How to Install a Motorized FTA Satellite TV System

How to Install a Motor on a Free To Air Satellite TV Dish for KU Band and How to Align a Larger C band Polar Mount.
The alignment process for tracking the satellite arc for small dish KU band and larger dish C band is very similar.
A motor allows you to turn the antenna to different satellites. A small dish KU motor is operated through the single wire that normally runs from the receiver to the LNB. The wire will now run from the receiver straight to the motor. Then from the motor to the LNB.
C band polar mount normally uses a linier actuator to turn the dish and separate wire and controller to power the actuator.

Before buying a small dish motor, try to decide which satellites you would like to receive. Here are some Free to Air (FTA) channel lists:
http://www.sathint.com/
http://www.ftalist.com/index.php
http://www.lyngsat.com/
http://www.global-cm.net/MPEGlistKuBandUS.html

Check How Far Your Small Dish Motor Will Need to Turn
Go to Dishpointer.com and find your location and look up the farthest east and farthest west satellite that you want. Note the azimuth for each and calculate the angle amount turned from south. South is 180 degrees. For example my farthest west satellite has an azimuth of 235 degrees. 235 minus 180 equals 55 degrees. My farthest east satellite is 22 degrees from south. Using the larger number I need a motor that can turn at least 55 degrees from south. Small dish motors are sometimes advertised by their total turning angle. I would need a motor that has a total turning angle of at least 110 degrees. Just make sure your motor can turn the amount that you need.

C band with linier actuator by design can only turn so far. The bigger the dish, the longer and stronger the actuator must be.

Two Basic Angles Needed.
There are two angles you will need to set up the motor or the polar mount. These angles are the same for both small dish KU band and larger dish C band.
1. The Motor Latitude
2. Declination angle
These are two separate angles requiring two separate adjustments.
Small dish:  The motor latitude is adjusted using the motor bracket that came with the motor. The declination angle is set using the elevation scale on the dish.
Large dish:  For C band dish there are two separate adjusters, one for motor latitude and one for declination angle.

Using the Dishpointer.com website, find your location and instead of selecting a satellite, scroll down to the Motorized section and select True South / True North. It will give you the motor latitude and declination angle for your location. Write these down.

 

Rotational Axis and Motor Latitude
In the picture above, the rotational axis of the motor is the upper line. The lower line shows horizontal. The Motor Latitude from Dishpointer.com is the angle above horizontal that the rotational axis is set. Notice the tube where you mount the antenna is bent down from the rotational axis. This is called the crank angle. This crank angle has no effect on tracking the satellite arc sometimes called the Clarke Belt. It is the motor latitude in combination with the declination angle that affects tracking of the satellite arc. In the northern hemisphere you raise the north side of the motor.


In the drawing below is a prime focus dish. You use the same Motor Latitude and Declination Angle that you obtained from dishpointer.com

Elevation

Elevation is the angle above the horizon from your location that the satellite is located.  This angle is the same for offset or prime focus dishes.  Small dishes have elevation scales that show how far above the horizon the dish is focused for satellite signal reception.

How high the dish is pointed is also called the Elevation. Pointed straight at the horizon would be 0 degrees elevation. Straight up would be 90 degrees elevation. If you raise the antenna, pointing it higher in the sky, then you are raising the Elevation. As the antenna turns on the rotational axis the elevation changes to track the satellite arc in the sky. Due south from you in the middle of the arc, the elevation is highest. Turning east or west from there the elevation is lower. Obviously the elevation of your dish must match the elevation of the satellite.


Declination Angle
Small Dish:  The declination angle is set using the elevation scale on the dish. The elevation scale setting is always: The Crank Angle minus the Declination Angle. If the crank angle is 35 degrees and the declination is 5.8, you would set the elevation scale at 29.2. Read the numbers on the scale and set accordingly.
Large Dish:  On larger C band type dish use the declination adjuster.
 

The drawings below show some angles involved for motor setup. The Motor Latitude and Declination Angle are the important angles that you need.
 

Here are the same angles presented slightly different:

In the picture above, the satellite is in line with the equator. Line F and Angle G is your latitude on the earth. Line A is the local horizontal or horizon.
Line C is the rotational axis of the polar mount or the motor. The motor latitude is exactly equal to Angle G. The antenna is attached to and rotates with the rotational axis.
If the antenna looks out at exactly 90 degrees from the rotational axis (line E) it would miss the satellite.
The Declination Angle is the amount the antenna has to be turned downward to line up with the satellite. The closer you are to the equator, the smaller the declination angle.
If you were right on the equator, there would be no declination angle and the motor latitude would be zero and the elevation 90.

Here is one more drawing of the angles for offset dish:

Mast Must be Plumb
The mast that you mount the motor and dish or polar mount on must be plumb, vertical.

Begin the Installation
Small Dish:  Mount the motor on the mast and put a hose clamp on the mast just below the motor bracket to hold the motor from slipping down the mast while adjusting. Attach the antenna to the motor. Point the antenna and motor approximately south.
Large dish:  Assemble the dish to the polar mount.  Put the assembly on the mast and install the linear actuator.

North/South Alignment of Rotational Axis
The rotational axis of the motor must be aligned North/South. The antenna should be pointing to south azimuth angle of 180 when at its highest elevation. If the motor axis/rotational axis is not aligned north/south, the antenna will be at its highest elevation at some azimuth angle other than south 180.

The following method of alignment manually verifies the antenna is at highest elevation and manually sets the turn to the nearest south satellite, thus aligning the rotational axis north/south. This is how you should align a C band antenna.
For a small dish the USALS function is much easier than this manual setting. For small dish skip to: Setting the Motor Latitude-Small Dish.

Begin Adjustment
Set the motor latitude adjustment of the polar mount as close to horizontal as it will go (see picture below). This sets the dish facing as straight up as possible, with elevation close to 90 degrees, like you were trying to collect rainwater with it. Set the rotational axis roughly to a North/South alignment. In this position, when the antenna is level across the EAST/WEST edges, then the antenna is at its highest elevation. Use a 1/2 inch transparent tube as a water level for maximum accuracy. As mentioned earlier the antenna should be at its highest elevation when pointing to south azimuth of 180 degrees. We will call this the antenna's "South 180 Position."

 

Turning the Antenna for True South Setting
We will now turn the antenna (using the linear actuator) from south 180 position to the azimuth of your nearest south satellite. If the nearest south satellite has no useable transponder then find the azimuth of the nearest south satellite that has a useable transponder. We want to point to and tune in the nearest south satellite. Your nearest south satellite is the one with the nearest longitude location equal to your longitude location. Go to Dishpointer.com and find your location and look up satellites on either side of your longitude. The one with the azimuth nearest 180 is your nearest south satellite. Note the azimuth because you will have to turn your antenna to find that satellite. Turning the antenna from its highest elevation point (South 180 Position) to your nearest south satellite azimuth will assure that the antenna is pointing true south when it is returned to its highest elevation point. Do not simply point your antenna at a satellite and call it south if the azimuth is not exactly 180. If you actually have a useable satellite at south azimuth 180 degrees, then no turn is necessary. You would just level the antenna across the east/west edges.

Calculate how far and what direction you need to turn the antenna. Any azimuth UNDER 180 is EAST.  Any azimuth OVER 180 is WEST. For example, if your nearest south satellite is at 179.5 azimuth, then you must turn the antenna 0.5 degree east. If your nearest south satellite is 180.5 azimuth, then you must turn the antenna 0.5 degree west. For an east turn, drop the east edge of the dish from level. For a west turn, drop the west edge of the dish from level.

Measure the east/west width of your antenna. Use a Triangle Calculator to find the Calculated Turning Distance. Enter the width of your antenna as two sides of a triangle. Enter the angle you want to turn the antenna for the angle where the two sides touch. Enter length in inches if you want the calculated side in inches. Be sure to use at least 3 figures after the decimal point.

Move ONE HALF of the Calculated Turning Distance on each side.  The dish pivots in the middle, so the distance to turn is divided between the two sides.  One side of the dish goes up while the other side goes down.  For an EAST turn, drop the EAST edge of the dish from level. For a WEST turn, drop the WEST edge of the dish from level.

 

If you use a level line and measure on one side only then you would measure the total turning distance as shown in drawing above.

Measure your dish with a tape measure. For example, if you measure 120 inches, enter 120 for the two sides of the triangle. Enter the angle amount you need to turn, for example 0.5 degrees. The calculated movement would be 1.05 inches. You use the linear actuator to turn the antenna.  Depending on which direction you need to turn, you would drop the east or west edge of the dish one half of 1.05 inches. Do not use these numbers, they are examples only. Use the water level and a ruler to check the movement.   AFTER SETTING THIS LITTLE ANGLE DO NOT USE THE MOTOR AGAIN AND DO NOT TURN THE ANTENNA. You will turn the antenna for initial tuning of your nearest south satellite by turning the entire dish and polar mount assembly on the mast.

Setting the Motor Latitude-Small Dish
Small Dish: Set the motor latitude using an angle finder. Do not use either of the scales on the motor bracket. They are notoriously inaccurate. The reading on the angle finder is simple. Starting from horizontal, the movement is: The motor latitude angle plus the crank angle. If you use the angle finder under the motor opposite the antenna, you will still measure the same degrees from horizontal, but the angle finder must be turned 180 degrees.

For example, using an angle finder as shown in the drawing below, if the motor latitude is 40 degrees and the crank angle is 35, then the angle you want is 75.   After adjustment tighten the little screws using a nut driver. Be careful not to over tighten. These screws might strip out if you over tighten. Check the angle again after you tighten the screws. If not correct, do over. This must be right. Hopefully you will not have to reset this.

Setting Declination Angle-Small Dish
Small Dish: The declination angle is set using the elevation scale on the dish. The angle to set on the dish elevation scale is always: CRANK ANGLE MINUS THE DECLINATION ANGLE. For example if the crank angle is 35 and the declination is 5.8 then the elevation scale is set to 29.2. This angle is not as critical because it will be finalized by tuning in the nearest south satellite. You could use the angle finder to set the declination angle but you would have to know the offset angle of the dish.
 

Setting the Motor Latitude and Declination Angle-Large Dish
Large Dish: See picture below. Use an angle finder on the rotational axis and set the motor latitude angle using the motor latitude adjuster (sometimes referred to as elevation adjuster). Angle finder A is setting the motor latitude. Angle finder B is setting the declination angle. Use the declination adjuster to set the declination. The difference in the angle finder readings between A and B is the declination angle. For example if you need a declination angle of 5 degrees and angle finder A (measuring the motor latitude) is showing 35 degrees above horizontal, then angle finder B (measuring the declination angle) should show 40 degrees above horizontal.  You only need one angle finder.

 

 

Alternate Method for North/South Alignment of Small Dish with USALS Function
Your receiver must have USALS function for the following to work. After motor latitude and declination angle are set, connect wire from receiver to motor. Make sure the receiver is off and unplugged before making any connections. Using the receiver, cause the motor to go to "0" or reference position. Enter your latitude and longitude location. Now using the USALS function make the antenna go to your nearest south satellite. The motor will turn the antenna. DO NOT USE THE MOTOR AGAIN UNTIL AFTER NEAREST SOUTH SATELLITE IS TUNED IN.

Initial Pointing to Nearest South Satellite
You will need a starting point to begin looking for the nearest south satellite. You can use a magnetic compass for rough setting. Dishpointer.com gives you the corrected magnetic azimuth angle. Also Dishpointer.com can show you where to point the antenna in your neighborhood for your nearest south satellite. Move the little teardrop pointer to where you want to install the dish. If there is something along the line shown that you can use for a reference point, use that for initial pointing. Stand at the dish and look toward your reference point. Put a marker on the ground about 15 feet from the dish lined up with the reference point. If you can't find any reference point in your neighborhood from Dishpointer.com, you could set a true south marker using the sun. Go here for explanation how to use the sun to set a true south marker: Setting A True South Marker

Tune in the Nearest South Satellite
Point the antenna dish at your reference point. If using a ground marker, stand behind the marker looking at the antenna. Turn the entire polar mount / motor / antenna assembly on the mast until it is pointing straight at you and the LNB is centered vertically on the dish. DO NOT USE THE MOTOR / LINEAR ACTUATOR TO TURN THE ANTENNA. You might want to hook the receiver straight to the LNB and bypass the motor to make absolutely certain the motor does not activate and turn the antenna while you tune to the nearest south satellite. Turn on your receiver and tune to an active transponder that you know is on your nearest south satellite. To find an active transponder, use a list of satellite channels on the internet or ask at a forum like Legal Free to Air. You may have to manually enter the Frequency, Polarization, and Symbol Rate of the active transponder. Begin to look for the nearest south satellite. Remember do not use the motor/linear actuator to turn the antenna, but turn the entire polar mount/motor/antenna assembly on the mast. If after turning left and right a little and you don't find the satellite, adjust the elevation of the antenna up or down in steps of about 1 degree and keep looking. For large dish C band, use the declination adjustor for this small elevation adjustment.  After you find the satellite, do a scan and verify that you are at the correct satellite.

 

Now tune for maximum signal quality by adjusting the azimuth. DO NOT USE THE MOTOR / LINEAR ACTUATOR FOR THIS INITIAL TUNING. Turn the entire polar mount/motor and dish assembly left and right on the mast for maximum signal quality. Now tighten the bolts that hold the polar mount/motor to the mast while watching the signal quality. Do not over tighten, you may damage the mast.

Now tune for maximum signal quality by adjusting the elevation.

Small Dish: Adjust the dish elevation up and down for maximum signal quality.  Do not move motor latitude at this time. Tighten the bolts while watching signal quality. Connect the receiver to the motor and LNB and set this as one of your antenna positions so you can return easily to this position. Always turn off and unplug the receiver before making connections. After the nearest south satellite is tuned in you could switch off USALS and return to manual movement and setting of satellite positions if you wish.
Large Dish: Use the declination adjustor to fine tune and obtain maximum signal quality at nearest south satellite. Do not move the motor latitude adjuster for this tuning.

Simple Small Dish Elevation Adjusting Tool
Below in the picture is a simple add-on tool for adjusting dish elevation. Parts needed are:
●  Short length of 1-1/4 inch PVC plumbing pipe
●  45 degree fitting, 1-1/4 inch PVC
●  Turnbuckle
●  Hose clamp
●  Cable ties
The 45 degree fitting goes on the end of a 42mm motor tube and secured with the hose clamp. Cut 4 hack saw cuts in the fitting where it slips over the motor tube so the hose clamp can tighten it on the motor tube. Turnbuckle is secured with cable ties. On the pipe, I drilled a hole on each side of the turnbuckle and passed the cable tie through the holes and the turnbuckle eye. You could also just attach the turnbuckle around the pipe with 2 ties and pull very tight. A smaller turnbuckle higher up with a shorter pipe would work also. Don't forget to loosen the screws before trying to adjust elevation.

 

 

Adjustment for Tracking the Satellite Arc
Now using the motor or linear actuator turn the antenna and try to find the furthest east or west satellite that you wanted. Make sure you are tuned to an active transponder on the satellite. Make sure the transponder is broadcasting to your area and in a format that your receiver works with. A DVB-S receiver will not find DVB-S2 signals. Watch the signal meter while turning the antenna.

After finding the satellite, use the motor, and move east and west for maximum signal quality. If you have trouble finding the furthest east/west satellite, then find a satellite closer to south to begin tracking adjustment.

Now very carefully using the dish elevation adjustment for a small dish or the declination adjustor for a large dish, check to see which direction up or down you need to move the antenna to INCREASE the signal quality. Do not change the motor latitude at this point.

If a DOWNWARD movement INCREASES signal quality, that means your track is ABOVE the satellite arc.

If an UPWARD movement INCREASES signal quality, that means your track is BELOW the satellite arc.

Write down which side of south you are on, east or west, and write down if your track was above or below the satellite arc.

Return to the nearest south satellite and retune if necessary, returning the adjuster to where it was. Now find a satellite on the opposite side of south. It should need the same downward or upward movement to increase signal quality as the first satellite. If your track is above the satellite arc on one side and below the satellite arc on the other side, your north/south alignment is off. Correct north/south alignment before proceeding. See North/South Alignment Problems below.

Return to the nearest south satellite to make Motor Latitude Adjustment.

The following adjustment is made with the antenna at the nearest south satellite position. If you were  ABOVE the satellite arc, make this adjustment:  DECREASE your motor latitude. You decrease the motor latitude by moving the rotational axis towards horizontal. Check the angle carefully before loosening the motor latitude adjustment screws and move a small amount towards horizontal. DO NOT loosen the bolts holding the motor bracket to the mast.

For this adjustment, you could just stick the magnetic base of the angle finder in the front center of the dish and take a reading. The direction of movement needed will appear as a raising or increase of elevation. Do not adjust more than one degree. Remember you are adjusting Motor Latitude. After moving, tighten the motor latitude adjustment screws. Check carefully that the new angle is moved slightly in the right direction from the first angle you found. If not correct, redo the adjustment.

Now tune for maximum signal quality using the dish elevation movement for small dish and declination adjuster for large dish and tighten the screws. This re-tuning will automatically increase the declination angle. Any east/west movement is done using the motor. Remember this adjustment procedure is done at the nearest south satellite.

Return to the furthest east or west satellite where you were before. Check again to see which direction up or down you need to move the antenna to increase the signal quality. Repeat adjustment process if necessary. When you can turn the antenna from the nearest south satellite to the furthest east/west satellite, and have maximum signal quality then you know the adjustment is correct.
 

The following adjustment is made with the antenna at the nearest south satellite position. If you were  BELOW the satellite arc, make this adjustment:  INCREASE your motor latitude. You increase the motor latitude by moving the rotational axis away from horizontal. Check the angle carefully before loosening the motor latitude adjustment screws and move a small amount away from horizontal. DO NOT loosen the bolts holding the motor bracket to the mast.

For this adjustment, you could just stick the magnetic base of the angle finder in the front center of the dish and take a reading. The direction of movement needed will appear as a lowering or decrease of elevation. Do not adjust more than one degree. Remember you are adjusting Motor Latitude. After moving, tighten the motor latitude adjustment screws. Check carefully that the new angle is moved slightly in the right direction from the first angle you found. If not correct, redo the adjustment.

Now tune for maximum signal quality using the dish elevation movement for small dish and declination adjuster for large dish and tighten the screws. This re-tuning will automatically decrease the declination angle. Any east/west movement is done using the motor. Remember this adjustment procedure is done at the nearest south satellite.

Return to the furthest east or west satellite where you were before. Check again to see which direction up or down you need to move the antenna to increase the signal quality. Repeat adjustment process if necessary. When you can turn the antenna from the nearest south satellite to the furthest east/west satellite, and have maximum signal quality then you know the adjustment is correct.

North/South Alignment Problems

If during the adjustment procedure, you find you are above the arc on one side of south and below the arc on the other side of south, then your north/south alignment is off. You will have to turn the entire polar mount/motor/antenna assembly on the mast. Turn towards the side where your track is below the arc.

Go here for a one page adjustment guide that you can print out:  http://www.repentnow.com/adjustsatellitearc2