There are two satellite TV services available in Canada,
Expressvu and Star-Choice. Expressvu dishes are smallest (18") and
because their technology is the same as USA, simple roof mounted dishes
are available for
RV's. The Star choice dish is larger ( round 24") or elliptical, and
only motorized automatic roof mounts are available commercially for
I provide details on how to build your own manual rooftop Star Choice dish in a later pararaph.
2012 NEWS: BELL CUTS OFF USA SERVICE TO ALL CUSTOMERS!
Taking your legal Canadian satellite system to the USA can present some complications. The Bell (Expressvu) people have been quite rude if you enquire about using your legally paid Canadian satellite out of the country. Persons who winter elsewhere will do it anyway. Do not expect any understanding, and you could be cut off, but still be billed. Now they have come up with a novel way to upset customers. In 2012 the Bell satellite antenna beam has been changed so that no matter what size dish, Bell customers in the USA cannot receive any signal at all.
If you are going to the USA for the winter don't wait to change to Shaw until you are south with a no longer functioning Bell system. You won't be able to change providers while there.
I also stumbled across a blog rv's tail about Shaw's service
now with old vs new receiver's as well as the future changes....
Elevations, and Azimuth for selected cities in a lookup file that can be printed and kept for reference
VE3LGS EASY METHOD with GARMIN GPS
Since the above is a DOS program, many users can no longer run this software. I have discovered an easier method of calculating elevation angles for TV satellites over the equator.
I recently purchased a small handheld Garmin Nuvi GPS. This
has main highways down to backwoods road maps built in for most of
North America. Really handy in unfamiliar towns.
You can drive straight to a laundromat in Arizona or a Beer store in
Anyway, I digress.
What is really helpful for satellite aiming, is its built-in
ability to calculate
great circle distance and bearing to any point on earth. As far as I
can tell, this function is only available with a Garmin GPS.
Enter the location of your satellite into your GPS favourites
list. In the case of the Star
Choice primary satellite it is 0.0 deg N, 107.3 deg W. Name it and
Now set your System/Settings/Units to kilometers. Every time you
aiming information for this satellite go to your favourites list, page
that satellite. Write down the distance from your location in km. and
Divide the distance by 100 and subtract from 88. This is the elevation angle. Easy.
If you want the direction of the satellite set tools/navigation to "OFF ROAD" and the magenta line is the bearing.
In my case, from home, this is 5772km@SW. Subtract 57.72 from 88 gives 30.28. Set your dish elevation to aprox 30 deg and point South West. If your mounting post is vertical, rotate to peak signal and you will be watching TV.
While some of the information here is specific to Canadians, US RV users might find it useful as well. The computer program will allow you to find any of the Echostar Satellites as well as all the Canadian Satellites. The US satellites are located at 110W and 119W, the main Expressvu at 91W and the Primary Star Choice at 107.3W.
And here are links to helpful sites with more information,
mostly for USA users.
Bearings and dish sizes for Star Choice and Expressvu
Star Choice Basic Package
STAR CHOICE USA LIST with skew
* Simple Dish Tripod
In forested campgrounds, we look for shade and this means we must use a tripod mounted dish, to clear trees. For a lightweight Tripod use a cheap plastic camera tripod. Remove the Camera head, and replace with a 1 1/4 inch ABS PIPE hose clamped to the center column. I glued a bubble level to the top of the ABS pipe and this gives me one less item to find, and setup is easier.. Adjust level bubble by adjusting leg length on tripod.
* I have two cables, 30 ft and 50 ft. Only once in North Maine woods did I need more to clear the trees and had to move to a different camp.
* Use RG59 Coax if you are going to be moving often, RG6 if more permanent. RG59 will eventually pick up water and develop more losses than RG6. You can tell this is happening when the higher numbered transponders start losing signal strength. New coax should fix it or buy one of those inline satellite preamps from Radio Shack. Remember, it must be inserted out at the antenna to do any good.
* Change the dish elevation nuts to wing-nuts, or those black threaded knobs at Tractor Supply to make elevation adjustment easier.
* Keep the pipe clamp slightly slack to allow slip fitting the dish onto the mount. They do not really need to be tightened for camping setups when travelling with only short stops.
* On the side of your dish mount is an engraved scale for elevation setting. The standard Expressvu dish uses a line forward of the adjust bolt as a setting point, while the Star Choice dish uses the bolt center line. Check your manual.
* I also do not install the LNBF head bolt so I can store the LNBF separately. Just have a short 3' coax attached to the LNBF which I slip into the arm.
* The 3'junction provides a place to connect a Satfinder meter (available from Radio Shack). This Satfinder is a must have, to save setup time.
* Remove the Satfinder after setup to give you 5-8 more Strength units.
* I use slip on connectors at the meter joint to make connections even faster.
* It is also possible to drill out one of the spot welds on opposite sides of the LNB arm and insert a bolt, to make a folding arm. I used the lower one so that the dish and arm lay flat, face down, stretched out, when stored. Use the upper one if you want to fold the arm against the dish. The remaining pair of spot welds are then used as detents, or insert a cotter pin to hold the folding arm in the correct position when set up to receive. It works well.
With the elliptical dish the arm is removed simply with one bolt and can then be stored flat.
* I use three plastic topped "nail like" tent pegs from Canadian Tire to spike the tripod to the ground and keep the dish from toppling over in the wind. Hook them over or drill holes in the the leg braces and hammer into the ground. Use Rocks in places with no soil like North Maine or Newfoundland. Screw anchors only work in some soil, and the bungee cords usually supplied are too stretchy in high winds.
* If you are having problems with tree branch or other interference, try sighting the beam. Look out along either side of the dish arm, sighting a line from the bottom of the dish to the top of label on the LNBF arm (up 1-2"). This gives a very good approximation of the view which is slightly offset upwards from what appears to be the dish centre. Sighting will make it easier to know where to move to miss a tree branch. We often use this trick to find that narrow hole in forest cover with the only view of the satellite. (Easier in South USA than Canada because of the higher angle.).
* If you want to try a temporary roof mount, use a piece of 1 1/4" ABS pipe and hose clamp it to your ladder so that it stands vertical when you are level. Pop the dish onto this pipe when parked ( preset at the correct elevation angle) and rotate to peak the signal. Lock in place securely because your wind exposure is much higher at rooftop.
* We used a small 200watt inverter to feed only the Expressvu
Satellite Box from 12 volt.
The Expressvu receiver takes 1.85 amps from the 12 volt system, the
only 1 amp. Unplug the 12 volts or provide a swith in either to turn
the receiver off, because it still draws full current continuously from
even when it is turned off at the receiver.
One Bounder seen in Arizona has his roof mounted dish down on one side of the centre line of his sloped rubber roof. This means it is mounted tilted sideways and any rotation of the dish also changes elevation. It is driving the owner crazy trying to set up at each new site. I do not know if this is a dealer or a manufacturer screw up. But if you have choice, make sure yours is mounted on the centre line of your curved roof. Or buy a tripod.
I now have some 6 years experience with Star Choice. Expressvu cut me off while away in the winter of 2003\04. In order to get reconnected they took $150 from my credit card without asking, as a credit. Other billing errors drove me crazy trying to get in touch. Eventually I gave up. Trying to contact them was a nightmare.
I have switched to Star Choice. From my preliminary tests the 317 receiver takes only 0.95 amps compared with 1.85 for Expressvu. The smaller 207 receiver is a 12volt unit with a 110/12 volt power block. The block attached can be removed and the unit is connected directly to 12 volts. An adapter cable can be bought at Radio Shack for $10. No need for an inverter. WoW! This is a big bonus for solar powered systems, such as ours. As well, the Star Choice picture is much clearer, as Expressvu was getting noticeably fuzzier as they added extra channels. Star Choice won't cut you off as a legitimate paying Canadian customer who occasionally mobiles into USA.
HOW TO BUILD A MANUAL ROOFTOP STAR-CHOICE DISH
The Star Choice dishes in general are larger and need much
more alignment because the signals are linearly polarized. This also
makes the use of
RV rooftop mounted antennas, difficult because as you travel west the
skew has to be changed manually to match the viewed polarity of the
satellite antnnas. But I have
mine working in case you want to try. I bought an
Antenna-Tek RV Manual
Dish and removed the supplied 18 inch dish and arm for
In it's place, I mounted a 24 inch round Star- Choice dish. Two bolt holes almost line up, just needing slight hole elongation of the bracket. For the other two, new holes must be drilled in the dish.
Using the arm from the Star choice dish I cut off 1 3/4 inches, Drilled a pivot hole and mounted the LNB. To set the correct arm angle of 75 degrees to the dish I attached two wire-rope 3/16 inch bulldogs around the stop bolt. Rotating the stop bolt rotates the bulldogs which act like a cam to set the angle. Make a template of the Dish and arm before you dismantle the existing dish and use it to set the angle on the new installation.
You may have to try a few Star Choice dealers to find an old working dish. They usually scrap them, but some still have a junk pile of dishes replaced by the newer dual satellite elliptical dishes. Sure you you have to reaim slightly (easy) for the French Channels or the HDTV channels but I only use the small 12 volt receiver in the RV and it does not have HD.
If you are only going to be in Canada, the signals are strong enough to use an 18 inch dish with Star Choice, Just find a used LNB for a round dish and fit it to the arm. The exchange is simple.
One thing to remember is that with the round dish there are several types of LNB's. Your receiver V-code must be re-programmed to match the LNB or you will miss some channels. Phone Star Choice service and they will zap your receiver to match the LNB. If it is a round LNB this may make your receiver now have problems with the elliptical dish you probably use at home. Star Choice will re-zap when asked. But I have found that the only LNB that works with both with no changes is a rectangular shaped LNB from California Amplifier model #150284. That is the one you want.
Good luck and let me know of your success.
I have used my Manual rooftop installation across Canada, Alaska, and Southern Florida. In Inuvik, NWT, we watched the latest "Ice Road Truckers" while all US systems, and Expressvu would not work..
The elliptical dish is tricky to aim, and if you can get an older round dish, it has more gain and is much easier to hit one satellite.
If all this is too much, try this site which sells a Star
Choice - automatic mobile antenna
Motosat HD-SC2 for Star Choice
Use a tripod and learn how to point manually.
I again suggest purchasing a tuning meter to give you an idea
of when you are close.
The problem with sighting the satellite with Star Choice is the
location of the two satellites straddling the much stronger Echostar
satellite at 110 deg W.
The primary Star Choice satellite is at 107.3W and the secondary is at
The primary carries all the channels in the basic package and is the
one you are interested in. The second is mostly French programming and
I have found that setting the channel to 508 when aiming the Star Choice dish gives you an easier setup. If the programming comes in as French, you are on the 111 satellite. Just aim slightly left and up a hair and you lock onto the correct satellite at 107.3. .
There has been a lot of recent interest in how to have an
interconnct to the internet from the middle of the Arizona desert or in
the backwoods of Ontario.
Have a look at
Tripod Mounted Internet and if $1800 equipment cost and 60$ a month is not a problem, this is the way to go.
Another Satellite service which makes your day in the outback with your motorhome a lot more pleasant is Mobile Satellite Radio
With this system you won't be always tuning for your choice of radio station as you cross the country. Have a look next time you are in Best Buy or Circuit City. $100-200 for equipment and $10-$12 per month for service.
I like the idea of FM output so that the existing vehicle radios can be used to listen without mods. It also means you can have the RV parked in the driveway and listen on the house radio.
Both Sirius and XM now broadcast to Canadians
While XM has sold more sets, it is my opinion that the Sirius system which uses satellites in elliptical orbits may offer better service for Rvers in more places than XM. With XM you need to be able to see the satellite "hot spot" to the south over the equator from your location and this will always be more difficult than receiving any one of the several Sirius satellites moving directly overhead. XM does not work well in the north while Sirius has good coverage to Whitehorse. but signals are lost for a few hours a day as you travel north to Alaska. I have had a lot of feedback on this problem and most users complain of signal dropouts from tree or building interference when deep into Canada. XM may be workable only if carefully parked in Newfoundland or Yukon so they are going to have lots of technical problems. My best bet for complete mobile coverage would be Sirius. Good in Newfoundland, and Yukon. XM gets hard to get in Northern Quebec at James Bay, but is useable when parked. It is a good thing the trees are short there.
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