If you have any kind of coaxial service coming into your home, be it satellite, cable or Internet service, you are at risk from secondary surges, called flashovers, where surges jump from power lines to your coax connections and run down into your connected equipment.
Among the more dangerous risks are indirect lightning strikes (while rare, they do happen and the result can be catastrophic), but most common are those from static electricity discharging.
With a dish satellite surge protector there is a decreased risk that your television, your receiver, your DVD player, your VCR and your satellite dish could be harmed should a power surge hit your lines.
What Makes Satellite Dishes Vulnerable To Surges?
The line used in dish satellite connections is RG-6QS coaxial cable. RG refers to Radio Grade, originally a military specification for coaxial cable. The QS refers to Quad Shield, a standard for cable television line (CATV). The 6 refers to the size of the center conductor line, which is made of copper.
You’ve seen the cable I’m talking about, the black plastic line with the copper wire in the middle. The center copper wire is surrounded by an insulating layer of dielectric material (stuff that doesn’t conduct electricity). That is surrounded by a woven copper shield that acts as a sort of ground, all of which is covered by the outer black plastic sheath.
The point of the line that connects to your equipment has an F Connector on it. This is the part that screws into your television with the copper conductor wire sticking out of the center.
Copper, being highly conducive to electricity, makes it possible for your dish cable to provide a path for surges.
Once a surge finds a blocking point in your home, such as a surge protector, it will reroute and seek another path. Sometimes it can jump lines. This makes an unprotected coax line the next likely pathway.
Compound that with the fact that dishes can have as few as four coax lines running into the house and you can see why the potential for flashovers is ridiculously high. Each line will need protection.
The line, if properly installed, is grounded, along with the dish, to the service grounding electrode system, whatever that may be. Generally it’s a grounding rod that runs vertically alongside the house into the earth and ties into the power line where it enters the home from the service box. This rod also connects to the nearest code-compliant electrical ground as stipulated by NEC (National Electric Code), typically a spigot or pipe.
While the grounding rod helps with electrical discharges to a degree, it’s advised to have further protection. Either on the line itself or at the connection point in the house.
What Kind of Satellite Surge Protection Should I Get?
There are two basic types of surge protection technology for dishes: one that uses gas discharge tubes and a solid-state model. Which is the best? It’s all preference, really.
Gas discharge suppressors work like solid state MOVs but use inert gas as the conductor instead of zinc oxide grains.
While normalized the gas within the discharge tube is nonconductive. As the gas heats up it ionizes and becomes an attractor to the surge through which it passes to the ground line. Once the surge passes, the gas stabilizes and returns to its nonconductive state.
The downside to gas discharge tubes, some would suggest, is that they require ionization chambers which can generate up to 400 degree temperatures, but this isn’t enough to cause combustion in most materials. So threat is unlikely.
The only disadvantage to solid state devices is a slower response time.
Solid state technology (MOVs) can shunt thousands of spikes without damage and with less heat generated than gas tubes. They have a considerably faster response time than gas tubes, less than a nanosecond, but they degrade faster and need replacing more often.
Both of these devices can protect your coaxial connections as long as you check the specifications prior to installing any of them.
Largely the problem folks run into when looking for outdoor surge protection for their satellite dish is the lower band-pass on most SPDs interferes with the satellite signals because digital signals carry higher frequencies.
Before buying a device, make sure it is rated for your equipment and meets performance levels accordingly. A device rated for 2 GHz (2000 MHz) or better will not affect dish frequencies.
For most operations, it’s probably simpler to install protection inside the home where the coaxial line connects to your equipment. And that’s likely the suggestion your dish provider will offer.