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Starlink in the Snow

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

Starlinks system has had some issues with intense heat temporarily shutting it down, they've updated there system to avoid the thermal shut down that was taking place above 40 Degrees Celsius, Yikes that's hot! But what about the opposite, the cold, snow, sleet, ice...the nasty of winter weather. The recent Starlink update gave a new feature for enabling, disabling, and smart "AI" connection for your Dishy system. Thus giving the ability to leave the heater turned fully on. But how do you know if you should set this function? And why did they give the option? Shouldn't it be smart enough to figure it out? What extreme temperatures is the Starlink system able to handle? Is there a cold rating for there system before it shuts the thermal switch for being to cold?

All Media Services has been serving Central Alberta Canada for 9 years with a variety of technologies (security systems/satellite TV/cell boosters, etc.) So we know about snow, we've seen drifts that will bury vehicles and even in some cases entire homes. Alberta's winter weather can be a huge detriment to any outdoor technology. There are National Rating Systems for equipment functionality in the cold. As an example when looking at a security system the company selling the product will provide a rating on what the outdoor cameras are able to handle as far as temperature changes, water resistance, etc. Its called and IP rating (ingress protection), and the higher the number attached to the IP the more extremes the equipment will be able to handle while protecting the internals (IP65, IP66, IP67).

Starlink App for dish heating system control

Starlink has taken this in to account for their new internet system with the addition of an onboard heater for melting snow and ice build up off Dishy. This is important because Dishy has a small electric motor to allow for automatic adjustments when tracking and acquiring signals. Just like any motor when put under to much stress it has the potential to burn out. We have heard some stories already of customers having to much ice build up on and around the Dishy, restricting its movement and causing the motor to burn out prematurely. So an important thing to note with your existing, or just arrived Starlink system, is to make a decision if the automatic heating function needs to be activated or not? Possibly avoiding expensive replacement costs. Sources say the heater itself can use up to 50 watts to run but that would only be for a short amount of time on the automatic setting, making the least amount of increase in power consumption. So why give us the option if its automatic and suppose to detect snow and melt it automatically?

Our thoughts are that they've anticipated many unique scenarios, and don't truly know the moisture and precipitation values but work off of temperature sensing only for activation of the internal heater. A person living in a cooler climate with extreme snow fall may have need to activate full time dish melting, helping dissipate the build up of snow around the dish as well. Icicles can also build around Dishy from previously melted snow, we have personally seen this, and I know for some that this might become an issue when you have a mass build-up of Ice around the service area. This is one of the reasons when you're installing Starlink's satellite dish it should be placed in an area that can be serviced or accessed easily (as much as possible), you don't want to be scaling a steep tin roof in the winter to clean off a few icicles if the need calls. Now you might live in a cold region with very little snowfall, in this case turning the Dishy heat system to auto would probably be best or just shutting it off altogether. The lack of snow accumulation will be the determining factor for selecting the option that best suits your needs.

Starlink chart to see where the options might need to be enabled,

Heater Off

Regions with no snow

Save on power consumption

Heater Automatic

Regions with light to mild snowfall

Smart system will only use when triggered saving some power consumption

Heater On

Regions with heavy snow fall

Uses the most power

Starlink satellite dish in the snow

How powerful is the heater? On top of ice building up and causing fail points many of us also experience an abundance of snow in the winter season (as we have seen in Alberta), if your Dishy has minimal angle due to its geographical location you may see it situated at a fairly slight tilt, which is the perfect landing zone for a pile of snow. We have personally put the 1st gen system and its heater to the test and found it to work very well, and rather quick in the above mentioned scenario. We even went so far as to shovel a pile of snow on to the dish about 2' high and watched as it dropped off within minutes. Its important to note that we were still able to run a speed test, and the internet (although slow) was still functional when nearly ever inch of the Dishy's surface was covered with snow (pretty impressive).

Starlink Satellite dish in the heat

We live in a fairly volatile climate here in Alberta (especially winters) but what we rarely experience is extreme heat. This is one area that the Starlink system has had some known issues, there is a Thermal Shutdown Switch when the Dishy over heats and no longer functions or provides internet to the residence. The systems temperature capacities are in a range from approx -22 degrees F to 104 degrees F (-30C to 40C) which can easily be exceeded in a lot of countries and regions. Starlink is aware of this problem and have created a software upgrade to rectify the issue. If your Dishy is still overheating then you'll want to re-evaluate your install and if possible get Dishy into some shade or a cooler area where a breeze can help dissipate the heat build-up. In the meantime a quick fix for many Starlink owners has been to spray the Dishy down with cold water until the internet service resumes (do what you gotta do). In our personal experience with temperatures reaching as low as -58 degrees F (-50C) here in central Alberta over the last year we have seen very little down time caused by severe cold temperatures in comparison to the stories of down time due to severe heat.

Starlink Space X station and rocket

Overall we believe Starlink has done a lot to cover the bases before releasing their product, but no matter how thorough a team is, complete perfection can never truly be achieved (but it can certainly be the goal) and from what we have seen and experienced so far the team at SpaceX has put a lot of thought, time and attention in to creating an excellent satellite internet system. Growing pains are inevitable in every aspect of life and that is why we believe it is important to rely on our world wide community to navigate these changes. That being said feel free to reach out to us any time at the Starlink Community Forums and we would be happy to help.

We hope you have enjoyed this article and thank you for reading.

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