DIRECTV can go out during heavy rain for a few reasons:
- Rain fade – Heavy rain can interfere with and weaken the satellite signal.
- Equipment issues – Moisture getting into cables, connectors, etc. can cause temporary outages.
- Power loss – Heavy storms can sometimes cause temporary power outages.
With heavy rainfall, raindrops can act like tiny prisms and break up the satellite signal before it reaches your dish. This rain fade effect is temporary and will go away once the rain passes. Keeping equipment protected from the elements will help minimize outages.
What Causes Signal Loss During Heavy Rainfall?
DIRECTV relies on satellites in space to deliver television programming to your home. The satellites broadcast signals down to Earth, where they are picked up by your satellite dish and receiver. This system works great in clear weather, but can run into issues when heavy rain and storms move in. The main culprit is a phenomenon known as rain fade.
How Rain Fade Interferes with Satellite Signals
Rain fade refers to the scattering and absorption of microwave satellite signals caused by heavy rain, snow, or other forms of precipitation. Here’s how it works:
- Satellites broadcast signals using specific C-band and Ku-band frequencies.
- These signals pass through clear skies with minimal interference.
- When heavy rain moves in, raindrops act like tiny prisms and break up the signals.
- The signals get scattered and have trouble reaching your dish.
- This causes the video to freeze up or go out entirely.
Rain fade happens because raindrops are similar in size to the wavelength of many satellite signals. DIRECTV’s Ku band frequencies are about 1-2 centimeters long. Large raindrops and hail that size act like tiny mirrors, refracting and scattering the signals before they can arrive intact at your dish.
Even light rainfall can absorb and degrade satellite signals somewhat. But the real problems come from heavy downpours where there are a lot of big, dense raindrops between your dish and the broadcasting satellite. Your TV signal goes to static because enough of the signal gets scrambled beyond recognition.
How Much Rain Causes an Outage?
Rain fade can begin when rainfall exceeds about .01 inches per hour. But it really becomes noticeable for most viewers when rain exceeds:
- 0.25 inches per hour for Ku band satellites
- 1-2 inches per hour for C band satellites
However, the amount of rain required to interfere will also depend on other factors:
- Size of raindrops – Larger and denser raindrops cause more scattering.
- Dish size – Large dishes can capture more signal, minimizing outage time.
- Signal frequency – Higher Ku frequencies are more impacted than lower C bands.
- Density of rainfall – Heavy downpours or hail create the most interference.
In a heavy thunderstorm, outage conditions can be met within 5-10 minutes. But only 1-2 minutes of very heavy rainfall (over 2 inches per hour) is typically enough to disrupt Ku signals. Lighter rainfall may cause occasional signal glitches or slower internet speeds rather than complete loss.
How Long Do Rain Fade Outages Last?
The good news is that rain fade is temporary. Once the heavy rains pass, satellite signals can make it through the atmosphere again and your service will be restored. However, outage times can vary:
- Brief/light rain – Video may freeze for seconds at a time.
- Moderate rainfall – Service may go out for several minutes.
- Heavy downpours – Outages can last 10 minutes or longer.
- Slow moving storms – An outage may persist 30 minutes or more.
Don’t panic if your DIRECTV blanks out when rain starts. Try waiting about 10 minutes after a heavy downpour for the signal to return. The outage itself is harmless. Just an annoyance you’ll have to sit through until skies clear up again.
How to Minimize Rain Fade Problems
While rain fade can’t be prevented completely, you can take steps to strengthen your system signal and minimize outage potential:
1. Have Your Dish Installed Correctly
Having your satellite dish properly installed and aligned is key. Your dish needs:
- A clear line of sight to the southern sky.
- No obstructions like trees or buildings in the way.
- Stable and secure mounting, able to withstand wind and storms.
- Precise alignment angles, fine-tuned for your location.
A dish that is misaligned, obstructed or shaking in the wind will suffer more frequent rain fade issues. A professional installation or realignment can optimize signal quality right from the start.
2. Get the Largest Dish Your Property Can Accommodate
Larger satellite dishes can collect more signal, providing a buffer against heavy rainfall. Upgrade to the largest dish size allowed by your neighborhood HOA rules and space constraints:
- 18-inch dish: Standard entry-level size.
- 24-inch dish: Medium range with better signal strength.
- 30-inch+ dish: High-end home installations, maximum signal quality.
Just a 6-inch increase from 18 to 24 inches provides a noticeable improvement. While expensive, a 30 inch or larger dish is ideal for minimizing rain fade issues.
3. Add a Signal Amplifier Inline
You can also strengthen the signal between your dish and receiver using an inline signal amplifier. These provide about 20 dB of signal gain for under $100:
- Winegard SK-SWM3 Signal Amplifier
- Channel Master Titan 2 Signal Booster
- Kitztech KT-SMA1800 Inline Signal Amplifier
Amplifiers installed near the dish compensate for signal losses along the coaxial cable. Just take care not to overload your receiver with too much gain.
4. Use Higher Grade Coaxial Cabling
Standard RG-6 coaxial cable works fine for short DIRECTV runs under 100 feet. But for longer cable runs, upgrade to a heavy duty RG-6 cable, such as:
- RG-6 Quad Shield Coax – Adds extra shielding from interference.
- RG-6 Flooded Coax – Filled with waterblocking gel.
- RG-11 Coax – Thicker center conductor than RG-6.
High quality cables maintain signal strength over longer distances by minimizing cable losses. Just note that RG-11 has thicker connectors that are incompatible with RG-6 ports without an adapter.
5. Seal All Connections and Cables
Moisture seeping into cables, connectors, splitters and other components can corrode contacts and degrade your signal. Protect all connection points with weatherproof sealant, electrical tape or self-sealing Weather Booties. Also inspect fittings periodically for corrosion and reseal as needed.
6. Install Your Dish Below Roof Overhangs
Positioning your dish TV dish directly under roof eaves or overhangs provides some protection from heavy rain and wind. The ideal mounting spot is on a south facing wall underneath some type of roof projection. Just be sure the roof line is not obstructing the dish’s view to the sky.
Will a HD Antenna Work Better Than Satellite in Bad Weather?
Switching from satellite TV to an HD antenna is another option during storms. Here’s how the two compare:
- Weakens in heavy rain but delivers great reception otherwise.
- Provides a wider selection of channels including major networks.
- Requires professional installation and a long-term service commitment.
- Delivers TV channels rain or shine since signals come from local broadcast towers.
- Offers the major local networks in HD quality.
- Can be installed easily and used when needed as a backup.
The best solution is to use DIRECTV as your everyday TV service, but also install an antenna as a backup for when heavy rains cause an outage. An outdoor model like the Channel Master Extreme Antenna provides the most reliable signal and 100+ mile range. But even an indoor antenna like the Mohu Leaf can pull in stations 25-30 miles away.
Having an antenna lets you watch local favorites like ABC, NBC and CBS through the storm when satellite TV fails. Pick up an antenna now and you’ll be prepared next time bad weather moves in.
Other Satellite Interference From Rain, Snow and Clouds
Along with rain fade, other forms of precipitation can also degrade satellite signals under the right conditions:
Wet Snow and Ice
Heavy, wet snow cancling to your dish will interfere with signal reception. As can an accumulation of ice during winter storms. Knock off any excessive buildup right away. Use a soft brush to clear snow and scrape ice gently with a plastic tool to limit dish damage. Point a small space heater or fan at the dish to prevent ice from forming in cold climates.
Heavy Cloud Cover
Thick storm clouds don’t cause as much interference as heavy rain. But a dense, low-hanging cloud layer can weaken Ku band signals somewhat as the microwaves pass through. If your dish has marginal signal alignment to start with, heavy overcast skies may lead to occasional glitches or pixelation.
Fog and Mist
Satellite signals can also be degraded slightly by foggy or misty conditions. Though not a major cause of outages, fog may contribute to weaker signal reception during periods of rain fade.
Protect Equipment From Electrical Surges
In addition to rain fade, strong thunderstorms can also cause power fluctuations and voltage spikes that damage electronics. The best protection is connecting all of your DIRECTV equipment, TVs, and other sensitive gear to a whole house surge protector at your electrical panel. This safeguards against surges coming through power lines.
For additional protection, you can add a broadcast-grade surge protector like the Panamax M5400-PM between your satellite lines and equipment. This filters out power surges trying to travel through coaxial cables. Installing high-quality surge protectors from the start prevents thunderstorms from damaging expensive satellite receivers and televisions.
Wait for Service to Restore After the Storm Passes
Don’t panic or get worried if your DIRECTV blanks out when storms move through. Signal loss from rain fade is a normal occurrence that you’ll have to tolerate living in many parts of the country. Try the following tips:
- First wait about 10 minutes after heavy rain starts to see if your signal returns.
- Unplug your receiver for a hard reboot and plug back in after 5 minutes.
- Don’t immediately call DIRECTV customer support, they will be flooded with calls.
- Have patience and wait for service to restore on its own once the weather improves.
Calling in and requesting a service truck during bad weather usually results in a 2-3 day wait anyway. Save time and trouble by just riding out the storm. Keep an antenna, books or board games handy for entertainment when needed.
Rain fade is an unavoidable nuisance for satellite TV subscribers living in stormy regions. While heavy downpours will still cause occasional service outages, you can minimize their frequency and duration.
Optimizing your dish installation, using higher quality equipment, and installing a backup antenna will help ensure you stay connected through all types of weather. With the right preparation, you can enjoy reliable DIRECTV service even during the stormiest times of the year.