In the August 2011 issue of our newsletter we discussed the importance of aiming the dish properly and the conditions that can cause compass deviation. We also mentioned that it was necessary the mast be plumb in order to easily hit all three satellites on a High Definition dish. This month we will explain just why it is important to have a plumb mast and offer some tips on what can go wrong and cause signal loss.
A "plumb" mast is one that is exactly vertical, perpendicular to the plane of the earth. This is important since the degree settings for both the elevation and skew / tilt adjustment are determined from this reference point. So, let's say the mast was "almost plumb", leaning South by about 6 degrees. You would need to increase your elevation by 6 degrees to hit the satellite.
It gets even more complex when the mast leans in other directions as it then throws off both the elevation AND the skew / tilt settings. This would make it almost impossible to get a signal from all 3 satellites at the same time. Whenever you are having a weak or no signal on that third satellite, it usually means the plumb is off a bit.
When setting up your tripod, take the extra few seconds to adjust the legs so you have a perfectly plumb mast to start with. When using our Heavy-Duty model, use your foot to press each leg tip into the ground if it is soft, for a firm footing. Then place the bubble level on the platform and very carefully adjust the legs to get the tripod's platform perfectly level.
I realize that often we are limited in the areas we can set up the tripod due to trees and structures blocking the signal. However, whenever possible, try to pick a location where the tripod legs will be on a knoll rather than in a depression. Then, should you have a heavy rainfall, the ground under the legs won't get too soft and cause the legs to sink in, throwing the mast out of plumb. Should you experience signal loss during or after a rain, check the legs first, as the weight of the dish plus the pull of the anchor system can cause the legs to settle if the soil is soft.
Once in the habit of getting the mast perfectly plumb, you will find those setups become easier than ever.