How to Install a Satellite Dish

by Fred Decker

    Installing the big C-band dishes used by first-generation satellite TV systems was a major project that was beyond the scope of most homeowners. With modern systems and their compact dishes, it's much easier. Any motivated homeowner of normal ability and agility can do it with a bit of patience and appropriate attention to personal safety. The job breaks down into two stages. One is physically installing the dish and cabling, while the second is aligning it with the proper satellite.

    Physical Installation

    Step 1

    Find a location for your dish with a clear view to the south or southwest. It can be mounted to the roof, an exterior wall of your house or on a mast of its own a short distance away.

    Step 2

    Attach the dish's mounting bracket to your roof, wall, chimney or mast with the supplied hardware. If you're bolting it directly to your roof or wall, seal around the bolts with outdoor caulking or silicon sealant as protection against leakage and water damage.

    Step 3

    Mount the dish on its bracket, facing south and slightly west. Attach the LNB -- the part with the cable connections -- to the dish's arm.

    Step 4

    Measure from the dish to each room that will contain a receiver. Typically, dishes have from one to four outputs on their LNB and each will feed one receiver. Purchase or make a suitable length of RG-6 cable for each connection.

    Step 5

    Attach each cable to one outlet on your LNB and run them through your house to the appropriate area. Run through your attic or walls when possible or tack the cable to your baseboard with self-adhesive or nailed-in cable clips. They're available from your local electronics retailer.

    Step 6

    Connect each cable to its receiver and each receiver to a television.

    Pointing the Dish

    Step 1

    Obtain the correct elevation and azimuth from your satellite provider. Elevation tells you how high the satellite is, and azimuth tells you the direction. Multi-satellite systems use a third measurement called "skew," which tells you how to angle your dish to receive signals properly from both.

    Step 2

    Locate the skew markings, if necessary, on your dish. Loosen those bolts with a socket wrench, rotate the dish to the correct mark, and retighten the bolts. Next, locate the elevation markings. Repeat the process, loosening the bolts and moving the dish to the correct elevation.

    Step 3

    Disconnect a cable from the LNB, and attach it to your satellite finder. Connect the satellite finder to your LNB. If you don't have a satellite finder, go in to the setup mode on one of your receivers and have a helper stand in front of it with a cell phone or walkie-talkie.

    Step 4

    Consult a compass and turn the dish to approximately the correct direction. Adjust the sensitivity of your satellite finder to a midrange setting or have your helper call you when the signal-strength indicator starts moving.

    Step 5

    Move the dish 1 degree at a time and either watch the satellite finder's needle or have your helper call you. As you move the dish, signal strength will increase steadily to a point, then begin to decline. Move the dish back to the position that gave the strongest signal and tighten the azimuth bolts.

    Tips

    • Mounting the dish on the side of your house when possible makes for an easy installation but increases the risk of your dish going out of alignment from accidental contact or deliberate vandalism.
    • If you're mounting your dish on a mast or flagpole, scaffolding is safer than a ladder.
    • Minimize trips up the ladder by ensuring you have all necessary tools and hardware before you start climbing.
    • If your satellite provider's website doesn't provide the necessary mounting data or its customer service line has a long waiting time, you can find the data online using your zip code.
    • Some cell phone-based utilities such as Dishpointer can gauge whether trees or other obstacles will interfere with your signal.
    • Pick a sheltered spot for your dish, if possible, to minimize the likelihood of weather or wind-blown debris taking your dish out of alignment.

    Warnings

    • Observe all appropriate precautions if you're working on your roof or a tall ladder. Avoid power lines and borrow or rent a safety harness if you'll be near the edge of your roof. Ladders should always be firmly seated on a hard, flat surface.

    Required Items

    • Mast (optional)
    • Mounting bracket for roof, wall, chimney or mast
    • Ladder or scaffolding (optional)
    • Outdoor caulking or silicon sealant
    • RG-6 cable
    • Cable clips (optional)
    • Satellite pointing data
    • Socket wrench
    • Satellite finder
    • Cell phone or walkie-talkie (optional)
    • Compass

    About the Author

    Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer who has written and blogged on food-related topics since 2007. Previously he sold computers, insurance and mutual funds. Decker was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

    Photo Credits

    • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images