Satellite antennas must be carefully aimed for proper reception. Professional installers can do all this, of course, but DirecTV dish pointing is a readily accomplished task for the do-it-yourself types too. DirecTV satellites are in stationary orbits about 22,000 miles above the equator, so the starting point for aligning the antenna is to first know your location on Earth.
You’ll need a compass to establish the satellite’s azimuth – it’s angle from true north. Note, however, that a compass points at magnetic north, not true north, and you may need a declination table to provide the correction for your location. GPS devices point at true north.
A satellite signal strength meter with a audible tone output is necessary for finding the maximum signal. These range from inexpensive units for occasional use to full-featured ones for professionals.
Terrestrial Location: Various websites offer positioning information on aiming a satellite dish, beginning with either GPS coordinates or a local zipcode. DirecTV receivers have a programmed table with this information, providing both the azimuth and elevation. It may show the elevation – the satellite’s angle above the horizon – as 47.6 degrees and it’s azimuth as 183.4 for a location in Oklahoma, for example.
Dish Mounting: If possible, see that the dish is mounted on a vertical pole. Pole mounts are common for both residential and recreational vehicle use. Use a level to see that it’s vertical. This assists with DirecTV dish pointing at the correct elevation.
Homeowners should consider putting a dab of grease on the threads of the mounting bolts. This prevents corrosion and greatly facilitates repositioning the dish antenna after month or years outside in the weather.
Initial Aiming: Use the elevation marks to set the dish antenna to the correct elevation. You may have to loosen the mounting nuts to do this, but don’t fully tighten them when finished. Rotate the antenna to the proper azimuth as determined by the compass. Again, if you loosened the mounting nuts, don’t fully tighten them yet.
Final Aiming: Turn off the power to the satellite receiver. Connect the satellite signal strength meter between the receiver and the low noise block converter (LNB) mounted on the dish. Most meters have an internal battery or power supply that provides voltage to the LNB, but if not, turn the satellite receiver back on. Set the gain control for the initial reading on the meter. Move the dish antenna very slowly and listen for a stronger tone or watch for a higher reading on the meter. The antenna has enough gain to make very small movement apparent, so do not hurry. When you have the maximum signal on the azimuth, repeat the process with elevation. If you have a very strong signal, turn down the gain on the meter to assist with more precise alignment.
Tighten the mounting nuts and recheck the satellite signal strength. Sometimes the extra torque causes a slight movement in the dish antenna. If so, try to turn the dish slightly offset from the maximum signal strength and tighten the mounting nuts to bring it into proper alignment.
Enjoy! With your DirecTV dish pointing at the strongest satellite signals, you should have excellent reception.