You've decided on what gear you'll use for enhancing your signals for WiFi and/or cellular, but now you have to install them. One of the trickier components is how to install the needed antennas on your roof so that they are secure, unobtrusive, not too tall and weatherproof.
There are many approaches and considerations to installing antennas on an RV roof, and this subject is covered in more detail in the 'Antennas and Installation' chapter of The Mobile Internet Handbook, authored by Jack Mayer.
Recently we were visiting with Peter & John of the popular DIY RV YouTube channel - RVGeeks. They had just put out a video about installing their WiFiRanger Elite on their Class A Motorhome's roof (we highly recommend watching it, especially if you're considering such an install yourself.)
They graciously agreed to join us on camera to share some more tips and tricks for installing antennas on RV Roofs.
This video guide goes through three main topics:
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The video above was taken from our live Mobile Internet Aficionados video event, and is the presentation only portion of the broadcast:
Our MIA members also have access to the archive of the full presentation, which included about 30 minutes of extra content from the follow-on Q&A session (members, check the Video Archive section for that.)
As a quick summary of the content in the video, here are the considerations that need to be made when approaching installing antennas on your RV's roof:
Antenna Placement Considerations:
- Type of RV - There are different considerations for motorhomes versus towables
- Length of the RV - The longer the RV the more mounting options, and more considerations for routing cables.
- Construction Type - A metal roofed RV has a built in ground plane, whereas a fiberglass or rubber roof will need to have one built in for many cellular antennas.
- Mounting Options - Do you have a batwing antenna, ladder or racks to attach an antenna to? Does a pole make sense for your installation?
- Cable Routing Options - Do you have existing holes to route through, conduits or other options?
- Antenna Type - Cellular or WiFi, Directional or Omni-Directional, how tall is the antenna? How much separation do you need to get between the interior and exterior cellular antennas in a booster setup?
- Your type of travel style - How often do you move? What kind of places do you stay?
- Obstacles on the Roof - Try to have at least a couple inches of space between different antennas. Avoid having omni directional antennas hidden behind obstacles that can block your signal (like air conditioners). And if you have solar panels on your roof, be careful with antenna placement to not cast shadows on the panels.
Routing Cables to the Interior
- Designate a Tech Cabinet - First know where you are routing to. We recommend putting aside a cabinet where all your interior gear goes (routers, boosters, MiFis, etc.). Figure out your best path to that cabinet from your roof for cables to be routed. For more: Our Guide to Tech Cabinets.
- Plan How You Are Getting Cables Inside - Drilling a new hole should be a last resort.
- Conduit pre-installed during build is the most optimal option, as is running conduit later. This allows for maximum flexibility to switch out equipment later. Conduit should be at a minimum 1" thick, 2" is even better to run multiple cables and their connectors.
- Use existing vents - like fridge vents, bathroom vents, plumbing vent stacks or other existing openings.
- For a temp install - run cable out the window first to make sure equipment is working before installing.
- Going through the slides - be extra careful going through the side of a slide - this can disrupt the seals and cause pinched cables as slides move.
- Use extreme caution if you need to drill a hole - know where cabling is, ducts, support structures and other things you might damage. If you can, consult wiring and build diagrams of your RV. And then make sure you waterproof the hole to avoid water damage. Dicor is your friend to waterproof holes.
Securing the Installation
- Cables should be secured - Lose cables are subject to getting caught in tree limbs or other obstacles as you drive. Either route through conduits, use Eternabond Tape (caution: VERY permanent install) or use puddles of Dicor.
- Use Stainless Steel Attachments - Use screws and attachments that will not corrode.
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