How to use your Satellite Dish
This thread is not intended to teach anyone to “suck eggs”, but it would appear that many MH owners have not had the automatic systems that they have fitted explained to them or those with the dish on a tripod do not know where to look for the satellite of their choice ( there are many to choose from which have English audio if you know where to look ).
If I can answer a question I will, however I do not know it all, but after a total of 12 years on and off doing this as a hobby I have a fair idea, so please ask.
I will cover the following:
(a) The Dish manual or auto and size requirements
(b) The tuner ( this is the most important bit as any dish can see a satellite )
(c) Using a Sky card out of the sky box in another receiver.
(d) Satellite locations and what you can receive
The Dish manual or auto and size requirements
I have been asked in the past why a simple dish on a wall costs “peanuts” yet in the MH world an automatic system costs and arm and a leg. First the simple system be it on a wall or the tripod mounted system on the ground ( many MH owners have this ) works just as well and any automatic system out there today.
Tripod mounted: ( how to setup in later post )
- For: Cheap, lightweight, can have a long cable run, can be used in strong winds if pegged down, does not need programming, can be used even if the MH does not have a clear view of the sky as dish can be moved.
- Against: Hard to store ( depending on size ), hard to set up ( without guidance ) without a good LNB fitted is a waste of time.
Automatic System: ( Advice on how to set up in later post )
- For: Simply push a button and it tunes to the required satellite ( if programmed correctly ), can be used anywhere as long as you have a clear view of the sky.
- Against: Cost, cannot be use if parked up without a clear view of the sky. Uses battery power ( all be it very little ) When new satellites are sent into orbit the automatic system needs updating of internal software ( more cost ), cannot be used in strong winds
If in the UK a dish of around 60cm will see the Sky UK ( 28.2E )satellite. A 90cm ( this is easy to store ) will get you ( 28.2E, 19.2E and 13E ) satellites with ease. ( I will explain more about these satellites later ).
If traveling around the EU then things get a bit “hit and miss” In France a 60cm dish will work, but as you move away from the UK the channels will stop working ( not be seen ). A 90cm will work all the way through France across into Germany, Portugal and into Spain, However again channels will disappear the further you get from the UK ( satellite footprint ). Currently in some parts of Spain you will need a minimum 1.4mtr dish to get UK channels
Most automatic systems are around the 80cm size, but some can be 90cm. The same as above really, the only advantage is speed of setting up ( push a button ).
The end component in the entire satellite TV system is the receiver. The receiver has four essential jobs:
(a) It de-scrambles the encrypted signal. ( more on using a Sky Card in later post )
(b) It takes the digital MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 signal and converts it into an analog format that a standard television can recognize. Cheap receivers have poor picture quality
(c) It extracts the individual channels from the larger satellite signal. Many receivers do not have an update facility so when the channels are moved to a new transponder it can no longer been seen by the cheap receiver.
(d) It keeps track of pay-per-view programmes and periodically phones a computer at the provider’s headquarters to communicate billing information. This is only for Sky Card holders and does not effect those with “Free SAT” channels
Many believe that the “box” ( receiver ) that came with the automatic system is the best. I can tell you now it is poorly made and has the cheapest tuner fitted. The tuner bit, this finds the channels being pushed out by the satellite and decodes them.
I have tested a cheap receiver aganist a top of the range one and the difference is unbelievable. If I tuned into BBC Wales on the cheap model the signal strength was 83% ( here in Spain ), however the top of the range using the same dish showed signal strengh 95% !!!
This is why I state you need a good receiver.
You also need to have a good LNB: What is an LNB?
Low Noise Block-downconverter (so called because it converts a whole band or “block” of frequencies to a lower band). Also incorrectly known as a “Low Noise Block” or a “Low Noise Blocker”! An LNB sits on the end of an arm and faces the parabolic reflector (“dish”) which focusses the signals from a satellite 24,000 miles away into the “feed horn” of the LNB. The LNB converts the signals to a lower frequency and sends them out to the cable connector, which you connect to your satellite receiver via coaxial cable.
What to buy:
The LNB: To date I have not found a better LNB than this one: Technomate Ltd, Gold 0.1dB range has the world’s lowest decibel rating, giving you the best signal possible with the lowest noise ever. Coupled together, these new Full HD 1080p and 3D compatible LNBs will give you the few extra % in signal (compared to other 0.1dB LNBs it is so much better ).
The Receiver: If you are only interested in receiving UK channels ie: BBC, ITV etc then a simple “free to air” satellite box will do. You need to check however that it is capable of running 240volt and 12 volt ( unless you are happy with just 240volt, as there is more choice ). I recommended this to a friend here in Spain the other day:
This can be used in any MH with 240volt or with an inverter. You could as many do, use a sky box receiver, but remember what I said about the “tuner” bit ( Alan Sugar did not get rich using top of the range parts!!!! )
If you want to use other satellites you will need a receiver that can tune ( change satellite ) from within the menu system. There are so many out there that I would need a new thread on just that topic…. Some you might look at are:
I use this guy all the time ( as there are so many fakes out there ) and he posts world wide. As you can see there are cheap ones and middle of the road ones. It is up to you. I’m happy to recommend make and model if asked.
Using a Sky card out of the sky box in another receiver
There have been so many changes over the past 12 months with Sky UK and their cards. What they are trying to stop is “card sharing” – and to try and stop it they have introduced the “card pairing” system to the Sky box. In simple terms they say it cannot be used outside the box it is paired to, however it can…….. ( explained below )
First let me cover “card sharing”, so you have an understanding about it. For many years people have tried and succeeded to crack the codes to allow a receiver ( this is not a sky box receiver ) – ( without a sky card in it ) to decode the channels.
Here in Spain there are so many Ex Pats paying for a “card share” ( costs from 30 euros to 120 euros a year ) to decode ALL of Sky UK channels on their boxes ( link in post above ) that not many have a “Sky box” provided by Sky !!. This is an area you will have to research yourself as I’m not sure Jim would allow me to go into the details of how to do it…….
Using the card outside the box:
Firstly, although cards are paired to their box it only matters for sports & movie channels. You can move cards between boxes if you just want to watch the basic six mix pack.
The other way is the Multi room system:
Take your spare Multi room Sky box ( to the MH and plug it in ) The box does not realise that it has moved from the house, and is still getting all the channels you have signed up to at home. It will receive the updates in your MH just as it would in your house, so you can travel around the EU with it running.
As a matter of fact you DO NOT need to have the sky boxes plugged into your phone line/socket after the first year of membership no matter what they tell you.
Satellite locations and what you can receive – Part 1 of 2
This can be done with a ground standing or automatic system ( the automatic system is limited to 3 x satellite locations, I will cover automatic systems in Part2 )
Ground standing ( tripod mounted )
With a ground standing system many loose interest after a few minutes because they cannot find the satellite or find something and when it is not in English – give up. The key thing here is preparation and practice, as when this is right it takes a few minutes and not hours. I have seen many MH owners loose patience outside their MH because they have not bothered to check sighting before parking up!!
The easiest way to do this is in your own garden or on the drive way that way as and when it goes wrong you can “take a break” and start again.
(a) Simple compass is needed ( you can buy one with the “sats” marked on it ) but after a little time you can mark your own compass.
(b) TV and receiver ( we are talking about basic UK TV receiver only at this stage). Having used/tuned the receiver in the house it will have all the stored channels on it ready to go. This is a “must do” before we start.
(c) Sat dish with LNB ( I kid you not, I watched a guy setting his dish up without the LNB!!! just coax from the dish! )
(d) Signal meter ( cheap as chips ) can be done without, but for “first timers” a must…..
(d) Permanent marker and some electric tape.
(e) Patience……… lots of it, remember this is just like riding a bike you need to get the hang of it……..
AIMING THE DISH
To “aim the dish” it will be necessary to adjust the three dish settings according to your geographical location. You only need to do this ONCE whilst in the UK and adjust a little ONCE when traveling across EU
Azimuth (Lateral positioning): – Standing near the dish with a conventional compass in your hand is not going to achieve the required accuracy. Fixing the compass on the dish will only cause the compass to be affected by any steel components in the mounting bracket including nuts & bolts, screws etc,. resulting in a false reading. Use the compass a little way from the dish and use your eye to see where you need to point at this stage.
Elevation (Vertical positioning): – Any degree markings on the mounting bracket can only be accurate when the mounting is perfectly vertical to start with. If the mounting is not “plumb bob” vertical the degree markings on the side cannot be true – Close perhaps, but probably at least one or two degrees out, not critical though
Skew (LNB position): – Important when traveling in EU, but not as critical in the UK as Azimuth and Elevation. On an “Offset” type dish (one with the LNB mounted on an arm sticking out in front of the dish), skew is read and adjusted standing in front of the dish with your back to the satellite. From vertical (0˚.), the LNB should be turned clockwise. Note: the markings on the LNB normally indicate (reading left to right) 25˚ 20˚ 15˚ 10˚ 5˚ 0˚
To obtain the required dish settings and line of sight from your location click here: http://www.dishpointer.com/ In the two boxes provided, enter in your location address (or GPS co-ordinates). In the other box, select required satellite e.g. 28.2E Astra 1N Astra 2A, B & D. (for Freesat and Sky). Click GO.
NOW: adjust the LNB skew to the required setting as described above. Assuming that the dish mounting bracket is as vertical as possible, tilt the dish until the required degree of elevation is indicated on the elevation scale, usually stamped on the side of the dish mounting bracket. Tighten the elevation clamping screws a little. If there are no scale markings on the mounting bracket, provisionally set the elevation so that the dish itself is tilted just slightly back from vertical.
Ensuring that the receiver is switched off, connect the Signal meter in line between the receiver and the LNB. Preferably at the LNB end so that the signal can be heard whilst adjusting the dish. Point the dish roughly half way between east and south. (approx. 125˚ magnetic). Now switch on the receiver and TV to get a few volts up the cable to the LNB via the signal meter. On the TV via the receiver put it on SKY NEWS SD Channel.
The meter may or may not start to squeal immediately. If it does – adjust the squeal down to its lowest possible volume level but just still audible. If it doesn’t – swing the dish very slowly a little further towards south until it does. Adjust the squeal down to its lowest audible level and again very slowly continue to swing the dish laterally towards south about an inch at a time pausing for a few seconds before moving again.
Astra 1N should be the first satellite that you start to pick up and the squeal should rise rapidly in volume as you move the dish till it reaches a peak. With the squeal at its loudest, stop and lock down the lateral (azimuth) dish setting and reduce the volume of the squeal back to “just audible”.
Loosen the elevation lock again and fine tune the elevation setting by gently tilting the dish backward or forward until the squeal again reaches its peak. Lock off the elevation. When adjusting the elevation, be aware that wherever you stop tilting the dish, it will drop just another fraction under its own weight so try to allow for this.
Go check your signal strength and quality readings on the TV (note; the “quality” reading is the important one and should preferably be above 60%) but I have had a lower signal and it still worked fine, you should see and hear the SKY NEWS channel clear on the TV……..
Always bear in mind that the smaller the dish, the more accurate and diligent you need to be. When fine tuning for the ultimate “signal quality” reading, always move the dish just a tiny fraction at a time and pause for a few seconds to give your “Digibox” (receiver) time to adjust to the new setting.
It’s always much easier if you can see the TV screen whilst setting up and fine-tuning. If you can’t, – get someone to sit in front of the TV to yell “picture” – “better” or “worse” according to the strength and quality readings.
Now you should have the UK channels like BBC, ITV etc.
Finally when you are happy with the picture use the marker pen on the side of the dish for settings, so when you pack it away you can reset back to the “marker pen” markings and use the tape if you have to remove the dish from the tripod to mark fitting point. Once this is done MOVE the dish or pack it away and then realign it. Do this until it is second nature as you may not use your MH for months…….. practice makes perfect.
Note: Some leave the “signal meter” connected after setting up. This can reduce signal quality so best remove it once set up.
Satellite locations and what you can receive – Part 2 of 2
There are three main types of motorhome satellite systems:
Manual Tuning – These are very popular requiring simple assembly and manual alignment. Just like the ground mounted system you will need to practice using this system and a clear view of the sky is needed as with those listed below.
Semi Automatic – These can be free standing or roof mounted and are operated from inside your motorhome. This eliminates the need to adjust levels and angles by hand. You need somewhere to store it when not in use and they can be on the heavy side.
Fully Automatic – Normally roof mounted ( I have seen one fitted to a trailer ), and can be a dome or dish ( the Dome satellite dishes do not get affected by wind ), the fully automatic systems usually require fitting by a authorized installer, but you can fit it yourself as long as you take your time ( I did mine in 3 hours ). These systems do all the work by locating the chosen satellite at the touch of a button as the software built in has all the details of compass bearing etc. You never get wet or angry with this system when tuned correctly !! ……..
With all these systems they are preprogrammed with the required software to locate and lock onto the satellite of choice. I cannot go into detail of each and every system, but the basic menu’s are the same. The down side of software driven systems is that they are only “up to date” on the day they leave the factory. Some manufacturers will periodically release a “software update” and other manufacturers do not so you buy their new system. What this means is when for example the channels on current satellites on 28E ( Sky UK and UK channels ) have moved onto the new satellites end of this year many of the automatic systems will not have the stored information to find the new satellites and their transponders where the channels have moved to. This is happening to a well known manufacture of MH satellite systems right now!!!
Setting up your automatic system: ( using my MobilSat system as example )
Every automatic system has an Advanced Functions Menu ( you will need to read the manual to find it )
Within this menu you will find Satellite Selection Menu ( most have 16 satellites to choose from ) however every automatic system will only allow 3 of the 16 to be locked into the user menu. What you do is select 3 of the satellites you want to use ( Most systems are pre-programmed to Hot Bird (13E) Astra 1 (19E ) NOTE: NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH ASTRA 1N ( UK SAT ) and Astra 2 (28E) This is where many MH owners get confused as they see Astra1 and think ah….. it’s tuning to Sky UK……… when it’s not!!!
I have changed it on my system so that I have 13E (Hotbird), 19E(Astra1) and 28E(AstraN1 and the rest of Sky UK and UK channels) so that if I cannot get UK channels in location I move the dish to 13E (Hotbird) or 19E (Astra1) and watch channels with UK Audio like Fox etc. The audio selection can be found on the receiver under “audio” and if there is a English sound track it will be displayed and can be selected. Some receivers remember this selection, with other receivers you have to set audio change for each channel.
Many owners of automatic systems have them fitted in the UK so “SKEW” ( read earlier post ) is not set for traveling across EU and they loose the UK channels in the middle of France. The “SKEW” for using your automatic system across EU is Portugal +25, Spain +15 and Morocco +20, however I have found with my system that +15 covers all areas including UK.
Then there is the “Sector” system selection, which again if fitted in the UK is set to “All Sectors” when it should be set to “North Europe” unless you are traveling into Morocco. The reason to set this correctly is if it is searching “All Sectors” the dish can go round and round and round for ages…….. When set correctly it will lock onto and select the requested satellite within 15/30 seconds from last known position. ( mine on average is 20seconds from pushing the start button )