#Gadgets & Apps

How to beat ZESA and still enjoy your DStv PVR

I use a PVR 2P decoder
I use a PVR 2P decoder

So a while ago I decided to invest in a DStv PVR 2P decoder as part of my mid year resolutions. I am still trying to find a reason why the Explora is worth that shocking price; the “DStv advert dude” is yet to convince me.

After a lot of consideration I decided to opt for the Compact Plus package because I felt I had no other choice: I couldn’t afford to pay a Premium bouquet without putting a dent in my budget nor could I afford to watch the appalling programming that comes with the other bouquets: Big Brother, seriously?

Sadly that disqualifies me from being able to access the DStv Catch up feature which is the preserve of premium subscribers or so I am told. This leaves me no choice but to ‘PVR’ a lot of things: documentaries and matches.


Unfortunately, for a while at least, ZESA used to throw water on all my efforts. I would carefully program my recording schedule, leave for work and return home to find the decoder off because of a power cut and my shows missing from the hard drive. The problem is not helped by the fact that a lot of the documentaries I like have a low repeat rate which is a great thing until you miss one episode.

Then I was reminded of my World Cup contraption. The device made use of an old disused laptop charger to charge an old car battery that I would then use, together with an inverter, to power my TV and decoder during a blackout. However, I quickly learnt two lessons when I attempted to use the device:

  1. It takes eons to charge a car battery using a laptop charger
  2. The DStv PVR decoder is a power guzzler and its ‘Stand By’ mode is for show since it makes little impact on the power it consumes

That was 4 months ago and I have learnt a lot about alternative sources of energy, lessons which I will share with you in an upcoming series. Today I will tell you how to continue to use your DStv PVR despite ZESA‘s mischievous unscheduled power-cuts.

Budget $150

This might seem expensive but remember you can still use the battery as an alternative power source during blackouts too.

What you will need

  1. A 100 Ah maintenance free battery. You should only buy from retailers who offer guarantees. Should cost you about $100
  2. A 500 W inverter with a charge function, there are fairly ubiquitous now. Please test this with a suitable power taxing device such as a laptop before purchase. I learnt the hard way and had to return 4 inverters before I found one that worked. Should cost you about $30
  3. An ordinary inverter with a rating of around 200 W. Its hard to tell how much power a PVR consumes without testing but that ought to suffice. These cost about $20 and of course they are Chinese.

NB Unless you purchase an inverter that automatically switches from charge to inverter function you will absolutely need two inverters. Automatic inverters are in stock in various stores in the capital but the retailers usually require both your hands and feet in payment.

Setting up the connection

  • Plug in the charging inverter to a ZESA power source and attach it to the battery so that it can charge it. Make sure it is charging.
  • Connect the second inverter (200 W inverter in our case) to the battery
  • Whenever you are going away and have scheduled recordings connect the PVR decoder to the second inverter instead of a ZESA power source and switch the inverter on. This will ensure an uninterrupted power supply for a reasonable amount of time in case of a power cut

Depending on how well charged the battery is when you leave this ought to save you from a lot of grief. I have also found out that using this contraption on my 45 W TV, Intex Home theater and the PVR decoder I can enjoy my team’s entire game without interruptions even if the blackout occurs at the beginning of the game. I can even watch the entire ‘after lunch session’ of a Test match without recharging.

I am aware this is not a “professional” (read expensive) solution but it does the job. It works on the Explora too, although I still think you were robbed. No man should pay $300 for entertainment equipment unless it’s a PlayStation console; those saying Xbox were obviously brainwashed by Microsoft.

May the experts and informed please leave their improvements and suggestions in the comment section.

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