DIRECTV systems work differently from any other satellite system in the world. Of course DIRECTV is the most popular satellite system in history so they are sort of a standard unto themselves. One of the things that sets DIRECTV systems apart from other satellite systems is the dish.
This is a typical DIRECTV dish. Unlike dishes for global use it’s round and has a very complex LNB system. (The LNB is the front part.) In addition to a very sensitive receiving antenna, the LNB also contains an amplifier, “block downconverter,” and built-in multiswitch. This is a very fancy little bit of equipment considering its low price.
Everything needs power, of course
None of the magic of a satellite dish happens without power. In a traditional satellite system, the receiver supplies the power. However in DIRECTV systems, there’s a separate power inserter. This makes it possible for the dish to get exactly what it needs regardless of the number of receivers or their distance from the dish.
The PI-29Z Power Inserter
I guarantee you have one of these in your home somewhere. It’s the PI-29Z power inserter and it’s a critical part of any DIRECTV system. It supplies power to the dish. That’s its big purpose in life. It takes in 110 volts of AC power and puts 29 volts of DC power out of its “Power to SWM” port.
Why can’t receivers just power the dish?
In older DIRECTV and DISH systems, as well as satellite systems from the rest of the world, the receiver does power the dish. Older DIRECTV receivers are capable of putting out 18 volts to power an older dish. Newer receivers and Genie equipment doesn’t do this.
The DIRECTV dish requires a minimum of 16 volts at the dish and prefers 21 volts. Since the amount of current drops as it goes over a coaxial cable, the power inserter is set at 29 volts to make sure that at least 21 volts gets to the dish.
Is your power inserter black instead of grey?
For years, DIRECTV put out a black power inserter that only provided 21 volts. This was enough for an older dish but not enough for today’s equipment. If you still have one of these, I would replace it immediately with a PI-29Z.
Why get a spare power inserter?
Because stuff happens. You run over a cord or you bend something or sometimes this stuff just stops working. You can’t just go out and buy one at the local Walmart, and shipping sometimes takes a little while. Buying one now and keeping it in the closet falls into the category of “cheap insurance. ”
By the way, avoid the “SIGNAL TO IRD” port.
As I say in our most popular article, you should avoid the “Signal to IRD” port. (IRD is an old term for satellite receiver.) If you really want to, you can connect the power inserter to the red port on a splitter then connect a receiver to that “Signal to IRD” port. But be careful because if you connect a receiver to “Power to SWM” instead you’ll fry the receiver. So, it’s better just not to attach a receiver to a power inserter, ever.