Imagine all the packets of a Netflix movie being moved through thin air to your computer or your smart TV, or all the data being streamed to your smart speakers in a similar manner. WiFi is amazing, and many things that we take for granted today would not be possible without it.
However, despite being so valuable, it can also be extremely frustrating. We all have that one location in our homes where you just can’t seem to get a signal. Imagine yourself doing a version of the “Do you hear me now?” Verizon commercials, but in your home and not with a good outcome. A bad WiFi signal is very frustrating. Especially as our lives, both personal and work related, have become ever more reliant on the Internet.
So how do you solve the problem of no or low WiFi signals in your house? The rest of this post will try to answer this question.
The better than nothing option
One of the easiest ways to extend WiFi in your home is to use a WiFi extender. Check out some of the options in the link, they are relatively cheap and do a sufficient job of extending your WiFi connection to areas that were previously uncovered.
But they do come with some issues. WiFi extenders will increase the coverage area of your WiFi network, but they will reduce your speed due to two main reasons
- Many of them are half-duplex, meaning they will only receive or transmit at a given instance of time. Thus seriously slowing down your network.
- They operate, by necessity, on the same frequency as your main WiFi network, which means that they will cause interference, thus reducing speed.
I used a WiFi extender in my home for a very long time, and it did a good job, but it still had issues. I noticed speed reductions and unstable connectivity often. Is there a better option? There are several, as a matter of fact. Read on to find out more.
The even better solution
This solution depends on having access to wired internet in the room or area you want to extend WiFi access to. This can be done in two ways, the first, and correct, way to do this is to lay down Ethernet cables in your walls and have an ethernet socket in each room.
I tried this option, and have several sockets come out in rooms that I expected to use the internet in. But room use changes, and my wife reorganized the house and changed the function of the rooms. I ended up needing to have an Ethernet port in a room that did not have an Ethernet cable in its walls. What to do in this case? This leads us to the second way to do this. You can multiplex WiFi signals on your power cables. You do this with an Ethernet over power adapter. Check out this link for some good options.
The adapters are sold in pairs. One of them is plugged into a power outlet next to your main router. You then run an Ethernet cable to it from the router. This “loads” the “internet” unto your power lines.
In the room where you want to have an Ethernet port, you plug in the other adapter, this adapter collects and “unloads” the “internet” from your power lines and outputs it to an Ethernet port.
Once you have an Ethernet port in a room, by either of the above two methods, you can attach a WiFi access point to it to provide WiFi in that room. Check out some good options in this link.
If designed properly, this is a very good option. Unfortunately, it is often not designed properly. The room you want to cover, while not well covered by WiFi, typically contains enough of a signal to interfere with the new access point. You can manually set them to operate at different frequencies, but it is a bit of a hassle. Also, most access points work on old technology and do not have all the modern conveniences we have come to expect from a modern smart home. Which brings us to our last option, explained in the next section.
The best solution
The absolute best solution to this problem, both in terms of ease of installation and maintenance and features, is to install a mesh WiFi network in your home. While the initial cost may be a bit high, especially if you have to replace your entire existing network, the benefits are well worth it.
I have personally upgraded to a mesh WiFi network in my home and haven’t looked back since. So what is a mesh WiFi network anyway? It is a number of networking devices, one of which is connected to your main router by Ethernet. The rest communicate wirelessly with each other. And here is the beauty of this systems, it automatically chooses frequencies for each of the devices so that they do not interfere with each other.
Setup is extremely easy, you plug the main one into your router, and the rest into power outlets and then follow the installation instructions from a smartphone app. You should be able to get this set up in minutes, even if you are not tech savvy.
Modern mesh networks also offer advanced features, like parental control, traffic shaping to increase bandwidth of multimedia devices, smart home integration and much much more. I have set up routines in my smart home to switch off the mesh network at a certain time at night, dim the lights and play white noise on my home speakers to tell the kids its time to go to sleep — they figured some of this out and tried to undo it, but the convenience of being able to do all this from my smartphone is amazing.
Here are some good mesh WiFi products you can use. I personally use the tp-link deco units at home, but any of these products will do just fine.
To conclude here are your options
- Get a WiFi extender, cheap but not the best performance especially if you value speed.
- Get a new WiFi access point and connect it to Ethernet ports in the room you want to extend access to. Add an Ethernet port using Ethernet over power if the room does not have an Ethernet port. A good option, but requires effort in installation and maintenance to avoid interference between the access point(s) and the main router.
- Get a mesh WiFi network. This is really the best solution to this problem, but it can be a tad more expensive to setup.