Installing and aligning your satellite dish for the first time can seem like a daunting prospect at first, but it should not be; installing a dish up to approximately one metre diameter is relatively straightforward and can usually be done without the need to call in an installer or technician. Of course, there are exceptions, but a typical domestic installation in the UK or France etc, should be within the capabilities of most practically-minded people.
If you aren't the practical type, don't have the time, or decide that it sounds like too much trouble, then the easiest option is to call in an installer to do it for you. Don't attempt to carry out the installation on your own - always have someone to help you - and be realistic about your capabilities.
If you are outside the UK, always use a scart (or HDMI) connection to connect the TV to your satellite receiver, as this will overcome any differences between UK and continental PAL standards. At the initial stage, you should only have three connections to your digibox: the mains power lead, the scart lead from the digibox to the TV and the coaxial cable that links the satellite receiver to the LNB on the dish.
Tools and materials required
Ladder, compass (you need to know where due South is), spanner or preferably socket wrench, electric drill & masonry bits, extension lead, small screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters, stanley knife or similar. A satellite finder is optional.
In addition to your satellite receiver, dish and LNB, you will also need satellite coax cable, F connectors, wall clips for the cable, self-amalgamating tape, cable ties, as well as rawl plugs and coachscrews to secure the dish to the wall. If mounting the dish on a pole rather than a wall, you may need U-bolts to suit the type of dish you are using - sometimes these are not included unless ordered separately.
Please note that all the relevant materials are included in our self-installation packages, saving you hours of trouble trying to source all these various items separately.
Determine where to mount the satellite dish
Satellite television signals (for both Sky TV and Freesat) are broadcast from the Astra 2 satellite group, located 28 degrees East of South (ie face due South and then turn towards the East slightly - by about a twelfth of a turn). This angle will vary according to you location. For example, in Spain, the direction is more or less South East. However, this isn't really too important, as you cannot simply locate 28 degrees East of South on a compass, set the dish accordingly, and hope to hit the satellite! The process of setting this azimuth correctly involves bring the dish round from South to East in very small stages. However, this isn't important at this stage, as all we're trying to establish is the best location to mount the dish. Given the location of the satellite, this is probably going to be the most Southerly facing wall of the house.
Now consider exactly where on the wall you want to mount the dish. The dish needs to be set to an elevation of approximately 30 degrees, depending on your location, so it will need to 'see over' large objects such as trees or adjacent houses. This may mean that you have to mount the dish in a reasonably high position. However, it makes the dish a lot easier to align if you can mount it at head height. Unless you have a device to measure this angle, or can remember your trigonometry from school, you are going to have to make a judgement about whether an object is going to be in the way of the signal.
A dish mounted near the ground does not necessarily look unsightly, and makes a lot of sense if you are aligning the dish yourself. Manual alignment means making a lot of minor adjustments to the dish, something that can be impractical, tiring and dangerous if you are doing it at the top of a ladder. The dish shown in the photograph above is low enough to adjust easily, but high enough to prevent it getting knocked out of position.
The 'Astra installation assistant' on the Astra website used to have a tool that would calculate the angle from the dish to an possible obstruction, and would tell you if the object was too close to the dish. Unfortunately, this tool has now been removed, but it's still worth looking at this website to calculate the azimuth and elevation for your location. You are able to type in your location, select Astra 28.2 from the list provided (Astra 2A, 2B or 2D, it doesn't really matter which one), and the website will calculate the azimuth and elevation of your dish for you. You don't need to be too accurate when typing in your location - distances of 100 miles or so don't have much effect on the figures, so just type in your nearest large town or city.
Fix the satellite dish in position
Assemble the dish using the instructions that are supplied with it. Fix the dish to the wall using appropriate coachscrews and rawl plugs, ensuring that once it's in position it can be rotated through the direction of the satellite. If you can rotate the dish from South to East, you are going to be able to pick up Astra 2 irrespective of whether you are in the UK, and the direction is 30 degrees East of South, or in, say, Portugal and the direction is more like 50 degrees East of South.
Using your TV and Sky satellite receiver/Freesat receiver to locate the Astra 2 satellite
If you are aligning the dish without any help from a satellite meter that can distinguish between different satellites, then you need some way of telling which satellite is which, or at least whether the satellite you have found is Astra 2. As satellite meters are expensive and unlikely to be used more than once, it makes sense to use a satellite finder instead. These devices, which are included with a compass in our self-installation packages, help you to achieve the optimum dish alignment for a given satellite, but they won't tell you which satellite you are on. As the different satellites are close together, you are unlikely to be able to work out which one is Astra 2 from the direction of the dish alone. For example, there is less than 10 degrees separation between Astra 1 (which you don't want, unless you want German TV) and Astra 2, and it's not easy to judge direction that accurately, even with a compass. Therefore, you need to connect your satellite dish to your receiver (and TV), and by accessing the 'signal test' page of your receiver you can see whether the satellite you have found is the right one.
The easiest way to do this is to put your TV and satellite receiver in a position where you can see the 'signal test' page on the TV as you adjust the dish. However, if this isn't possible, you could leave the TV and receiver in their final position and get an assistant to shout out any results that appear on the screen as you move the dish. The first arrangement is best though, and if you have a small portable TV set that you could use for this purpose, this would make things a lot easier.
The satellite finder can be connected to the dish by a flylead (if you buy our self-install package one will be provided). If you don't have a proper flylead, just make one up using a short length of satellite coaxial cable with an F-connector on each end. The satellite finder will have an input and output connection. The input connection goes to the LNB on the dish via the flylead, and the output connects to the satellite receiver via a longer length of satellite coax, terminated at each each with an F-connector.
For instructions on fitting F connectors, please use this link
Connect the dish to the Sky Digibox or Freesat receiver
You should now have the dish mounted and a flylead connecting the ouput of the LNB to the input of the satellite finder. Another cable will connect the output of the satellite finder to the 'dish input' connection on the back of the receiver. (If you are not using a satellite finder, then you will just have one cable connecting the output of the LNB to the input of the receiver). Now make sure the receiver is connected to the TV by scart lead (or HDMI lead if your receiver & TV both have HDMI connections). Connect the mains power to the receiver and the TV.
Get the satellite 'Signal Test' page on the TV screen
On a Sky box, take your Sky remote control and press the 'TV Guide' button so that the red 'standby' light changes to green. Select the AV channel on your TV so that it can pick up the input from the Sky box. Once you get any Sky menu screen being displayed, press 'services' on your remote and then select option 4 ('system setup' followed by option 6, 'signal test'.
You should see the screen below:
On a Freesat receiver, the signal strength and network ID are displayed on the 'information' page of the Freesat receiver - press 'menu' and then 'info' on the Freesat remote to access this page. If you are starting up a Freesat receiver for the first time, you may get this same signal test page appearing at startup:
As the dish is not yet aligned, and there is no signal coming into the Freesat box, the signal strength shows 0%, and there is no code displayed for 'network ID' or 'transport stream'.
Set the satellite dish elevation
To get your dish locked onto the satellite, you not only need the compass bearing for the direction of the satellite (azimuth), but also the elevation of the dish needs to be set so that it is at the right angle to match the angle of the incoming signal. In simple terms, you need to set both the 'side-to-side' position of the dish as well as its 'up-down' position. Most dishes have some kind of elevation indicator on the back bracket and this will help to provide you with a good starting point which you can use while you alter the bearing of the dish (your elevation settings can be obtained from the Astra installation assistant as explained in a previous section).
Note that because most dishes are 'offset' types (this includes all UK Sky dishes as well as most other dishes up to above 1.8m diameter), they will not seem to 'point' to the elevation angle that you have set. For example, UK dishes looking at Astra 2 will appear to be looking directly ahead towards the horizon, rather than angled towards the Sky.
The first photograph shows a typical elevation indicator - this one is from the bracket on the back of a zone 2 Sky dish. The first photograph shows a Sky dish set at 25 degrees elevation, but notice how the plane of the dish appears to be almost vertical. If there is no graduated elevation scale on the dish bracket, set the dish so that it's on a vertical plane, with the face of the dish pointing directly ahead, and then incline it very slightly so that it's pointing upwards a fraction. You will need to increase this the further South you are. The second photograph above shows a typical elevation indicator - this one is from the bracket on the back of a zone 2 Sky dish.
LNB skew adjustment (LNB polarization)
The LNB skew angle, or LNB polarization, refers to the rotational position of the LNB and is usually adjustable in one of the following ways. If you have a Sky dish (zone 1 or zone 2), then the LNB will either have a graduated scale from 1 - 5 on its collar, or will be adjustable by rotating the LNB relative to a small pointer on the underside of the LNB. Each of the numbers from 1 to 5 on the Sky LNB relates to a particular skew angle, and this differs according to your location. On a 'standard' non-Sky dish, the LNB normally sits in a 40mm diameter collar. There is usually no scale, so you have to find the correct skew angle by experimentation. In this case, you need to ensure that the LNB is skewed in the right direction. If you are standing in front of the dish, with the LNB in front of you, the LNB needs to be skewed in a clockwise direction by a few degrees.
The LNB skew angle needs to be set correctly so that the LNB can differentiate between horizontally and vertically polarized signals. If the LNB skew is wrong then you may not be able to obtain some channels (it seems to affect either BBC or ITV channels), even though you may be getting a good signal strength reading.
If you are using a Sky Zone 1 or Zone 2 dish, the instructions that we provide with these show the polarization (ie skew) settings for the UK and Ireland, and by extending these downwards, it's not hard to extrapolate which setting you will need for other parts of Europe. For example, while the majority of France will have a skew setting of 3, the extreme East of France, as well as Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands, will have a setting on 4.
At the initial stages, don't be overly concerned about the skew angle. Set it to a position that you think is correct and then proceed with the dish alignment. Unless the skew is way out, it should not stop you from getting the signal, and you can always fine tune the skew setting afterwards.
Move the satellite dish from East to South
Set the dish elevation in a 'best guess' starting position and tighten up the nuts so this will not change as you move the dish from South-East towards the South. This movement should be carried out in very small, discrete stages, not a continuous movement. While you do this, you should be able to see both the test signal page on your TV and the needle on your satellite finder (if you have one connected). Move the dish in stages of just a degree or two at a time, and wait several seconds before moving to the next position. When you hit the right spot, not only will the satellite finder register a reading, but on your TV the test signal screen should indicate that you have locked onto a satellite.
Do not be too concerned about getting a good percentage on the signal strength and signal quality bars. Anything over about 40% will be sufficient. On a Sky box, the test page should show the Network ID as 0002 - if this is different (eg 0001 for Astra 1 or 013e for Hotbird) it indicates that you are on the wrong satellite! On a Freesat box, the Network ID that you are looking for is 003b.
In practice, it may not be as easy as this, and you may have to adjust both the elevation of the dish and its direction several times before you hit the right point. However, the satellite finder will simplify this process by helping you to fine tune the dish position, although it won't tell you which satellite you are on, hence the need to have the signal test page of the satellite receiver showing on your TV.
If the Freesat box has never been connected to a satellite dish before, you may not be able to get it to pick up the signal in the same way that the Sky box does. In our self-installation packages, we always connect the Freesat box to a satellite dish that's already been aligned, and scan the channels for you. When you re-connect the Freesat receiver to your dish and bring the dish round into alignment, it will then be able to pick up the signal. In general, we prefer Sky boxes to the Freesat boxes in this respect - the menu screens rarely change between different models (although the HD Sky box menus are different from the standard and Sky Plus menus) and the box will always pick up the signal, whether or not it's been used before.
note xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx network id missing???
The photographs above show the signal test page as it should look when the dish has been aligned correctly (Sky box on left). If you are outside the UK, don't be too concerned if you get a different code for the transport stream.
Search for the EPG listings
Once you are satisfied that the test screen is as it should be, exit from this screen by pressing the 'TV guide' button on your Sky remote control. The Sky EPG (electronic programme guide) will appear, along with the message 'searching for listings'. After a minute or so, the listings should start to populate the screen, showing you the various programmes that are on now and later in the day. You can select a programme to watch by highlighting it and pressing 'select'.
Install the satellite cable
Once you are satisfied that everything is working as it should be, if you ran a temporary cable between the receiver and dish, this can now be disconnected (turn off the mains power before doing this). Reposition the TV and satellite receiver in their proper places and run the satellite cable from the LNB on the dish to the receiver. We suggest that you do not use a internal wall plate as this will weaken the signal, but run one continuous cable, without breaks or joints if possible. Try to minimise the length of cable that you use, as the signal loss is directly proprtional to the length of cable, but you can use up to about 40 metres of cable without the need to use amplifiers.
Wrap a strip of self-amalgamating tape around the F connector on the LNB to prevent water from entering at this point. This is important because if you do not make a watertight seal, water can get into the cable and will eventually reach the satellite receiver, as hard as this is to imagine! (Many receivers are damaged each year because of water ingress through the cable, some irrepairably). The self-amalgamating tape has a backing on it which needs to be removed first, and the tape should be stretched out as you wrap it around the cable and F connector. If you have an LNB if more than one output, it can be difficult to get the tape wrapped around the connections, as the different outputs are quite close together. Try as best you can, but if you are using a Sky quad or octo LNB, there is a plastic shroud that pulls down over the connections, shielding them from the elements, and in most cases this will provide sufficient protection.
Test your satellite system
Reconnect the TV to the satellite receiver via a scart lead or HDMI lead, connect the satellite cable to the 'dish input' connection on the receiver and plug in the mains lead. Switch on the mains power and wait for a minute or two before switching the satellite receiver on. Check to see if you can still receive all your channels.