Does a dish heater actually work?

With winter coming quickly, you might be thinking about a dish heater. But of course your first question is, does it work? There’s a simple answer:

It sure does.

If you live in a part of the country where it snows (and here in Novi, MI it snows a lot) you may have reservations about installing satellite service. You might have heard that if snow covers the dish, it doesn’t work. That’s true. Signals get scattered by the snow very easily.

What’s the best way to get snow off a dish?

You may have friends who use a broom to get the snow off the dish. The problem there is over time all that sweeping throws the dish out of alignment. Others rely on substances like WD-40 or Rain-X to keep the snow from sticking. These solutions work some of the time but if there’s enough snow, especially wet snow, it’s going to stick, period.

Just get a dish heater

The best solution is a dish heater. A dish heater is a simple heating element that is designed to stick to your dish, and because the dish itself is made of metal, the whole reflector warms up evenly, melting snow and ice and keeping the signal coming in loud and clear.

Installing a dish heater is easy. A lot of people just put it right on the front of the dish. It’s designed to work well mounted on the back too, due to the holes and slots built into it. You’d think it would be better one way or the other, but there’s really no difference.

Which of course leads to the question…

Why doesn’t the dish heater block the signal… it’s covering the dish, right?

That question is easy to answer. A lot of people think the big flat part of a satellite dish does all the work. In fact, the reflector (as it is called) is more like an autofocus for the part that does all the work. That’s called the LNB and it’s that part that sticks out front. The reflector takes all the signals and points them toward the LNB. By using a large reflector you get a stronger signal than you would get by just pointing the LNB toward the sky.

So really the reflector isn’t much more than a dumb piece of metal. It’s a precision-made dumb piece of metal, but really, anything that reflects a signal will do a good job. The dish heater sticks closely to the reflector and doesn’t change its shape. It’s made of metal, too, and it does just as good of a job reflecting those signals at the LNB.

Is a dish heater energy efficient?

Well, as energy efficient as a big heater on your roof is going to be, anyway. A dish heater uses a low-voltage power supply and turns on automatically only when it is needed. It turns off when the dish is warm enough to melt snow by itself. The heater’s 24-volt power supply (which should be placed indoors) and uses a little more energy than a 100-watt incandescent bulb. Of course, like any electrical appliance proper grounding is essential. If there is a short circuit the heater should trip the circuit breaker or fuse to which it’s connected, and the heat it generates should be no more than the temperature of your roof on a summer day, so it’s not likely to cause a fire.

Is there a downside to a dish heater?

If there’s any downside at all, it’s the cost to buy one. A good dish heater will cost over $100, but for that you get a quality product that is designed to be safe and effective. Dish heater technology is mature, so the heater you get today should provide years of service with no problems. The LNB will probably wear out before the heater does.

Is a dish heater reusable?

The heater sticks to the reflector with heavy duty adhesive so it can’t be reused. However, since there are no plans for changes to the current dish designs from DIRECTV or DISH, you should be safe for quite a while. The only electronic component on a dish is the LNB, so unless the reflector itself is damaged (for example by hail or flying debris) the LNB is the only part that should need to be replaced if there is a problem.

What dish heaters are recommended?

In the past, there were several models of dish heater. This worked well but occasionally we had cases where people would buy the wrong one. They wouldn’t realize it until after they’d stuck it on and at that point it’s non-returnable.

To make things easier, we offer this Perfect Vision Universal Dish Heater. It’s designed to work with all the popular dishes in the US. When used on the front of the reflector, it will work with practically any dish that it fits on.

Why worry about satellite TV reception in the winter? Now’s the perfect time to get and install a dish heater! Shop for one at Solid Signal.  If you have questions, just call us during East Coast business hours at 888-233-7563!


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.