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TV in the Motorhome

TVs have always been very popular in motorhomes. Some are prissy about watching TV in the van, but most of us do. A TV in your motorhome can provide welcome relaxation after a long day’s travel or help you wind down after a hard day at the beach or a day of exploration. They are also essential for sports and soap fans who need their fix no matter where they are. 

A potted History

Over the years, I’ve seen every type of attempt at getting moving pictures into the van. Some of these were desperate as partners moaned if they couldn’t keep up with their latest soap opera. 

I once saw a guy move his large tag axle van three times. His wife was not happy, while he tried to ensure there were no tree branches between his dish and a satellite signal carrying moving images of Dot Cotton. 

The Early Days

30 years ago, roof top aerials were always quite useless, so it was commonplace to see regular “BBC2 aerials” strapped to broom handles that were then strapped to a rear ladder with coax cable entering the van through windows or vents.  

Fixed aerials and dishes

Roof top ariels got a bit better, they were often fitted from new. The latest omni directional aerials were great; then the satellite dish came along. 

Satellite Dishes

Everyone lusted after these space age setups, dishes that folded down on top of the roof, and at the flick of a switch, would pop-up and start looking for a signal. Seemed everyone either had one or wanted one. It became common for people to swap their Sky-Box from house to van and back every trip.  

Once on site, even before a beer was poured, the Sat dish would be sent up. In those early days, owners would step outside watching it change elevation and spin, hoping it would stop and lock on, which it did three times out of five. 

Not so with the modern systems. Computer controlled, know where they are, know where the satellite is supposed to be, they remember where it was in the sky yesterday and they log on quicker than you can pour a beer. 

Times Change The Satellite Dish is Dead

By 2010, it seemed every other van on a rally field had a dish on the roof, big, small, round, square, domed. Then, in a few short years, like dinosaurs, they just disappeared. Ten Years later, nn a 2020 Rally field of 100 vans and you might have seen just one dish up. It wasn’t a meteor that did for the Sat-dish; it was streaming.

We were all logged on to the internet watching our TV via dongles and phones on our laptops, iPads or small TVs. The Sat Dish was dead, or so we thought!  Read on. 

What TV should I buy today?

Or should that be, do I need to buy a TV at all? You can watch television programs on a TV, a computer laptop or tablet. If you watch a lot, then a dedicated TV is a good idea. Most motorhomes are pre-wired to have one.

If you always camp on sites with a hookup, or you have an inverter setup in your van,(An inverter converts your 12v battery power into 240v, the same as you have at home) you can buy a cheap and cheerful, regular 240v TV. 

Or better, you could opt for a 12v TV that will work directly from a cigarette lighter socket in your van. There are lots of 12v TVs that are made specifically for motorhomes. They are a littler more expensive but the benefits can be worth it.

Designed to use as little power as possible, as well as being robust enough to withstand all that bouncing around in the back of the van. The better makes are Avtex, Vision Plus and Cello.  

TV Signals

Most have stopped faffing with a TV setup that involves inverters, holes in your roof and spinning dishes. They get their TV via a phone or mobile data dongle and the internet. Do this and you probably won’t even need an aerial. However, in low data signal areas, and there are still a lot of those in the UK, a rooftop 4g or 5g aerial can make the difference between watching TV or having to read a book or actually talk to your partner.   

If you prefer to watch a proper telly, then in the UK the omni-directional aerial on your roof is probably good enough. But it might be worth considering getting a Sat dish fitted. I know I said they were almost extinct, but because of that referendum, they are making a comeback!

Brexit and the Satellite Dish

To stream TV in France today can prove very expensive for Brits, because since we left the EU, we lost the right to enjoy surcharge free roaming. Suddenly we face big price hikes on data use, as well as a throttle on how much data we can actually use. This means that unlimited free TV in France via a satellite dish has become appealing again, so expect to see more sat dishes on vans in 2023    

The Take Away

  • Streaming is great, and the easiest way to watch TV in the van. No set up, no extra holes in your roof.
  • 12v TV’s are best, but 240v is OK if you are always on hook up.
  • TV in France? Consider going back to the Satellite Dish

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