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Satellite Workshop

This is the fifth in a series of articles which will help you to save money on repairs and installation.

Metering the Cost

Your signal strength meter is a valuable asset but I've seen many an installer treat it like a roll of cable! Bear in mind that, if you don't have a spare unit, wrecking your meter is going to delay if not cancel your installations until you can buy a replacement. A portable TV is not a substitute!
Repairs are often possible but don't expect them to be fast. The quickest repair service in my experience is offered by Satfinder UK. Their charge is very reasonable, too, but they handle only their own meters. Ring them on 01491 573390 for information. For LC2E meters, try Ali and Ishar at Satellite Services 0181 961 4662. For Promax meter repairs, contact Promax on 01727 832266. Finally, for Manhattan or Altai meter repairs, try Eurosat Midlands on 01922 39299. (This list is not exhaustive so please contact me if you can recommend other repairers).
To avoid the need for repairs, always strap the meter around your waist or neck before climbing the ladder. Since the "F" connector is not designed for continual usage, make a connection lead from good quality coax and screw it permanently to the meter. Fit a push-on "F" adapter to the other end so you can connect it easily to the LNB. Keep spare push-on adapters and replace them frequently as the spring wears out.
Wrap your meter in a polythene bag and keep it there during use. You can still read the meter and operate the knobs. The bag keeps out brick dust and rain - a combination which will wreck your expensive meter within days. Replace the polythene bag, frequently, before holes appear in it. If you should be careless enough to get water inside the meter, remove the covers and batteries and dry it out with a hair dryer immediately. Corrosion can set in within minutes and usually spells death to electronics, especially if batteries are left connected.
NiCd Batteries should never be left in a discharged state or they will die. Always charge them overnight. Don't leave it till tomorrow! I've successfully fitted a 12 volt lead-acid "gell-cell" battery into an LC2E. This type of battery is sold for alarm systems and can last for a week before needing to be recharged. I use an old CB radio power supply to charge it. The supply is rated at 5 Amps/13.8 volts regulated dc and I connected a car fuse holder with a 5 Amp fuse in line with it. It's not quite as good as the real charger but, at a fraction of the price, a darned sight cheaper.
A satellite meter is not generally suitable for peaking a Terrestrial TV aerial but it might be possible to do it. First you must fit a frequency shifter (ADX) to move the terrestrial broadcast into the meter frequency range. Then you need to block the LNB supply current by connecting a DC blocker in line. I haven't actually tried this but I reckon you should be able to connect your meter, first to an ADX to shift the frequencies up by 500MHz, then through a dc blocker to the TV aerial. So, a terrestrial transmission at, say, 700MHz is shifted up to 1200 MHz. Let me know if it works!
With the advent of Digital Satellite broadcasting in this country, it's time to start thinking about upgrading to a spectrum analyser. I know you all think that you can manage without one but look at it this way: even if it's not strictly necessary (it is) you will improve your credibility with the customer and justify charging more for a "digital installation." From what I've seen of the South African DSB scene, the opinion there is that a spectrum analyser is essential in order to avoid "rain fade." You use it to alter the LNB skew for minimal co-channel interference. That's apart from the speed with which it allows you to align the dish in the first place!

Memory loss

I get a lot of motorised receivers for repair where the fault report is "loses its memory" or "loses its position." Invariably, there is nothing wrong with the receiver or positioner and I have to advise the installer that his installation is causing the problem by introducing interference. At 35 quid per test, you really don't want to pay me for this news! Interference on motorised systems has two main effects:

  1. The positioner counts too many pulses and does not reach the true satellite position.
  2. The motor causes interference on the TV picture and possibly on neighbouring TVs and radios.

The main cause of interference is the use of unscreened caravan cable or telephone cable. The remedy is to use proper screened cable. The motor wires should have a screen. The pulse wires and polariser wires should also be screened separately. All screening braids should be connected to ground at the receiver/positioner only. They should NOT be connected to the dish. The dish assembly needs a separate ground connection; preferably to a long copper rod hammered into the adjacent soil. This helps to remove static charge which otherwise builds up on the dish. Static charge is carried by dust particles in the air and is especially bad on dry, windy days. In parts of Europe, grounding the dish is a safety requirement.
When you carry out a complete installation like this, you can have more confidence that it will be safe and reliable. You can also point out that your competition does NOT install systems this way and that is why their work is cheaper. You should always be looking for added value in order to increase your profits!