How to set up a satellite dish?

Properly aligning your satellite dish may seem a job reserved for the professional installer but with this guide, anyone with basic DIY skills can achieve the same. Once done, the reward will be a troublefree TV experience.

To receive a clear satellite picture, the dish must not only have a clear line-of-sight to the satellite but also the correct vertical (elevation) and horizontal (azimuth) alignment. The vertical alignment is the dish angle of elevation, and refers to the angle at which the satellite signals hit the Earth's surface. In the northern hemisphere, they are flat – about 15° the further south you go i.e. nearer to the equator, the steeper they become. On Sicily they have an elevation angle of 45° and right on the equator of 90°. Horizontal alignment refers the position of a satellite relative to where you wish to receive the signal, and requires the dish to be turned towards the east or west until the correct satellite is pointed at. Thus, the elevation and azimuth angles vary depending on your location and the satellite. You can get your dish setup angles calculated for Sky UK by just entering your postcode with our online-tool. Once you have this data, you can proceed.

Step-by-step

The following steps assume that you have a handy and inexpensive tool called a satellite finder/meter. This little helper is a real time-saver and takes out the strain of the trial-and-error (also known as trial-and-anger) procedure, and all this for only about £10. You can obtain a satellite finder from Maplin, Amazon and eBay . Alternatively, this price comparison site will give you the best deal.

If you don't have a satellite finder, the following steps can still be followed by ignoring the parts with the satellite finder but, again, purchasing a satellite finder is highly recommended.

So, let's get started.

First make sure that the receiver is switched-off. Now disconnect the cable from the LNB (at the dish) and connect it to the finder at the socket labelled TO REC. Then connect the other end of the finder to the LNB using a patch cable.

Now switch on the receiver and make sure that your television is tuned to the output channel of the satellite receiver. Next, use the 'Signal Test' menu built into the Sky digital decoder. To access this menu, first press the 'SERVICES' button on the remote, then in the 'SERVICES' menu, access the 'SYSTEM SETUPand then 'SIGNAL TEST' as shown below:

The display will look like this:

This information will make sure that you lock at the right satellite and will help adjust the polarisation angle of the LNB (sometimes referred to as the LNB skew or LNB tilt) in order to get the best signal quality.

Back to the dish, keep the finder behind the dish face. The sateliite finder's backlight should go on, indicating it is receiving power from the receiver. Start by adjusting the elevation first. Take the elevation angle you obtained before and subtract the offset angle of the dish (usually 20° but this varies from dish to dish). For example, if your elevation angle is 25° and the dish offset angle is 20° then you will need to point the dish up by only 5° from the horizontal. How much is 5°? If you have a wrist watch, look at 1 o'clock, that's 30° (3 o'clock is 90°); i.e. 1 minute is 6°. This will give you a rough idea of how much to move your dish upwards.

Now move the dish slightly time towards the East or West according to your azimuth angle. Use a compass, or look at your neighbours dish, or use your wrist watch to roughly point it in the right direction and then move it only a bit at a time. As you move the dish, the needle of the satellite finder will oscillate, indicating a change in signal strength. If the needle hits the maximum point, turn the sensitivity knob on the finder so that you have a reading of no more than 5. Keep moving the dish very slightly to the left or right and see if the needle goes up or down. If the reading goes up, turn the knob back so that you again have a reading of 5. Keep repeating this to try and keep the reading at 5. You have found the perfect alignment if the reading does not increase by moving the dish either to the left or right.


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