Setting Up Your Satellite TV

Do you hate to miss your favorite programs while you are camping?  Are you tired of watching the same DVDs over and over again in the camper when it rains?  Bruce and I have been using our satellite TV on the road for years.  If you are a satellite TV subscriber, bringing your service along on the road is easier than you may think.  We’ll try to outline the process here, without getting too technical.

To get satellite TV on the road you need the following things:

Satellite Dish
There are several varieties of these, from manual to automatic, single satellite to multiple satellite.  Whether you have a manual or automatic dish will depend on your budget.  An automatic dish is easier to use, but will cost anywhere from 10 to 20 times more than a dish that you aim manually.

Satellite Receiver
You will get this from your satellite provider when you sign up for service.  There are also several varieties of these.  The features your receiver has will depend on the services you have signed up for.

Dish Coordinates
These will help you aim your dish in the right direction.  The coordinates will vary depending on your satellite provider and your location.  You can get these from your satellite provider, or there are applications that provide this information. 

A Clear View of the Southern Sky
Satellite technology uses line-of-sight.  If there is a tree or other obstruction between your dish and the satellite, you will not get a signal.

If you have everything listed above, then getting the signal from the satellite to your TV is as easy as hooking everything up and pointing the dish in the right direction.  The hard part may be pointing the dish in the right direction.  If that sounds like a contradiction, then give yourself a gold star for paying attention.  The difference comes from whether your dish is manual or automatic.  If you have a manual dish, the first time that you set up your dish, it will be an exercise in frustration.  With practice though, it will become a breeze.  We spent hours trying to set up our manual dish the first time that we used it.  Now we can generally get it set up in less than a minute.  If you have an automatic dish, you will either just have to enter the dish coordinates, or you may not have to do anything at all.  This will vary by manufacturer.   See your owner’s manual for instructions.

To set up a manual dish, you need to do the following:

Depending on your dish and satellite service, there are either two or three settings you will need to know in order to point your dish in the right direction.

Elevation – This is the direction that the dish is pointed in the up and down direction.

Azimuth – This is the direction that the dish is pointed in the side to side direction.

Skew – This is the amount that the dish is rotated like a steering wheel in a car.  Not all dishes will require this setting.

One of the most important things to remember when setting up your dish is that it must be level.  If the dish is not level, then it will not be pointing in the direction you think it is.  Once your dish is level, set the elevation to the correct value indicated by your pointing program.  This is generally done by loosening a nut on the back of the dish and moving the dish up or down so that the set screw is in the center of the correct value.

If you have a multiple head (LNB) dish, you will need to set the skew.  There will be a nut on the back of the dish for this as well.  Turn the dish so that the setting is correct.

Next, use a compass to find the side to side (azimuth) direction that the dish needs to be pointed.  If the application that you use to get coordinates has a magnetic azimuth value, use that one.   Aim the dish in the direction indicated by the compass.

Unless you are extremely lucky, you won’t have a signal at this point.  To hone in on the signal you will need a signal meter.  You can either purchase an inexpensive in-line signal meter, or many satellite receivers have one built in.  Once you have the signal meter turned on, slowly turn the dish from side to side a degree or two at a time, pausing a moment each time you move it.  When you get the dish pointed in the ballpark of the right direction, the signal meter will start to beep faster and the value on the meter will go up.  Next you will want to refine the up and down setting.  Loosen the nut on the back of the dish and slowly move the dish up and down, watching the signal meter.  If the signal goes up, you are going in the right direction.  If it goes down, try the other direction.  If your dish requires you to set the skew, you may have to play with that as well.  Once you find the best position for the elevation and skew, you may want to repeat in the side to side direction one more time.  Try to get the signal meter to around 90% to help prevent losing the signal if it starts to rain.

That’s all there is to it!  You may need to restart your receiver once you find the signal, but that is all you need to do to set up your satellite dish when you are camping!

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