How to Align a Satellite Dish

Ever looked at your satellite dish and thought it was in an odd position? It’s no mistake. While you may have seen other houses with dishes in less conspicuous places, yours should probably stay where it is – unless you’re willing to sacrifice signal quality.

Satellite dishes are aligned in a particular way for a reason. They not only need a clear line of sight to a signal tower, but also require correct alignment for optimal image quality. Your dish installation engineer would have been well aware of this when deciding the best possible spot.

Look around your local area. Although you may have seen properties elsewhere with dishes pointing in other directions, you’ll undoubtedly find that every dish in your immediate vicinity is pointing the same way. It’s no coincidence – they are all facing the same signal tower!

If you’re searching how to align a satellite dish, you’re probably thinking about installing your own satellite dish or you would like to improve your current satellite signal. 

To help you, we have put together a guide to aligning satellite dishes which includes useful tips and advice on how you should be pointing your satellite dish. Failing that, our team of experienced satellite dish installers can always help you with alignment issues you may be facing. 

Most importantly, your satellite dish must have a clear, unobstructed view of the satellites in space. This means, ensuring there are no obstructions in front of your dish, for example, trees, buildings or scaffolding. 

Find the Correct Alignment for you Satellite Dish

Satellites in space are approximately 36,000 kilometres from the Earth’s surface. Due to the extreme distance, it is important your satellite dish has the correct horizontal, vertical and skew adjustment in order to receive the best frequencies. 

When calculating the alignment, engineers use a signal meter to determine the best angle and direction. Signal meters use the location of the closest signal tower and Sky satellites as a guide.

Having a satellite finder or meter to hand makes it much easier to find the correct alignment as opposed to trial-and-error. There are various applications for phones and tablets available that can find your position using Google Maps, and then calculate the optimal alignment. When you have the position perimeters, you must then climb on your roof and manually make the adjustment.

Horizontal (Azimuth) Dish Alignment

To receive a clear, uninterrupted signal, your satellite dish must have the correct horizontal dish alignment, also referred to an azimuth position. 

The horizontal alignment refers to the position of the satellite emitting the signal. Therefore, your dish needs to point either to the east or west, in the direction where you wish to receive the signal.

Your azimuth alignment will be dependent on your location. We always recommend finding the correct horizontal alignment first as this will make it much easier to find the correct elevation alignment for your satellite dish.

Please follow our step-by-step guide to align your satellite dish horizontally: 

  1. Identify the azimuth setting you require for your satellite dish. This can be found easily online or on the Astra website
  2. After installing your dish at the chosen location, loosen the bolts on the mounting collar of the dish using an adjustable wrench. 
  3. Using a magnetic compass, stand behind the dish and rotate it horizontally until the needle aligns with the north and south dial readings. 
  4. Be aware to keep away from metal structures when using your magnetic compass as this can interfere with your readings. 
  5. Rotate the satellite dish to meet the direction that is indicated by the degrees on the compass – you can also look at the location of your neighbour’s dish for an example. 
  6. When the dish is in the correct position, you can now re-tighten the bolts on the mounting collar with the wrench. 

Vertical (Elevation) Dish Alignment

In addition to the horizontal alignment, your satellite dish must also be correctly aligned vertically (elevated) to receive a clear and uninterrupted signal (north to south).

The vertical alignment refers to the elevation angle of the dish in relation to the Earth’s surface. In the Northern hemisphere, satellite dishes are typically flat, pointing more south the closer to the equator you become.   

Similarly, your elevation alignment will be dependent on your location. 

Please follow our step-by-step guide to align your satellite dish elevation angle: 

  1. After installing your dish at the chosen location, you can set up your elevation angle with relative ease. 
  2. The majority of satellite dishes have bolts on the back, residing in slots featuring numbered hash marks which indicate elevation. Loosen these bolts and align them with the numbers which reflect your ideal elevation. 
  3. Once these adjustments have been made, you can tighten up the bolts once more. 
  4. If your satellite dish does not feature any numbers, you can monitor the signal while the dish has been loosened. 
  5. Slowly lift the dish vertically while having a friend or family member keep an eye on the broadcast signal. If the level decreases, lower the dish until it reaches its highest level. 
  6. Once the signal is at its highest strength, stop lifting. 
  7. Re-tighten the elevation bolts and make sure that it cannot move out of place.  

Signs your Satellite Dish is Pointing in the Wrong Direction

Having a misaligned satellite dish can be frustrating as there can be several contributing factors to why it may not be functioning. You can tell that your satellite dish is not receiving the best signal when: 

  • Your satellite picture is pixelated or becomes frozen
  • Experiencing total picture loss/loss of signal
  • Experiencing sound break up 

A major issue can be that the dish itself is facing in the wrong direction. Although it may not seem like a huge difference, even an adjustment of a millimetre or two can cause a sizeable impact on the reliability of the signal. 

Although your dish may have been installed and correctly aligned, strong storms and other adverse weather conditions can result in it being knocked out of position. Other reception problems can be caused by: 

  • Issues with dish installation
  • Obstructions
  • Heavy rain
  • Snow 
  • Damaged cables 
  • Requires reboot
  • Installation is undertaken by an unqualified installer
  • Engineering works
  • Size of the satellite dish

As experts in satellite dish installation and repair, we can help you correctly align your satellite dish. Simply get in touch on 0800 876 6258 to arrange for one of our engineers to come and visit your property for inspection.