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Using a home DIRECTV receiver in RV to watch tv

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If you’re heading out on a road trip in your RV, you might be wondering: Can I use my home DIRECTV receiver in my RV? You can connect your home DIRECTV receiver to your vehicle’s satellite dish. You don’t have to pay extra for this because the service is included with your home package. 

Your channels will be more limited on the road, but you’ll still have plenty of choices. This reduction of channels isn’t due to DIRECTV but, rather, is because of FCC regulations regarding where certain programs can be streamed.

Don’t worry, though; you’ll still have around 185 channels to enjoy in your RV, so you're sure to find something you want to watch. 

There are some drawbacks to using your home DIRECTV receiver in your RV, but I’ll go through them in this article to help you decide the best action plan for you. 

Drawbacks of Using Your Home DIRECTV Receiver in Your RV

1. Your House Sitter is Gonna Be Mad

If you take the receiver from your home and put it in your RV, your home TV will not work. That’s fine if everyone is going on holiday together, but if you’re leaving someone behind or asking someone to house sit for you, they could get pretty annoyed that they won’t be able to watch TV until you get back. 

2. You’ll Have Fewer Channels 

If you are counting on watching a specific sports game or TV program, you should double-check that you can actually watch it on the road. Many channels work only in a particular region and won’t be accessible once you get too far from home. 

If your sports team made it to the finals for the first time in a decade, don’t leave seeing that game to chance! On the DIRECTV website, you’ll be able to find information about exactly which channels work on the road.

3. Set-Up Could Be an Issue

If you travel regularly, it might make sense to get a separate receiver for your RV, so you don’t constantly have to set it up between your home and vehicle.

Remember: It’s okay to have a receiver at home and a receiver in your RV as part of one account. You just can’t have one account servicing two stationary homes.

For example, you can’t have a receiver at home and one at your countryside cabin on the same account. 

Price of a DIRECTV Package

The price of a DIRECTV package depends on which one you choose. The Choice package currently costs $69.99 a month, and the Premier package costs $134.99 a month.

You can also get a Direct Network Services Package, which allows you to watch some local channels on the move, but it will cost you an additional fee on top of what you are already paying. 

Getting an Antenna Fitted

Your DIRECTV receiver will not work without an antenna to pick up the signal it needs. Some RVs will already have this installed, but otherwise, you need to sort it out yourself.

You also need to connect the receiver to the antenna, which is really simple to do; just check the instructions that come with the antenna that you choose. 

Just so you know, you can’t buy antennas from DIRECTV. You have to get them from an authorized distributor (Signal Connect, KVH Industries, Winegard, or KING).

KING Jack Directional OTA Antenna
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Types of Antenna

Please note that I’m using the words “dish” and “antenna” interchangeably because they are the same thing!

Tripod Mounted Dish 

A tripod mounted dish is an antenna set up on a tripod, which you fold away and store whenever you are driving. When you arrive at each stop, you can pop it on the floor outside or on the roof. Just make sure you don’t drive off with it still balancing up there!

Auto Find Satellite Dish

An auto find satellite dish is permanently mounted to the roof of your RV and will automatically position itself in the best place to get a signal. 

This means you can watch channels on the move. Obviously, you shouldn’t catch up on TV whilst driving, but it can be a useful way to keep the kids entertained.

Alternatively, you might want to listen to music channels or sports games as you drive. 

Slim Profile Versus Rounded Dish 

Round dishes are easier to set up, and they find a signal super quickly, but you’ll be able to watch HD television only if you have a Slim Profile Antenna.

Personally, I don’t think HD matters in an RV because your TV is probably not going to be big enough for you to notice the difference. 

Open-Faced vs Domed Dishes

Open-faced dishes don’t handle foul weather as well, and you have to take them down completely before driving to your next stop. Domed dishes are better protected and can be left on the roof while you travel. 

A Note on the Internet

If you’re not quite sure whether it’s worth getting a satellite for your DIRECTV receiver, bear in mind that you can use satellites to access the internet, too. 

Suppose you’re planning on doing remote work. In that case, you need to have a decent signal. I’d recommend that you invest in a satellite rather than relying purely on your phone hotspot or public Wi-Fi zones. 

A good mobile internet connection is particularly important in the time of COVID, when many coffee shops and libraries—which digital nomads typically use—are closed to the public. 

Troubleshooting Your DIRECTV Receiver 

Signal Issues

If you’re unable to pick up a decent television signal, the problem will be with your satellite dish rather than your DIRECTV receiver. 

The best way to get a good signal is to point your dishes to the south, as the satellites that DIRECTV relies on are over the equator.

You can also check the cable between your TV and antenna. The cable may need to be screwed in more securely to the antenna, which you can normally do by hand. 

You should also look out for cracked or damaged cables and replace them if necessary. 

Signal strength will be affected by things like buildings, trees, mountains, and valleys, so you might simply be in an area that is too remote and wild.

If this is the case, I advise that you turn off the TV and go for a walk in the forest. (Or you can pack up and head towards civilization, but I know which one I would choose!)

The weather can also affect the signal, and there isn’t much you can do about this. If you’re in a mountainous climate, you’ll be able to take a short drive to descend a bit and give it another go.

Otherwise, you just might have to wait for the foul weather to pass.

Slave Units 

If your DIRECTV receiver isn’t working, there’s something simple you can try to sort it out. 

You might have multiple receivers in your home, but only one of them is the primary receiver. The other units are known as ‘slave units.’ (Kinda sad, I know. I wish they had a less horrible name!)

The slave units can’t be used in your RV because they don’t give out any power that the satellite dish needs to work. So, if nothing is happening, your most straightforward fix is to try any other receivers you have in your home and see if any of them will do the trick. 

If you’re still having problems, call the team at DIRECTV and they’ll be happy to help you. The technical support number is 800.531.5000, and it’s available 24/7.

Alternatives to DIRECTV

Other providers are out there, but DIRECTV is the best known and is first in customer satisfaction in the USA.

Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Disney+, and Hulu are all possibilities, but you’ll need an account with them and an internet connection. 

The good thing about these alternative streaming services is that they are cheaper than DIRECTV, and there are still loads of films and series for you to binge on.

The drawback is that you can’t watch live TV, and you don’t have all the channels that you would with DIRECTV. 

If you’re addicted to a particular TV show and can’t bear to miss the finale, DIRECTV will be the better choice, but at a considerable price!

More Ways to Watch TV in Your RV

Hotspotting Your Phone

You don’t need to have a satellite dish and a ton of channels. Personally, I have a Netflix account (well, my sister has the account, and I get the pleasure of being a Netflix parasite), which I use to watch TV on my laptop. I just use my phone as a hotspot to get the internet.

To do this, head over to your mobile phone settings and find tethering and mobile hotspots. Then put it on and pop your phone near a window or on the roof. You can now use the internet from your mobile provider on your laptop. 

What’s nice about hot-spotting your phone for the internet is that it’s reasonably easy to do in any country.

I have an old phone I keep for this. Whenever I take my van to a new country, I buy a prepaid sim loaded with internet and pop it into the phone. I can frequently get enough internet for the month for around $30, but I don’t watch loads of TV. You will quickly run out of internet if you have it on constantly. 

The drawback of hot-spotting your phone for streaming services is that your mobile receiver isn't as strong as your satellite, so it’s not always possible to get a signal.

Personally, I don’t mind having nights away from the internet, and it actually gives me a nice break from the screen, but if there’s something important you want to watch on TV, you might not want to leave it to chance with your hotspot. 

Portable DVD Players 

Another option is a portable DVD player. 

I still remember when these were the coolest things EVER, so it’s funny that they seem so retro to me now. For around $100, you can get a nice and compact DVD player, which is perfect for the kids to entertain themselves on the road.

You don’t have to worry about signals or installation, but you’ll have to bring along DVDs, which could take up space. (At least, that way, you know what the kids are watching and don’t have to worry about monitoring the channels!)

Getting a VPN 

People often ask me whether it’s worth getting a VPN for an RV, so I thought I’d say a few words on this. 

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, and it means that you can stream television from foreign countries because it hides your computer’s (or mobile phone’s) location. 

There is nothing illegal about this, so you don’t need to worry about that. A VPN also protects your privacy and prevents people from stealing your bank details online, which is a bonus. 

You need only one VPN per device, so you can use it at home as well as on the road. 

So, is a VPN worth it for an RV? For me, it definitely is. 

I’m living in France, and I really miss all the free streaming services in the UK. BBC iPlayer and 4OD are packed with amazing films and TV that you can watch from anywhere in the world—or if you have a VPN.

I speak fluent French, but I want to relax with my native language when I put on the telly, so it’s worth $10 a month to me!

If you get DIRECTV and will be staying in the USA, a VPN isn’t worth it because you’ve already got so many channels to watch. If you want to save money, it makes sense to get a VPN instead of DIRECTV and enjoy free streaming services. 

If you are taking your RV out of the USA, you probably DO want to get a VPN. You can keep watching all the channels abroad, and it will stop you from wasting money on a subscription that you aren’t using. 

Ultimate Movies for a Road Trip in Your RV

You’re all set up with your antenna and your streaming service. Now it’s time to crack open a beer and watch an ultimate road trip movie. 

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Into the Wild 

Into the Wild is a 2007 film that’s based on a true story. Chris McCandless gave away all of his possessions to hitchhike across America and make a new life in the wilderness.

This film has inspired people all over the world to take to the open road and live a simpler life. It’s a profoundly moving film to watch on your next RV adventure. 

2. Wild 

Wild is another film that has touched me deeply. It stars Reece Witherspoon and is based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed. A recently divorced woman sets out to hike 1,100 miles alone, discovering herself with each step she takes through the wilderness.

This film is perfect for us RVers who are looking for adventure, but be careful—you might end up trading in your RV for a tent and hitting the Pacific Trail with a backpack. You’ve been warned!

3. Thelma and Louise

I couldn’t not mention Thelma and Louise here!

This is an absolute classic road trip film, about two friends who flee to Mexico after one of them kills a man in self-defense. You’ll notice a very young Brad Pitt in the movie; apparently, he got cast only because the producers were desperate. It worked out pretty well for him in the end!

4. Nomadland

The final film that I’m suggesting for your next RV trip is a new release. Nomadland follows the story of a woman who loses everything in the recession. At the age of 60, she sets out through the American West as a Vandwellor.

At the moment, you can catch this film on HULU, but it might become available on other streaming services in the future. 

Final Thoughts 

By now, I think I’ve told you everything you need to know about DIRECTV and other streaming services! So, when someone asks you, “Can I use my home DIRECTV in my RV?”, you know the answer.

I’m no expert myself, so if you have any technical doubts, it’s always best to call the team at DIRECTV for up-to-date advice. 

Don’t forget that you’ll need an antenna to use DIRECTV; you can get one from an authorized distributor like Signal Connect, KVH Industries, Winegard, and KING. 

I hope you found this article helpful, and I wish you many happy popcorn and movie nights on your next road trip in your RV!

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Rachel Horne - Writer for the camper lifestyle

Rachel Horne

Rachel is a freelance adventure writer and founder of Highly Sensitive Nomad. When she isn’t writing, she can be found wild camping in the mountains and swimming in the lakes of Europe.