Recently I put up my own satellite dish and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was. I think that anyone who is competent with general DIY tasks will find the same. There were a few things I learned along the way, so I've decided to write this to help anyone who is thinking about installing or has decided to install a satellite dish themselves.
To put up the dish, you'll need a ladder, a spirit level, hammer drill, a screwdriver and a couple of spanners or a ratchet and sockets (13mm and 10mm). To help point the dish, a compass is handy to find the rough bearing. A "Satfinder" signal meter is useful too, and can be found on ebay for around a fiver.
I bought a package on ebay which consisted of a 60cm elliptical (Sky style) satellite dish, an octo (8-way) LNB, mounting bracket and L-shaped pole, fixing bolts, rawlplugs, 100 metres of RG6 satellite cable, 20 F-connectors and weatherproof rubber cable boots, and two boxes of cable clips, which was only €80, including postage from the UK to Ireland. You may be able to find even better value out there, especially if you don't need or want an 8-way LNB. A quad LNB would probably be enough for most people (you need one connector per satellite tuner, and there are two tuners in a PVR such as the Humax Foxsat-HDR). Regarding the cable, CT100 cable is better quality as it uses copper shielding whereas the RG6 uses a silver coloured foil.
I followed the assembly instructions that came with the dish to screw the mounting bracket to the back of it. 10mm bolts are used throughout. After you have the dish assembled, you can attach the LNB to it by pushing the spigot (bung at the end of the bracket which holds the LNB) into the end of the arm. There are 5 numbers writen on the side of this bracket to make it easy to set the correct angle of skew for the LNB. For most of the Republic of Ireland and south west England and Wales, you should set it to number 2. For Northern Ireland and most of the rest of England, Wales and Scotland, you should set it to number 3. However, you can experiment with this later and see what gives you the best signal.
A nice advantage of a satellite dish over a tv aerial is that it doesn't have to be at a great height. Unless there are any tall objects such as trees or houses very close to you, mounting it on a wall which has a view of the southern sky will be just as good. You will probably have a choice of two or maybe even three walls on your house. This is safer for you, as you don't have to climb on to the roof, and will probably mean that the dish will be more sheltered from wind and rain. It's a good idea to put it up high enough so that it's out of reach of people from the ground.
To fix the mounting plate and L-shaped pole, you'll need to drill holes for four 10mm plastic wall plugs. Use a spirit level to keep it straight and mark off your drilling points. 13mm bolts are used to hold the mount in place. Once you fit the dish on to the pole and secure it, you can then go on to align (point) it correctly.
Although you could use an accurate compass to help you point at the right satellite, there are several very useful websites which use google maps to help you align your dish:
In the case of FreeSat, this is the Astra2 satellite group at 28.2E. This is the same satellite group that Sky uses to transmit its channels from.
You could use a compass to find due south, and then move the dish back 28.2 degrees towards East. However, using these websites, you can choose your location and the satellite you want to point at, and it gives you all the figures you need to align your dish correctly. It will also draw a map of your location and draw a line along where you should be pointing. This can give you a surprisingly good guide to line up against, especially if you compare to any landmarks or road intersections.
For the most accurate reading, I used a normal GPS car satnav to find out my coordinates, from the "current location" screen. I then put these in as my location. If you don't have a GPS, you can choose your approximate location on the map, or you can also get pretty accurate coordinates by going to google maps and zooming in on your location, then right clicking and choosing "Center map here", then right click again and choose "What's here?". The GPS coordinates will then be displayed in the search bar.
As for the vertical alignment of the dish (aka: elevation, or beam elevation) you can let those websites calculate this figure for you. In Ireland it's going to be somewhere roughly between 20 and 22 degrees. The elliptical style dish looks like it's almost horizontal when it's correctly elevated, but because of the shape of the dish and the way the LNB is skewed, its focus is actually much higher. There's a gauge with notched markings on the back of the dish which allows you to tighten the bolts off at whatever the correct degree of elevation is for your area.
At this point, the “Satfinder” tool is useful for fine tuning the dish alignment. The general method is to connect one side to any connector on the LNB, and the other to a battery pack. You turn up the sensitivity dial until you hear the squeak and the dial reads max, and then turn it down until you can just barely hear it and it is only slightly registering. Then you move the dish left and right ever so slightly, finding the middle point between where it cuts out and comes back. Once you have the centre point, lock off the horizontal axis (this is also called Azimuth by the way). You can go through the same process to fine tune the vertical axis (beam elevation) if you like also. Check the strength and quality readings on your satellite receiver to confirm.
There are actually lots of satellites all along the southern sky, from east to west. They are all in geostationary orbit at the earth's equator. This “belt” of satellites is known as the Clarke Belt, in honour of the science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, who once predicted that satellites like these could one day be used for telecommunications.
While trying to align your dish, it is quite easy to think you have it pointed at the right satellite, but actually have it pointed at something else by mistake (often Astra1). Keep this in mind if you appear to be getting a strong signal but can't seem to tune anything in. Satellite signals can also bounce off windows and metal, such as garage doors and carvans. Bear this in mind too if you seem to be getting a signal but it's not coming from where you think it should be.
Once you have your dish pointed correctly at the Astra 2 satellite group, you should also be able to pick up transmissions from the Eurobird1 satellite because it is so close, at 28.5E. There are some channels which you may wish to tune in manually, and you can get a list of them all with their tuning info at http://www.lyngsat.com/28east.htm
You might need to put a bit of thought into how to route your cables into your house and the best route to take. The type of tiles on my roof allow me to lift them very slightly so I can slide the cables underneath them and into the attic. Once there, I can distribute them where they need to go around the house. It's good to keep some slack outside and below the poiint of entry so that water is less likely to be ducted along the cable. Try not to make the cable runs much longer than they need to be though, so as to keep signal attenuation to a minimum. Your receiving equipment actually powers the LNB in your dish by sending a voltage up to it through the satellite cable too.
In addition to using the protective rubber boots at the end of the cables to the LNB, I also cut an empty plastic bottle in half and used some elctrical tape to fix it over the connection points to help further shelter it from wind and rain. I put a cap in the top of the L-shaped pole and wound more tape around that. I smeared copper grease on all the mounting nuts and bolts to help protect them from rusting also.