How can this site help?
There are many cases where self-installation of a satellite dish or satellite system is better, easier and cheaper than calling a professional installer. You could be doing a self-installation of a satellite dish for FTA satellites or pay-tv subscription TV satellites from scratch, or you may need to re-align your dish because heavy winds on a stormy day blew off your dish causing a misalignment. Perhaps you’re touring the country with your caravan and need point your dish at every new camp site, or you want to install a motorized dish to get the full range of available TV, radio, FTA (free-to-air), HD (High Definition), and data channels. You may have moved houses and brought your existing equipment such as dish and receiver along. I’m sure there are many more cases.
Simply put, DishPointer shows you where to point your dish on an actual image of your house / location, making a DIY installation of a dish a piece of cake. Just point your dish along the marker line shown on the map, adjust the elevation and LNB skew and off you go to enjoy trouble-free digital TV. It’s like a satellite finder or satellite meter – only better as you know from the start where to aim the satellite dish to get the best satellite TV reception.
There are even features for doing a self-installation of a multi-lnb dish (such as the 5LNB DirectTV, DishNetwork 1000+ dishes or Wavefrontier Toroidal T90 dishes), or a motorized system (with or without USALS). An obstacle calculator also indicates whether there may be any Line of Sight issues (LOS, and yes, it’s Line of Sight and not Line of Site) due to adjacent trees or buildings. Additional features are the charts of available satellites and TV channels, a dish size calculator and footprint maps.
How do I align my satellite dish?
When aligning a dish, you need to know the look angles such as the azimuth, elevation and LNB skew. These are all specific to your location and the chosen satellite. The azimuth tells you the direction in which to point the antenna. The elevation is the vertical lift, and the LNB skew is the polarization of the signal, or in other words by how much you have to rotate the LNB. If you have a multi-lnb dish, you tilt the whole dish rather than tilting the LNB. Once you’ve obtained all these values from this site, preset the elevation and dish skew and point the dish at a landmark indicated by the alignment line on the map. You’ll already be over half the way there. On the receiver, check the satellite signal strength and the network ID of the transponder; it should match the satellite you intend to receive. Move the dish slightly to the left/right and up/down in very small steps and very slowly and watch the signal strength bar on the receiver to do the fine-tuning. Finally, tweak the LNB skew for maximum signal quality.
For a multi-lnb setup, the procedure is the same as the standard installation only you need to tilt the dish and connect the LNBFs with a multi-switch. You should also do the LOS for each satellite you want to receive bearing in mind that the signal comes from a different direction than the one where the dish points to.
How do I check for Line of Sight (LOS)?
You can use the obstacle marker (the little green balloon) to check for line of sight (LOS) to the satellite. Click and drag the marker along the alignment line to find out if an obstacle in the distance (e.g. a tree) is high enough to cause interference with the signal or even block the signal completely. When moving the obstacle marker, the distance to the obstacle is shown as ‘d’ and the maximum height the obstacle can have above the base of the dish is given as ‘h’. By adding the height your dish is at, you can check if the trees are an issue.
Example: You’re worried that the trees 50m down the yard are causing trouble to your DirecTV satellite TV reception. The satellite is at 110W. After entering your address or zip code into the search box and selecting DirecTV 110W from the satellite list and moving the satellite marker (orange balloon) exactly to place where your dish is located, you will see the satellite pointing line and the obstacle marker directly on that line. On the satellite image you can also see the trees which might be an issue as the pointing line goes straight through them. Now move the obstacle marker directly over the trees and you’ll see d=50m (the distance from the dish to the trees) and h=26m (maximum height of tree above dish for clear LOS). Your dish is on the roof of your house, at 4m above ground. So, if you add these together, the overall height of the trees should not be more than 30m, otherwise they will block your LOS and you’ll have trouble getting a good satellite picture.
Which satellites can I receive?
This depends on your location, your dish size and the signal footprints of the satellites. From your location, it is theoretically possible to obtain satellites from an arc range of 160°, that is 80° West and 80° East. Towards the poles, it gets slightly less. But this doesn’t mean that all the satellites within this range broadcast their signals down to your location. Depending on the transponder on the satellite, the signal is beamed to various spots on earth creating the so-called footprints. The center of the footprint has the highest signal strength, the edges the lowest. That means if you happen to be in the center of the footprint, you can have a smaller dish size than if you live to nearer the edge, or the other way around: the further you live from the footprint center, the bigger the dish has to be. The footprint charts provided by the satellite operators are just a rough guide. It’s still possible to receive TV channels outside these displayed footprints – the so-called fringe reception. A good example for fringe reception is the Astra 2D which host popular TV channels such as BBC (BBC1, BBC2) and ITV from the UK (England). The footprint is quite focused on Britain but many expats living in Spain and France can receive these channels by having a large dish. The good thing is that DishPointer takes your location, dish size and signal footprints into account and tells you what satellites you can receive. After entering your address or zip code (postcode) you can click on the ‘Satellites’ tab underneath the map. All the available satellites within the 160° range are shown together with the transponders, footprints and the number of TV, Radio, Data and HD channels, plus the minimum dish size for that satellite beam at your location.
How many FTA channels and HD channels can I receive?
Click on the ‘Channels’ tab underneath the map once you’ve selected a certain satellite. All the available channels, including FTA and HD channels together with their broadcasting data will be displayed. In addition, the required minimum dish size to view these channels without any problems will be displayed based on your location.
How accurate is the alignment tool?
The calculated look angles and values such as Azimuth, Elevation, LNB skew, Dish skew or Dish tilt are based on sound mathematic formulas and are very accurate. The alignment line is drawn on the Google satellite image map according to these values. The question is how accurate is the geocoding of the satellite images, i.e. is the satellite image of your house accurately mapped to its actual geographic location (longitude and latitude)? Based on my own satellite dish setups and from numerous user feedbacks, the accuracy is amazing! The alignment tool points exactly(!) in the same direction as my own satellites dishes do.
But one thing to bear in mind is the perspective of the images as they are not always shot directly from above (e.g. the sides of your house are visible). In that case, it’s best to choose a landmark which is roughly at the same height as your dish. I guess if you have a look at the satellite image of New York City with all the skyscrapers, you’ll know what I mean.
What’s the difference between true azimuth and magnetic azimuth?
We all know that a compass points to the North – this is because the earth’s magnetic fields generally flow in that direction. But that’s not always the case. At many locations around the world, the flow deviates from that direction causing the compass to point not at the True North but at the Magnetic North. So for this reason, DishPointer calculates the geomagnetic flow field and the magnetic deviation for every place on earth, and then shows the magnetic azimuth in addition to the true azimuth – just in case you want to use a compass to align your dish.
This can also be quite handy when setting up a motorized dish as you will need to find True North or True South for the installation. Your compass will show you the magnetic North or South. Just take the difference between the true and magnetic azimuth to obtain the magnetic deviation and add that to the compass reading you get. Now align the satellite motor in that direction.