did give the URL of several web sites where I could get more information. I found that I would have to install the heater myself and the dish is nearly 20 feet above my upper deck.

Last weekend, when we had more snow, Cindy was atop a seven foot ladder trying to reach the dish with a broom but with no luck. The angle of the dish, which catches more snow, makes it impossible to brush the dish off. It seems to be a pretty common problem and one would think that Direct TV would anticipate these problems in areas with substantial snowfall. Maybe they could supply the dish heaters as an option, especially when the dish is mounted so high. Then the technician could install both. The new dishes also seem to be of a deeper chord and the location may determine the angle of elevation to the satellite. New Hampshire is a higher latitude, as is Chicago, and that dish seemed to be flatter in my recollection.

Does anybody in Greater Chicago use these dishes and do they have problems like this ? I got nowhere with them, and am not about to try to install a heater on the dish, so I finally canceled and will have to pay a substantial early cancellation charge.

12 thoughts on “Does anybody in Chicago use Direct TV ?”

  1. Michael,

    My in-laws have it at their two flat on the North side. We ended up getting a dish cover for it. Not too bad to install (dish is about 15 feet up) and fairly effective. It’s not perfect – a couple times a year I have to use a long piece of conduit to knock a stubborn chunk of snow off. I remember reading somewhere that spraying the cover with a teflon spray (or PAM even) helps.

    Course, I never remember to do that until it’s too late, you know – two minutes to kick-off and I can either:

    A. dig out a ladder, find can of teflon spray, climb ladder in snow, clean cover and spray.


    B. Whack it with a stick.

    Oddly enough, option B has always won.

  2. here’s a possible solution. attach this product available at home depot(Thermwell Products Co., Inc 60 ft. Roof De-Icing Cable Kit
    Model # RC60 Store SKU # 125346 $49.32 /EA-Each) to the under side of the dish and its mounting pole. just make sure you have it plugged into a gfci protected outlet. also spray it with pam or silicone. good luck.

  3. West suburbs here. I haven’t had any problems with snow blocking reception (this is the fourth winter I’ve had DirecTV). I have had a problem with ice, but now spray it with cooking spray when the weather starts to turn cold and have found that to be effective. But it sounds like my dish is more accessible than yours, so I’m not sure how useful a tip that is.

  4. also you might try relocating the dish closer to the ground. the techs stuck it in the easiest place possible on the eisting building. i’m assuming a deck from where the picture is taken. build a pole off the railing and attach the dish to that.

  5. Michael, check out how far you are from broadcast towers. It would make sense for them to be on the east side of the metro area in your case, but one never knows.

    I recently went into my attic and installed an antenna (outside is better but inside was easier). Works like a champ. The best HD is pulled in over the airwaves. No $ is nice too. Depending upon your needs and desires it might be an option for you. I’m out in the country 30-35 miles away from the towers without hills and valleys to contend with but do have tall pine trees surrounding my place and the attic install with a smallish antenna worked for me.

  6. I think the way the dish faces almost straight up is part of the problem. I didn’t have a problem with the first dish. Anyway, cable is an option so I will pay the fee. I wish they hadn’t been so nasty about it. I also cancelled Verizon because the DSL was so slow. They waved the fee and apologized. I might go back to Verizon one day but not Direct TV.

  7. I live in Colorado and have DirecTV and lots of snow. When I first had a dish installed I had the same problem. My solution, as an earlier commenter stated, was to have the dish relocated to a spot where I could easily knock snow off the dish. I use an extended fiberglass painters pole with a WEBSTER Amazon ($6.23) brush on the end. I can reach the dish from my deck.

  8. One nice thing about cable is the internet connection is so much faster, but satellite seems to offer more hi def channels. I use Dish in west central Illinois and haven’t even had to knock the snow off during the last two snows. The Dish satellites I use are a little toward the west, which might make the little dish on the house a little more vertical than yours appears. (of course all the geo-synchronous satellites are somewhere over the equator)

    Looking at your picture, why not just get a couple pieces of one inch PVC to make a nice little pole that would reach. You could put a little elbow with another short piece and a small brush at the end to reach around and wipe the snow off. Brushing the snow a few times seems better than changing service … (Direct TV probably wants nothing to do with the liabilities of any electrical heater work). Dish has worked fine for me, they offer deals to new customers, and they could mount their dish at a better location for you for free.

    You could alternatively get a window cleaning pole, which would be useful for cleaning those nice big windows. But from my years of window cleaning I can say those top windows would be very difficult without a ladder. :) You can also get an elbow for the end which they used to have at Home Depot.—Angle-Adapter-Accessory.aspx

  9. You are correct that your latitude determines the elevation to the satellite. The closer you are to the equator, the higher in the sky it will be. Here in the UK most standard satellite dishes are aimed much lower, and snow build up is rarely a problem.

    Our dishes often need to be mounted fairly high on the property just to get a clear line of sight, in your case (as already suggested) it could most likely be moved nearer to the ground.

    One thing I can’t see from the picture is whether your dish is a “Prime Focus” type or “Offset Feed”. The former looks directly at the satellite, and will be more at risk of snow. An Offset Feed dish actually “looks up” some 28-30 degrees from where it appears to point, and so will seem to be more upright. The LNB is not mounted central, but to one side, hence the name.

    Here’s a picture of a Prime Focus dish:

    And here’s an Offset Feed dish:

    Both these dishes would be aiming in much the same direction, but the latter is clearly less at risk of snow build up.

  10. I know installers who just put a ring of incandescent Christmas lights around the perimeter of the dish. We are sort of mild in southern BC, usually, but it works well and is cheap.

  11. This dish is deeper than others I have had and points up at a sharp angle so the usefulness of a PVC pole, even with an elbow is iffy. My wife was able to get a broom above the rim but the depth of the dish defeated our attempts to brush the snow out of it. The house is surrounded by trees, tall ones, so the dish height is probably not a variable. I gave up and got the local cable service. The internet is much faster. The TV reception is fine. We are now experiencing 64 degrees today, although there is some remaining snow, so we haven’t had a test.

    I did watch the Bears in HD today beat up on my other team, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks.

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