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Aligning the satellite dish: this is how it works

Satellite television (DVB-S) is popular because it is cheaper than cable television without running costs. And terrestrial transmission cannot keep up with the variety of programs offered by satellites. The only disadvantage of satellite TV: You have to align the satellite dish. With a steady hand and the necessary knowledge, this is not a problem - even without aids. Find out how to do it.

Aligning the satellite dish: this is how it works
Aligning the satellite dish: this is how it works

How does a satellite dish work?

A satellite dish receives the TV signal directly from space from geostationary satellites. Geostationary means that the satellites are always in the same place relative to the earth.

How should one aim the satellite dish?

The usual television satellites from Astra and Eutelsat are vertically exactly above the equator. Viewed from Central Europe, you should always aim at the southern sky when you align the satellite dish. How steeply the satellite dish has to look into the sky depends on which satellite is to deliver the program (Astra or Eutelsat Hot Bird) and how far north or south on the globe you are.

Which angles should you watch out for when aligning the satellite dish?

The vertical angle of view of the bowl is called the elevation angle. In Germany it is between about 27 degrees and 34 degrees, depending on where you live. The second important setting is the azimuth angle. This horizontal angle indicates by how many degrees the satellite dish must be rotated to the east or west (left or right) deviating from the south orientation. Finally, the angle of rotation of the signal converter or LNB (Low Noise Block) has to be adjusted, professionals speak of LNB Skew or LNB Tilt. When all three angles are optimally set, the signal strength and quality are ideal.

Aligning the satellite dish is not quite perfect for everyday use. However, dropouts can occur in bad weather or pollution from leaves or birds. You should take the time to align, because this is the only way to enjoy consistently flawless television reception.

Align the satellite dish with the Satfinder

Most satellite dishes come with tables that offer at least rough approximations for the various regions for aligning with Astra and Eutelsat Hotbird. However, a really accurate result can only be achieved in the rarest of cases. So-called satellite finders are available in stores to help find the desired satellite.

How does a satfinder work?

The satellite finder is connected between the LNB and the receiver. It then shows the strength of the satellite signal. Important: Many satellite finders only provide information about the strength of the signal, but no indication of which satellite it is coming from. There is therefore a risk that you will point the satellite dish towards the wrong satellite. You can avoid this by investing in a satellite finder with satellite detection. Follow these steps for both device variants:

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Procedure for alignment with Satfinder

  • Connect LNB and satellite finder, as well as satellite finder and receiver with cables (the necessary accessories are usually included with the satellite finder)
  • Adjust the angle of inclination and loosely tighten the screws.
  • Adjust the horizontal angle. Keep an eye on the satellite finder to find the ideal angle.
  • If the setting is ideal, tighten all screws firmly.

However, today you no longer have to buy a satellite finder as a device. There are now numerous apps (some of which are chargeable) that help align the satellite dish. But it's also completely free.

Align the satellite dish without a satellite finder

If you know your own geographic coordinates and the satellite position, you could also calculate the orientation angles yourself. Easier than all the options mentioned so far, however, is the use of free offers on the Internet, which specify the necessary values ​​for the angles. The principle of such sites is always the same: you enter the installation location of the satellite antenna and select the desired satellite. The page then names all relevant values.

Tip: The dishpointer.com website is particularly successful. It not only shows the angles as numerical values, but also integrates the map material from Google Maps. The operation is easy: Place the marker in the form of a small satellite dish on the map at the installation location and select the desired satellite from the extensive list. A small table now appears with all the angles. In addition, a green line on the map shows the direction in which you should point the satellite dish. Because buildings and prominent points in the area can also be clearly seen on Google Maps, antenna alignment is child's play. Just make a note of a landmark near you that touches the line and let the satellite dish look exactly in that direction.

Align the satellite dish without tools

If the antenna is to be aligned without any technical aids, it is best to work in pairs. The following procedure has proven itself step by step:

  • Point the antenna to the south and adjust the elevation
  • Roughly aiming at azimuth, finding satellites
  • Fine adjustment of the azimuth angle
  • Readjust the elevation, adjust the LNB Skew
  • First, point the antenna towards the south. This is followed by a relatively precise adjustment of the elevation. For this purpose, a scale with degrees is usually attached to the holder of the satellite dishes, which you can use as a guide. Tilt or incline the parabolic mirror to the desired value and tighten the screw just enough so that the bowl no longer moves by itself.
  • Now, at the latest, connect the LNB and the satellite receiver, connect the latter to the television set and switch everything on. Now it's time to search for satellites: To do this, scan the sky with the satellite dish on a horizontal path in a swivel movement.
  • With no knowledge of the correct azimuth, you may find several satellites during such a pan. Therefore, to start with, it is best to orientate yourself roughly to the satellite dishes of the neighbors, if they have also installed them. For the German-speaking area, Astra 19.2 ° East is the most important satellite, which most of the other antennas also point to.
  • The second person on the TV set tells the person on the satellite dish by shouting or by phone what the effect of the panning movement will be. First of all, it is only important that a signal from the correct satellite is actually received. Most receivers have a setup menu that shows the signal strength and quality as well as the name of the satellite.
  • Once you have found the right satellite, you can fine-tune it. Patience is now required: move the bowl millimeter by millimeter and wait to see if and how the signal display changes. With digital transmission technology, it takes a moment for the receiver to indicate a change.
  • Swivel the bowl millimeter by millimeter until the signal gets worse again. Then it takes a step back - that's the perfect azimuth angle.
  • Sometimes you have to repeat the procedure several times, because weather influences and display inaccuracies of the receivers do not always produce ideal results right away.
  • Now you can try to get a few percentage points out by changing the elevation slightly. Turning the LNB can also lead to a slight improvement in satellite reception in the end. If the optimum is achieved, tighten all screws - done.

The most important satellite positions

Now that the theory is clear, what is the best position to aim your satellite dish at? Astra or Eutelsat Hotbird come into question, depending on the range of programs, languages ​​and any additional services. From time to time satellites are added, disappeared or relocated, new channels are switched on or the service is discontinued. However, the following important positions are constantly served:

position

Satellites

Hints

13 ° East

Eutelsat Hotbird

13B, 13C, 13E

more than 1000 programs in 41 languages, more than 200
HD channels, relatively few German-speaking channels

19.2 ° East

Astra 1KR, 1L, 1M, 1N

most important position for German-speaking SD
and HD channels, recommended by Astra for reception
in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Aligning the satellite dish: safety first

No matter how you aim the satellite dish - whether without tools or with a satellite finder - it can be a fiddly task. Don't get impatient or put yourself in danger!

Professionals only move on the roof with fall protection. Do not lean too far over the balcony railing and always keep calm. A slow and well-considered approach is important because a few millimeters of difference in the horizontal and vertical alignment have a significant impact on the signal strength and quality. Take the necessary time and always play it safe.