Planet Fox > Microwaves > How to Install a Satellite Antenna

How to Install a Satellite Antenna

It doesn't take any knowledge to just install a satellite antenna, what does take knowledge and skill is installing one the right way. In this guide I show you, step by step, how to find a good location, mount, point and peak, and cable your new antenna.

Site Survey

Finding a good spot for your satellite antenna is critical. Unlike OTA antennas, satellite antennas do not necessarily need to be placed up high; it will receive the same amount of signal sitting on the ground as it does on the peak of your roof. The satellite is at least 36,000 km away, so a few meters isn't likely to make a difference. Ideally, you'll want to place your dish somewhere where it's easy to access for cleaning and maintenance, but out of the way of everyday traffic; a good example would be on a wall above head height or on the edge of a roof. There are three things you need to consider when looking for a place to put your antenna.

Line of Sight

InclinometerThis is the most important consideration. Satellite signals, like light, do not pass through solid objects. The biggest problem in this area is trees. You'll want to pick a spot where there are no obstructions, and you should leave enough clearance so that nearby trees don't grow into the signal path. To determine where your chosen satellite is located in the sky you'll need a device called an inclinometer (pictured), which combines a compass and protractor into one device. Lookup the azimuth and elevation for your satellite, then use the compass to find the azimuth and the protractor to find the elevation. The satellite is located where those two coordinates intersect. Alternatively, if you have a smart phone with built in camera and GPS, there are a variety of augmented reality applications that show you in real time where the satellites are located; just search for "dish pointer" or "satellite finder" .


A satellite antenna requires a strong, sturdy mount. As dish size increases, so will weight and wind loading, so take this into consideration. Aditionally, a larger antenna will have a narrower beamwidth, meaning that the signal will be stronger than a smaller antenna when it's properly aligned, but will be more likely to drop the signal if the dish moves.

The very best mount is on the edge of the roof of a permanent structure. My two Ku band antennas are mounted to the edge of the roof above my back porch. The exception to this is metal roofing, which is too hard to properly waterproof and too hard to find a stud. The next best place would be on a wood framed, brick, or concrete wall; do not, however mount a dish to vinyl or aluminum siding, or any other dimensionally unstable surface. The gable of a house is an acceptable mount, provided the proper mounting hardware is used, but should only be used when other methods aren't possible. As a last resort, you can mount your dish to a pole in the ground, which I don't recommend, since it's not as stable and too easy to inadvertently damage.

Grounding and Access

If the building has existing cabling that you want to use, you'll want to get the antenna as close to where this cabling is terminated as possible. This is usually located somewhere close to where the building's electrical service enters the house, which brings me to my next point. According to NFPA 70, the national electrical code, all outdoor antennas must be grounded within ten feet of where the cabling enters the structure. Usually this is accomplished with a grounding block, which connected to either to an inter-system bonding terminal, the building's grounding electrode, a meter or electrical box, or a cold water pipe. If none of these are available, you'll have to install a grounding spike, which should be at least 4 feet long.

You'll also want to ask yourself, how accessible is this site? If you live in a climate where it snows, will you be able to access the antenna to remove snow? Is it easy to reach the antenna from the ground or from a ladder if it needs adjusted or repaired? And beware of hazards such as overhead power lines.


I'll cover the most common mounts here, which should be applicable to 99% of installations.

Direct to Wall/Roof Mount

Here's what you'll need:

  • J-mast
  • 2" lag screws
  • 3" lag screws
  • Lead anchors and ½" masonry bit (for masonry walls)
  • Silicone sealant (for wall mounts)
  • Pitch pad (for roof mount)
  • ¼" drill bit
  • Stud finder
  • Level

Regardless of whether it's a wall or roof mount, it is absolutely imperative to find a stud. The roof and wall sheathing on most houses is thin plywood, or worse, OSB and will not support the loads imposed on it by even a small, 45 cm dish. In every case, the top bolts will pull loose, and in the worst cases the entire mount goes. Using a stud finder makes it easy, although tapping and listening for hollow spots isn't much harder. It makes it easier if you know that roof studs are always spaced 24" apart and wall studs are 16" apart.

Once you've found your stud, pre-drill the two center holes in the foot of the J mast (#1 and #2). This prevents the wood from splitting and makes it easier to line everything up, and it's an easy way to ensure you're going into a stud: you should feel resistance and see sawdust coming out all the way in. For roof mounts, apply the pitch pad now. For wall mounts, fill the holes with silicone, then circle the all bolt holes in the J mast with silicone. Drive a 3" lag screw into hole number one, but don't tighten it all the way. Drive a 3" lag screw into hole number two, and use a bubble level on the side of the mast to adjust it until it's perfectly level, then tighten both center bolts. You can now drive 2" lags into the four outer holes (nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6).

For concrete, block or brick walls, you will only need to mark the location of the four outer holes. Make absolutely certain that they're perfectly level. Then, predrill with the ½" masonry bit, insert the lead anchors, and drive in four 3" lag screws.

Post Mount

Post mountHere's what you'll need:

  • Post
  • Post hole diggers
  • 3" lag screws
  • 90° plastic pipe elbow
  • Concrete
  • Level

The type of post most commonly used for mounting a satellite antenna is a galvanized steel electrical conduit, although a galvanized fence post with the correct outside diameter will also work. Start by digging a hole, which should be about 2 feet deep and about 12" across. It should be made larger in diameter towards the bottom. Drive a few screws or bolts into the bottom of the post to keep it from turning. With the level attached to the post, fill the hole with concrete, making small adjustments as needed to keep everything perfectly level. When you're done, double check all four sides with the level.

Give the concrete time to set up (hours, or a day or two, depending on the type/brand and ambient temperature). Use a cable tie to attach the pipe elbow to the post at the bottom, this will give the cable protection from lawnmowers, weedwackers, etc...

Pointing and Peaking

This is actually the easiest part. Set the elevation at the back of the dish. If the antenna has a skew bracket, like a Dish Network antenna, go ahead and set it too, otherwise set the skew by physically rotating the LNBF. Skew setting is irrelevant for single orbital location circular polarized antennas. Do not adjust the skew after it's been properly set.

Put the dish on the pole, hand tighten the bolts and connect the signal meter or receiver. Aim the dish in roughly the direction of your satellite and slowly sweep it East and West looking for a signal lock. You have now pointed the dish.

To fine tune the azimuth, sweep the dish very slowly across the two degrees or so where the signal is locked, and make a note of where the signal starts to drop, on each side, and point the dish between these two marks. Now you will need to fine tune the elevation. Loosen the elevation bolts and very gently raise and lower the dish across the degree or so where the signal is locked. Make a note of where it starts to drop, and again, position the dish between these two points.

When the dish is properly peaked, tighten the elevation bolts very, very tight. Do the same for the mounting collar, the two sides of the mounting collar should be touching, or at least close enough that a playing card wouldn't fit into the gap.


Proper groundingThis is pretty much always the weak point in any signal distribution system, mostly because people don't seem to know how to treat coaxial cable. Here's a hint, though, treat it like a very delicate hose, not a wire; no kinks, no sharp bends, no staples, and it should never be punctured. For more information on cabling in general, see my article on the subject.

Usually there will be two downleads from the antenna, one for each polarity being fed to a switch, or for two receivers. Twin conductor coax with a copper coated steel grounding line is widely available and is easier to handle than separate lines. Make at least two 4" loops of cable behind the dish, this provides some slack for future upgrades or replacements. On smaller dishes you can wrap this around the elevation bracket. The grounding wire should be connected, via a grounding screw or lug, to the foot of the J-mast; on a post mount you'll use a grounding strap. The grounding block should be connected via a 10 gauge copper wire directly to the building's grounding electrode, ground wire, intersystem bonding terminal, an electrical box, or a cold water pipe.

Secure the cable every 18" with the appropriate cable clips. I recommend the clamshell type (pictured) since they're easy to use and seem to hold up well. Use silicone flooded 'direct burial' cable for post mounted antennas. Near where the cabling enters the building, make a few more 4" loops of cable; the bottom of these loops should be lower than both the grounding block and the hole drilled for the cable's entry. Most satellite grounding blocks have two barrels, with the dielectric color coded blue to indicate that they're for use at frequencies up to 2150 MHz, do not use the cheaper blocks with the clear or white dielectric, as these are meant for CATV or over the air.

All of the wiring should be angled downward from the grounding block, and upwards towards the hole where the cable enters the building. This directs water away from the grounding block and keeps it from corroding, and keeps the water out of your house where it can cause structural damage. For good measure, use a plastic bushing and silicone to fully weatherproof the cable entry hole. All of the exterior fittings should be compression connectors, and torqued to 22-30 in-lbs. The connectors can be filled with silicone grease beforehand to provide an additional margin of waterproofing.

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