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Fixes and a free replacement for snow-interrupted satellite TV

Satellite-TV reception can suffer from what's "rain fade" and "snow fade"--when precipitation in the air degrades the signal. But many satellite subscribers have suffered a different sort of snow fade during this weekend's epic blizzard: snow piling up right on the dish. Which can be a big problem with the Super Bowl kicking off in about six hours--one friend has already cancelled his game-watching party because of this, although the unplowed streets around his Herndon residence also factored into that call.

If your dish is close enough, try using a long pole, stick or broom to brush the snow off the dish and the "LNB" antenna mounted in front of it. If that's not possible, some viewers have reported that throwing enough snowballs at the dish and LNB can shake the snow loose. Or you could try to go out on the roof and take care of things firsthand... but, please, be careful up there. Very careful.

Another option, if you have a digital TV or converter box and an antenna, is to watch the game off the air for free. CBS affiliate WUSA will be broadcasting the game, and it recently increased the power of its transmission. If you can't get your satellite reception in gear--or if your cable's gone out--try tuning into channel 9.1 or having your tuner rescan the airwaves to pick up that channel. You'll need a VHF antenna, such as one with adjustable rabbit ears, to pick up this signal; an indoor antenna can work in many spots within a few miles of WUSA's transmitter in Tenleytown, while farther out you may need an attic or rooftop antenna.

Got other tips for working around snow-driven TV and telecom issues? Share them in the comments....

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 7, 2010; 12:43 PM ET
Categories:  TV , Tips  
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It's not just snowy dishes causing TV issues, my Comcast cable is out. Not surprised, power and Verizon restored and it's Comcast screwing up my entertainment options!

I wish I had a dish to clean off.

Posted by: Kev29 | February 7, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Warm water in a super soaker water gun works for us to clear off our dish.

Posted by: SandyZ1 | February 7, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

We are having this problem with our dish, but found that only the HD service is affected--the other box in the house, which is not HD, works fine. I called DirecTV, and they said that sometimes a blocked dish can still receive a standard signal, but not an HD signal (different satellites involved, more data to process and receive for HD). We changed the settings on the HD box to tune only non-HD channels, and everything works. It's not HD, but it's not error message 771 either!

Posted by: enielson | February 7, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

About 14 years ago, when I lived in Utah, I had a DirectTv dish. Mounted it below the eaves so that it wouldn't get snowed in.

Posted by: wiredog | February 7, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I had the problem yesterday with my Dish TV reception and couldn't figure out what the problem was since it wasn't snowing hard any longer. I hadn't thought about snow piling up in the dish itself (local channels came through OK, though, even though I don't have an antenna and can't get OTA HD channels).

Being a native of Indianapolis I don't want to miss the SuperBowl!

Posted by: GWGOLDB | February 7, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Take a garden hose and hose the dish off. You might have to increase your water pressure temporarily as I had to, but then just drop the pressure back down after your dish is clear (do not recommend this if you do not have a pressure meter - you'll have no idea how high you are getting the pressure or how well you have restored the pressure afterwards.) Get to the highest (and closest) place possible, and just pound it until the snow melts/gets blown away by the water stream. Try not to miss the dish, as this adds weight to the snow on the roof.

Posted by: dhairfield | February 7, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

how can a company that is poised to buy NBC-Universal not even be able to have service in the nation's capitol on super bowl sunday?

Posted by: mediajunky | February 7, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Enough snowballs worked for me. And thanks to the sunshine, the job got finished.

Posted by: SecurityThor | February 7, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

It may also be the cable leading from the dish to your splitter. We have an older house so the splitter is at the side of the house, and the cable is strung over the roof. We found that wet snow can degrade the service i.e. some but not all channels work. Shaking them loose will do the trick - unless they're frozen. Then be careful not to rip them apart.

Posted by: cpwdc | February 7, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why and I guess I'm lucky, but the only time our signal started to flicker (DirecTV HD package with larger oval dish) was Friday evening when it just started snowing hard. I went out and brushed it off, and it never went out again - even the next day when it was absolutely covered in snow, it never so much as flickered once.

Posted by: MacGruber | February 7, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Today's sun did the trick here in Annandale, just some spotty outage on some channels (HBO, AMC, TCM, etc) but the locals and the ESPN family of networks came in fine, HD and all, through the storm.

Super soaker with warm water sounded like the best idea here, thanks for the tip; I'll store that in the ol' cranium computer for future use.

Posted by: AnnandaleAnnie | February 7, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Before the snow, spray the dish with cooking spray (like "Pam"). It help prevent snow from sticking, too.

Posted by: adamg | February 8, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

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