The first time is always kinda scary. I think that I read and learned more in three months than I had in the previous three years. Newsgroups, forums, and an excellent book called Home Satellite TV Installation and Troubleshooting Manual (among others). This has been an amazing learning experience that has not yet concluded. To all those from whom I have learned so much or received inspiration, I thank you. I have attempted to give back to this community where I am capable.
Almost everything that I purchased was used. The first dish that I decided to buy was a Radio Shack 9' perf (pictured left). Don't laugh. Despite the Radio Shack moniker, this is actually an excellent dish. It really performs very well. It came with a Drake 1824 (a very nice receiver), a C/Ku feed and LNBs, and some wire. It also comes with a horizon-to-horizon mount which affords scanning of the satellite arc from one horizon to the other (vs. a polar mount which allows about 70% freedom). This thing was tough to reassemble (though nowhere near as hard as a Paraclipse Eclipse!), but has excellent parabolic accuracy when done.
For those that don't know, a "perf" is a type of dish that is formed from a solid piece of metal (spun, rolled, etc.) and then perforated with holes to reduce weight and wind drag. Given equal size, a perf will in general out perform an extruded mesh dish, but not a solid spun dish which have the best performance. Evidence of this can be seen by looking at the dish farm of any cable company head-end. Not too many mesh or perfs there.
Still, the performance of most mesh dishes is also very good. And I ought to know. I have one of those too! It's a Winegard 10 footer with a polar mount. I got it from the local installer after he removed it from the roof of a local tavern. By this time I had also managed to collect an HTS50 and Uniden 4800s (with SuperGuide). There's more information on all of the electronics in the Gear Head page.
The 9 footer was installed at the edge of a drying bog (which we visit again
later). I had to back out into it a way so that the birds to the South would be
visible over the very tall choke cherry trees in our back yard. I thought that I
had way over engineered it by using (I think) ten sixty pound bags of Quickrete.
I am still able to wobble the dish by bouncing on the soft ground next to it. It has
remained perfectly plumb though for 3-4 years and it provides excellent
The best two locations that I found were on opposite sides of the back yard. As I learned a few years later, there was a significantly better location for a dish, but it was much further into the bog and I was not ready for that challenge.
To the left we see the attack of the gophers. Those were hand dug trenches! I used EPVC to hold the wires and took the opportunity to pull a direct burial 120v wire out to the left upright of the swing to which was attached a motion/security light. The light's best purpose since then has been to provide lighting for Winter sledding down the hill adjacent to our yard.
At each dish's pole, the trench's Y, and at the house entrance for the wires are 8 foot 5/8" grounding rods. About six inches below the conduit is buried a grounding web that connects all of these together. This web is then connected to the grounding rod on the side of the house which services the roof top antennae, and then continues to the front of the house where it is bonded to the electrical panel's ground. #10 was used for interconnects. #8 was used for the dish-to-rod connections.
Below is a shot that shows the trenches filled in and the 9 footer peeking
over the tops of our choke cherry trees. The trench that branches was
conveniently placed such that it would pass next to the left upright of the
swing (for the security light). To the right of the trenches you can see part of where the Pirate
Ship would eventually reside. Behind the 9 Footer is the area that first
becomes a garden, but is eventually overrun by a giant
parabola. It is soft back there, but as you can see I am able to drive a 800
pounds of me and tractor back there to mow (though not in the early Spring).
The next shot shows the entrance end of the conduit. It worked out conveniently that wires were collected below the deck who's cracks I sealed with caulk to create a open bottom box. It's bone dry even during heavy rains. Because this is still the playground, I later decided that the temptation of these wires just hanging there to the right of the conduit head would be too much and added a 90º sweep and extended the conduit run under the deck. When the 12 footer was added another conduit head appeared directly to the left of this one and its wires were routed into the "wild wire web" box under the deck as well. The back half of the WWW box has two wooden slats on which the wire slack coils resides.
Here's a picture of the static discharge blocks with all the wires attached. The blue caps are the connections for the rotor and actuator lines. The collection of ground wires was connected to the ground rod that was driven next to the conduit head (above) which connected it to the grounding web. There are three dual-discharge blocks because I pulled an extra RG6 line for each of the installation pads. Two singles were added to accommodate the roof top antennae lines were integrated into the web. In the summer of 99, the opposite side of the WWW box was populated by two additional dual-discharge blocks to handle the active lines coming from the 12 footer which has a dual-C/dual-Ku feed (more lines than that were pulled, but wait in reserve in this box).
So, why two?! Well, if the kids want to watch Disney and I want to watch one of the hundreds of other channels available on another bird, then the kids would have to do something else ;-) But seriously, it comes down to available choices. Cable and LSD (Little Silly Dishes) win out in terms of ease of use, but in terms of quality, price, and quantity they still don't even come close - especially the quality. I look forward to every fall because I know that there will be more football than even I, with my extreme configuration, can possibly watch.
A photo of the 10 footer appears in the next section.