A dish heater can save you from getting up on the roof

Don’t risk life and limb just to get a good TV signal.. 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.

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.

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.

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?

Solid Signal has several dish heaters available. Here are two of the best:

This Perfect Vision Hotshot Satellite Antenna Heating Element is designed to work with the 18″ round dishes used by both DISH and DIRECTV.

For those with HD service from DISH or DIRECTV, this Perfect Vision Hotshot Satellite Antenna Heating Element is designed to heat the whole surface of the reflector evenly.

You also may want to heat the LNB arm, if you live in a really cold climate. This Perfect Vision Hot Shot Arm Heater Add-on gives an extra level of heating. It attaches to the arm so it keeps snow off the arm, without any danger of damaging the sensitive electronics of the LNB itself.

Here’s a video that shows proper installation of a dish heater.


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.