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The dirty little secret of satellite installation.

23934 Views 25 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  TheBlueGuy
I really hope that this is not an issue in other areas, but in Gainesville and nearby, I have repeatedly seen how sat installers do not ground their installations properly. There certainly are some professional, well trained, and thorough installers, but they are few around here. Every consumer needs to know that there are very specific codes that govern these installations and that failure to follow them may seriously compromise any protection in your system and present hazards in the event of a direct or nearby lightning strike. This is far more significant here, where we have more lightning than just about anywhere in the USA. But no matter where you are, you need to be sure that your installation is done according to electrical codes and the requirements of the manufacturers of the equipment.

The codes can get rather hard to understand for someone not used to following them. It can be summarized by saying that the dish itself must be grounded from the mast to the electrical service ground for the home. Also, the coax must be grounded using a ground block, at or near the entrance to the home, back to the electrical service ground. Your electrical service is grounded, typically using an electrode (rod) into the ground about 8 ft long, at the meter where the service enters the home. Any class 2 wiring (that includes cable, phone, and satellite lines) entering the home MUST have its ground line or shield connected to that ground electrode.

Some installers will drive another ground rod for the dish itself when the dish is mounted quite a distance from the house. This is ok, but ONLY if that ground rod is bonded to the ground at the electrical service entrance with a heavy gauge wire. We see installations all the time that are not grounded from the dish and mast, nor grounded with a ground block on the coax at the entrance. These installations do not meet code.

A dish is not a serious threat for a direct strike, being a round bodied object. It is, however, still an antenna, and with nearby strikes, a large electrostatic charge is produced. Without proper grounding, the dish may present a significant problem for the system. We see them damaged all the time when they are ungrounded. We rarely see damage on properly installed systems. The bad news is that when damage does occur, the rest of the system may be compromised as well.

The solution? Check to be sure that there is a heavy copper wire from the dish and from a ground block at the entry to the home going back to the electrical service entrance by your meter. If not, call the satellite company and notify them that the installation does not meet code and that it needs to be done correctly. They will likely take care of it. If not, contact the local or state inspector for electrical contractors and notify them that installations are being done that do not meet code and who it is that is doing it. They will likely correct the situation and it will not be pleasant for the installation company. Here in FL a low voltage electrical contractor's license is required to do these installations. Installers who are not licensed or not following code can be shut down or fined.

Also, check the integrity of the ground on the electrical service periodically. The clamps on the ground rod should be clean and tight. Corrosion or loose fits can make even the best surge protection less effective.

There is more info here:
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There's no limit to the shortcuts these installers will take. Remember, they are not paid by the hour, they are paid by the number of installations they do per day - - AND - - they have a minimum quota, which I believe is four.

In our case the Dish (Dish Network) is a pole mount about 60' away from the electrical service entrance. The installer did install a ground block at the coax entry point, but since there was no nearby ground he had to drive his own ground rod..

He pulls out a copper-clad rod from the back of his truck and proceeds to use a hacksaw to cut off a ONE FOOT piece and drives that into the ground at his ground block.

There is no bonding wire to connect "his ground" back to the electrical service ground.

There is no ground on the dish. Okay, it's a pole mount. Is that a ground? Not according to the National Electrical Code.

Another shortcut these clowns are notorious for is failure to install the supporting mast pipe (whether pole mount or otherwise) in a firmly rigid manner that is precisely dead-level plumb. Succinctly stated, it is humanly impossible to achieve accurate and precise alignment of a multi-sat dish unless the mast pipe is absolutely, positively, perfectly plumb. Both Dish Network and DirecTV installers omit this little detail on almost every installation.

You will also find (if you haven't already) that most satellite system installers have extremely little technical knowledge about what they're doing.
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There's a lot of "lack of knowledge", "lazzyness", "lack of supervision/inspections", etc.

If consumers are informed about this requirements, I'm sure they will complaint if installation is not done properly; and if the installers are well informed about it ... I'm sure they will follow the requirements too; specially knowing that there will be an inspection and they could be fined :yes:

Maybe the installer knows about the grounding ... but is lazy and don't want to do the job or will not do it properly (as Cap'n Preshoot wrote) instead of using the 8ft rod, he cut it to just 1ft; because is easy to insert it into the ground (I installed one (8') for my roof antenna ... it took some time but I did it).

I don't recall exactly if the Dish installer asked me or if he checked for the properly grounded cable or antenna when he did the installation (9 yrs ago) ... but I just know that I have the rod and ground block because I also installed myself.

Every city, State, County has different requirements (but I'm sure similar)... I don't know exactly how is has to be done here in CA, but I know that the two rods I have are not connected with the electrical ground, because I haven't bothered to check :hide: . :bigsmile:
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Regardless of the differences between states and local governments, all installations must conform to the NEC in the US. Some areas have additional requirements. In Florida, you have to have low voltage contractor's license to do installs. Many do not. I find about 90% of sat installs here with problems, usually improper grounding, if any.

A simple call to Dish or DirecTV will resolve the issue in most cases. They know well that they have great liability if they do not ground the system properly or could potentially have their installation operation in an area shut down if compliance agencies get involved. Once you let them know that you understand what is required, they get it fixed rather quickly, at least here.
A simple call to Dish or DirecTV will resolve the issue in most cases. They know well that they have great liability if they do not ground the system properly or could potentially have their installation operation in an area shut down if compliance agencies get involved. ....
That's why I mentioned "lack of knowledge" ... most companies (specially installers) take advantage of the customers lack of knowledge; I'm sure that if you mention them during the installation the regulations, they will do a job properly to avoid any complaint/fine :yes:

Another reason that I can think, is that some people don't really care ... but, I'm sure that if they learn the hard way, they'll demand a better job :yes:
Working in an Electrical Engineering firm, my job duties include nut not limited to: full electrical power design for both power and lighting(120V-480V), from building conception to final C of O(certificate of Occupancy). I deal with city plan checkers, AHJ(Authority Having Jurisdiction), and all kinds of contractors.

I see satellite dish installation that are NOT installed per the local NEC. Here in AZ, nearly every city is on a separate code, so the final connection MAY be different on the other side of the street.

However all the NEC codes mandate an installation minimum... As stated before, a dish that is NOT connected to the building(house) MUST be grounded to the building grounding system. If this means needing to trench 30+ feet to do that, than so be it. I've had more than my fair share of informing a contractor how far to drive the ground rod, and the requirement to connect to the building grounding system. I had a contractor trench a concrete drive to do this, he was NOT happy.

The most obvious building mounting mistake is when a contractor installs the dish on to the weatherhead mast.

Of course a lot of this has to do with time and money as previously stated. It is MUCH faster and cheaper to install a dish adjacent to the building an run a 2' ground rod than to trench all the way back to the building grounding system.

It's a shame...
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When you say weatherhead mast, are you referring to the mast for overhead elctrical service?
Sometimes the things these installers do simply amaze me. I can't imagine trying something like that.
Great posting...I think it is pretty prevalent because I have had a Dish installed twice and Comcast installed twice as well and they all just point to the rusty rod in the ground near the cable box. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the NEC requirements until I started trying to chase down what I thought was a ground loop problem (apparently it isn't) and so I ran a piece of heavy gage (looks like about #6) wire that I had laying around from the cable ground block to the nearby air conditioning switch box conduit. I live in Colorado so it seems to be pretty widespread.
Nice to see someone post information about how it SHOULD be installed.... and follow the code.

Grounding is a really big deal in the NEC..

Good grounding protects people AND equipment.
Yes! Of course a lot of this has to do with time and money as previously stated..
I was told by my dishnetwork installer that I had to instal the ground because of liability restrictions or something like that has anyone heard that one before ? anyway I want ahead and did it my self , I never thought to check what the code really was for Wyoming I guess I better check , thank`s for the info
Nonsense. Contact Dish Network or their contractor and ask to speak to someone in Risk Management. They will likely flip when they hear that.

Open the owners manual for any TV or anything else that might be connected to any type of antenna, including the satellite receivers, and in the first few pages it will be clear how the system should be grounded. There will be a very clear diagram for proper installation. It is the responsibility of the installer, no question, no debate.
As Icaillo states, it is the responsibility of the installer to conform to the NEC requirements. To be honest though, for my Dish Network installation, I ended up installing a proper ground only because I didn't feel like going through the hassle and had no confidence they would do it right. I am still amazed at how widespread this problem appears to be which, in my opinion, is being perpetuated by the cable/satellite companies out of laziness or unwillingness to invest the install time to do it correctly rather than ignorance. Unfortunately, this won't change until the customers push back enough for them to take notice. Admittedly, I didn't help this situation by doing it myself but for those of us not as obsessive as I am, I think the best course of action would be to hound them until they do it per code.
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I do not know why I didn`t call dish to see if that was true ,but that was 3 years ago and I went ahead and properly hooked it up since then , thank`s to your info I know better now and I will not let that happen to me again, it`s sad though you depend on these people thinking there professionals and that they know what there talking about only to find out they don`t and or in a hoary and talk you into finishing it for them makes me mad when I think about it
Most installers are working for low wages and the providers pay a flat rate to the contractors that is very low. They do everything they can to get in and out of an installation in minimal time. Many installations are not near the electrical service so it is a real chore to ground it properly.
I don't place the blame on the installers...as you state they are given a fixed amount which almost certainly would not cover the time required for a proper installation. I think the situation is that most customers aren't aware that the installation is not per code so the cable/satellite companies are able to get away with it.
I agree, but the installer is the one who is charged with getting the job done correctly. If he cannot make a living doing it right, he needs to do something else or demand more pay. The fact that there are people willing to accept what Dish and DirecTV are offering is the reason that the quality of work is what it is.
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