How to Calibrate a Satellite Dish
By Richard Asmus
Because satellites orbit above the equator at various intervals, installing a satellite dish in North America works best with a clear view of the southern sky, with no obstructions from trees, houses, buildings or any structure that could block the signal. For satellite TV, you also need a receiver and a subscription to a satellite services provider to receive a signal. After connecting the dish to the receiver and the receiver to the TV, calibrate or align the dish for a direct line-of-sight contact with the satellite for the strongest signal possible.
Turn on the TV and satellite receiver and adjust the system to show the satellite signal strength meter on the TV. See the user's manuals for your TV and satellite receiver.
Obtain the antenna elevation and azimuth angles from your services provider. Standing under the dish, select a fixed object on the horizon in line with your azimuth angle.
Loosen the elevation adjustment bolts on the dish and set it to the angle provided by the satellite company or your research. Tighten the bolts enough to keep the dish from moving up or down while adjusting the azimuth.
Loosen the azimuth adjustment bolts on the dish to move it smoothly without jerking or flopping around. Point it at the object on the horizon you established with the compass.
Move the dish slightly to the left and then to the right while monitoring the meter on the TV set to see which way increases the signal strength. Continue moving in that direction until you find a peak. Move slowly or in short steps to avoid going past the peak. Once you see the signal decline, move back to the maximum peak and tighten the azimuth adjustment bolts.
Loosen the elevation bolts again and move the dish up and down while watching the meter. Lock it down on the peak signal.
Check your dish and manual for a polarization or skew adjustment that turns the dish around the axis of the signal from the satellite. If your dish has two or three feedhorns, you need to do this. Loose the rotation adjustment bolts and turn the dish for the maximum signal on the meter. Tighten the bolts when you find it.
- If you don't have your antenna angles, you can calculate them using online satellite finders, but you must know which satellite to point to for your subscription package. More complex dishes pick up signals from two or three satellites simultaneously.
- Your final meter reading should be between 70 and 100. Use the strongest signal you can find to prevent signal loss during rainfall.
- A satellite dish installed in a high location may present safety concerns for inexperienced persons. Call a professional installer or your service provider to be safe.
Richard Asmus was a writer and producer of television commercials in Phoenix, Arizona, and now is retired in Peru. After founding a small telecommunications engineering corporation and visiting 37 countries, Asmus studied broadcasting at Arizona State University and earned his Master of Fine Arts at Brooklyn College in New York.