Search This Blog


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Installing a DirecTV 5LNB Dish

Despite being "Mr. Hi Tech", I've made my family suffer with SDTV.   They don't much care about the picture, and the direcTV SD digital signal looks pretty good as it is.   Wifey loves the TiVo and all the channels, high recording capacity, etc so there has been no reason to upset the apple cart.   I've been buying used DVRs and upgrading storage (a hobby that predates starting this blog) and have recorders with 100s of hours of space and she has years of stuff saved.  You can buy these things for <$40 on ebay, people practically give them away.  There is no TiVo for directv HDTV, only knockoffs.  So no reason to break something that is working.

However I decided to upgrade my dish to HDTV capable, in case this Christmas I weaken and decide to move to HDTV.    Of course I don't want the directv install monkeys at my house, I'm going to do it myself.  Then I can just pick up a receiver at my leisure and activate it.  My plan is to install it myself and align it just using the signal meter on the screen. 

I have the older 2LNB and 3LNB dishes on my house that won't work with the current HDTV broadcast and HDTV local channels.  I need to upgrade to a 5LNB Slimline Dish.  These used to be expensive but have come down over the years.   5LNB is needed to receive 101°, 110°, 119° degree satellites, plus the new Ka Satellite (99°, 103°) for local HD MPEG4 programming.

There are two types of 5LNB.  The difference is only in the LNB head, and the heads can be swapped without taking down the dish.  The heads look like this.   Note the four connectors at the bottom.

The newer ones have SWM in the name, and have both channels multiplexed onto one wire.  With those you will see one red cable connection.  The older ones have four, and work like the old fashioned ones that require a multiswitch to split.  Apparently the newest receivers use SWM and if you have the old style two wires you need an adapter.  I decided to go with the old style SL5 LNB instead of paying more for a SLF-SWM LNB since my house is already wired with the old style.  Plus the old style LNB is $50 cheaper.   If I went SWM I'd have to climb into my attic and replace my multiswitch and buy a power inserter and adapters for all my old boxes.  Blah. 

Bought a dish off ebay, got this one:

$98 was the lowest total cost I found between price and shipping.  I had $6 in ebay bucks so that came off and I paid $92.  Note that these things are big and heavy and some people charge $30 for shipping, so watch out.  Shipping is fair but that doesn't mean I have to pay it ;-).   I tried Amazon, Weaknees, Ebay, Froogle.  Seller had reasonable feedback and I got it in a week.  Looks new, all the parts, Win!   You might do better from a private seller on a used dish if you work at it a bit and bid.

The dish came with no instructions, and even for a mechanically adept and experienced dish assembler, it is not obvious how it goes together.    So I found this doc on the web:
I fired up the signal meter in the guided satellite setup on one of my TiVo DVR's and encountered a setback.  My receivers don't give you the option to pick anything past a 3LNB.  So I won't be able to fully align this dish but I think I can at least align it to work with the boxes I have, and tweak it in if needed when I finally get the HD DVR.

However I need to know the azimuth, elevation and tilt for this dish. Since my receiver doesn't support it, it doesn't tell me the tilt.  So I looked around the web.
Found the directv satellites in the list, but still can't get tilt from this tool

Bingo! This tool allows you to enter your location, select Directv 5 LNB from under the multi-LNB Setups and gives me the skew/tilt.  

Your LocationSatellite DataDish Setup DataView dish alignment line in Google Earth
Latitude: 39.0993°
Longitude: -76.8483°
Name: DirecTV 5 LNB (99, 101, 103, 110, 119W)
Distance: 37919km
Elevation 38.3°
Azimuth (true) 215.4°
Azimuth (magn.) 226.4°
Dish Skew [?]:  63.3° 
Turn clockwise standing behind the dish

These numbers disagree slightly from the Directv basic tool, 225.1/38.4
Also the three LNB setup said 56 degree tilt.   So it looks like I will be doing some hunting.

Found an app called SatelliteAR.  Neat.  You can search the database for "directv" and it will show you only those 5 satellites.    Hold up the smartphone and you see where they are.  It is a little imprecise of course, but you get a good general idea if you are looking in the right direction and if a tree is in your line of sight.

I assembled the dish according to the instructions, which were pretty bad on the assembly section.  I aligned it roughly like they say in the document too.  Note that I used the 3LNB setting on my receiver and was able to get it to work just fine.  At least I'm back to getting all the stuff I was before.  I won't know if the HDTV alignment is good until I get an HDTV receiver.  I plan to tweak it in at that point.

If you are wondering if you can align a satellite dish yourself, the answer is yes if you can hold a wrench and have ears.   I find it's best to set things up so you can hear the satellite signal strength meter tone from the settings menu from where you are aligning the dish.  Just move it around slowly until you hear the tone.  Done.  I have used two cell phones when I'm too far away to just turn up the TV volume to max.   Using a second person to watch the meter is ok too, but they often get bored and complain a lot :-).

I will update this post in a few months when I get and HDTV receiver. 

1 comment:

  1. If you have any problem finding a signal satellite I am sending you a recommendation for this site locator satellite