Earlier this winter I did a little informal survey of LinkUp’s techie followers on Facebook, asking this probing question:
“Ok, engineers – How do you clear your sat antenna from snow and/or ice? Any unconventional methods? Please share your ‘how to’s’.”
The answers ran the gamut; everything from spraying the antenna with Pam or with a super soaker filled with windshield wiper fluid, to attaching a large squeegee to a long handle.
The fact that people WILL resort to a non-stick cooking spray to keep their satellite dish operational speaks to the difficulty engineers and techs have in regions where harsh winter conditions are the norm.
The white fluffy stuff may be picturesque, but winter conditions – and the precipitation it brings with it – can be a hassle. Accumulating snow and ice often causes signal loss, knocking your network off the air.
So what’s an engineer to do? We are big fans of gently brushing off your antenna from accumulating snowfall with a broom. But there are options available. Let’s take a quick look at the different methods you can use to keep your antenna snow and ice-free:
Other than manually keeping the snow and ice off your dish, a snow cover is probably the most economical way to protect your antenna from accumulation. A simple snow cover that works as a shield against a build-up of snow may be all you need in your area. In most instances, the cover is most adequate. By design, it allows accumulating snow to simply slide off.
HEATERS / HEATING COVERS
Other mechanisms for keeping away the dreaded ice and accumulation include heaters installed on the antenna or heating systems within the snow cover. Though snow and ice can build up on the feed arm, feed horn and LNB, it typically will not affect the signal, since keeping the collecting of snow and ice off the antenna is all that is necessary to prevent signal loss. If, however, you’re looking for an additional level of security, some advanced LNB models now include heating for the feed horn.
There are a variety of satellite dish heaters and heating systems, and satellite antenna de-icing systems on the market today. Some satellite dish heaters simply stick on the front or back of the satellite dish and require just enough power to keep the dish face warm. Other satellite dish heating systems require a transformer to be installed in a dry location and a power cord installed to the dish.
Large, enterprise-grade dish de-icing systems use electric, propane or natural gas forced air heat to keep snow and ice from collecting on the dish surface. Some are even controlled by a thermostat that is only on when needed to prevent snow and ice buildup, while others include a moisture sensor that operates only in conditions where snow and ice can be present.
For your standard 3.8 meter C-band uplink, expect to see a range in pricing dependent upon the installation, the type of material used, and the method chosen to combat the elements. The range? Anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
There are de-ice systems on the market which use movement to keep snow and ice from becoming an issue. A dish cover with a vibrating motor prevents snow and ice buildup on your antenna. Specifically designed for larger antennas, these systems typically use less power than a heating element.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
If you do decide you need to invest in mechanical winter-proofing to keep your satellite antenna operational, you need to consider these points:
Do you have an adequate power source at the site of your antenna?
Do you need your unit to operate automatically?
Do you prefer to install it yourself, or have it installed for you?
A FINAL WORD OF CAUTION
Remember the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Manually knocking snow and ice off your antenna is not necessary unless you’ve lost signal lock. Wintery conditions can make accessing your satellite dish even more problematic, so use extra caution when attempting to remove snow and ice.
If you can safely access your satellite dish, simply brush the accumulated snow off with your hand, soft brush or small broom as needed. An extendable snow brush is also a handy tool for removing snow in hard to reach places.
What not to do: spraying your antenna with water – especially if you are shooting up from below the unit. You run the risk of getting water into the dish’s components and possibly damaging these parts.
Satellite is the most reliable content delivery system with the fewest points of failure. When you take a little time to prepare, you can eliminate costly downtime for your facility. When in doubt, make sure to reach out for additional experience.