WiFi: We all know it, and even if we don’t think about it or fully understand it, most of us are using it every day. Short for wireless fidelity, it’s the lifeforce behind all the tools and devices that help manage our careers, our relationships, and our homes.
If you’re a Guardian Protection customer or currently looking into smart home security, you may already know that many smart home devices, including video cameras and video doorbells, are WiFi-enabled. It’s so ubiquitous now in the security world that while writing this post, we had to stop and marvel at the fact that when Guardian Protection was born in 1950, WiFi didn’t even exist. Our younger friends will have a harder time imagining that world.
In 2019, WiFi is now a mature 20 years old, and there are more than 13 billion active WiFi devices in use around the globe.
But you get the idea – WiFi matters. So how are things going with your WiFi at home?
Even if you have learned to love WiFi, your relationship may occasionally go through some rough patches. A poor or spotty WiFi signal can be beyond frustrating. When that trouble occurs at home, where we pay a premium for it, it’s even more so.
Weak WiFi may not always be directly caused by your internet service provider (ISP). A variety of factors can have an impact on how your WiFi performs. The good news is, some of them are pretty simple to address, and you don’t need to be an expert to get started.
So don’t break up with your WiFi just yet. We’ve gathered a list of things to try or explore to improve your connection.
Do a speed test
A good place to start is to check your internet’s speed and performance at Speedtest.net. It’s quick and easy, and you can run a test from your computer or smartphone via their app.
Speedtest.net will show you your connection’s upload and download speeds as measured in megabits per second (Mbps). If you run multiple tests, keep in mind the test shows you your speed in real time, so it’s normal to see fluctuations.
You can also find helpful resources at this site to determine what speeds you need for different platforms, actions, and applications. For context, Guardian Protection cameras require 1.5 Mbps per camera to work, and video chat requires 10 Mbps.
To learn more about how Speedtest.net works, watch this quick video.
Consider upgrading your router
Even if you have amazing internet coming in, a poor-quality router can degrade your speed. Most people get their router directly from their ISP, who isn’t necessarily giving away the best or newest routers on the market.
If your router is more than two years old, it’s probably time for an upgrade. Your ISP may be willing to send you a newer one for free, so check in with them if yours is getting up there in years. If you need to purchase your own, you don’t have to spend a ton of money. Even a newer mid-range router can be leaps and bounds ahead of an old version.
Not sure what to look for in a router? Read this buying guide from Consumer Reports.
If you’re a Guardian customer and you get a new router, give us a call at 1.800.PROTECT (1.800.776.8328). We’ll help ensure all your equipment is connected and working correctly.
Location, location, location
The physical location of your router matters, and certain factors can inhibit its strength. For example, is your router in the basement, far away from the devices that need it? Is it in a concealed space, like a closet or a cabinet?
You probably don’t want your router in the middle of your living room, but keep in mind that it likes wide open spaces. Ideally, your router should be placed in a central location, higher up, and away from other cordless devices.
Take note of physical barriers
Some materials used to build homes, such as brick walls and metal frames or siding, can reduce the range of a WiFi network by 25% or more. Even nearby metal objects like pipes and filing cabinets can affect your signal.
While knocking down walls and rebuilding your house isn’t realistic, consider these factors when you’re finding a home for your router. Concrete tops the list as the hardest material for WiFi to penetrate. In contrast, plywood, drywall, and glass have less impact.
Minimize signal interference
Radio signal interference from some household items could be getting in the way. This includes microwave ovens, cordless phones, wireless baby monitors, and more. This type of interference occurs when these items are operating on the same frequency as your router. Picture rush hour traffic on the highway, with tons of cars trying to take the same road at the same time.
If you suspect it could be one of your household items interfering, troubleshoot by unplugging or powering them off to see how it impacts your signal. Sometimes simply moving a device further away can be helpful, but don’t hesitate to ask your ISP to take a closer look and give you advice.
Adjust your antenna
Playing with your router’s antennae is a small step that can make a big difference. Some routers have external antennae and some have internal. If yours are external, try making small adjustments and see how it impacts your signal. If yours are internal, try rotating the router itself. It may take some trial-and-error, but it can really help.
WiFi routers often come stock with small antennae for aesthetic reasons. If your router has external antennae and moving them isn’t helpful, consider swapping them out for better quality versions.
Limit (or prioritize) devices connected to your WiFi
How many devices in your home are competing for your WiFi’s attention? Five? Ten? More?
If you have a gamer in your household, you might have heard them complain that your Netflix binges are making their gameplay laggy, and there’s a reason for that. They’re both competing for the same data, and gaming takes up a lot of bandwidth (internet speed). Your network is congested.
Simply put, the more devices you have drawing on your WiFi, the slower it will be. In addition to gaming, streaming or downloading movies and music can also take up a lot of bandwidth. If upgrading your router or speed is not an option, consider shutting off the devices you’re not using. You may also be able to prioritize devices to make sure the important ones get the most attention.
If you’re a parent, another consideration is to put your kid’s devices on a separate network. The bonus? You can apply protective rules and settings for your kids while giving your devices some breathing room.
Be selfish with your signal
Your neighbors may not be stopping by to borrow a cup of sugar, but they may very well be using your WiFi. They may not realize it’s hurting your speed, but it is.
If your WiFi isn’t password protected, they may not even know they’re doing it. Some devices will seek out and connect to the first WiFi signal they encounter. Make your WiFi password strong and only share it with close friends and family.
If your house is as busy as Grand Central Station, find out if your router supports guest networks.
Read more from the FTC about how to secure your wireless network.
Amplify your coverage
WiFi boosters, repeaters, extenders, and mesh networks don’t all work the same, but they are all used to accomplish the same thing: improve WiFi coverage.
These devices come in all shapes and sizes. The right choice for you will depend on how much you want to spend, how much effort you want to invest, and what your specific pain-points are.
Mesh networks are on the pricier side, but they are pretty easy to set up. If your house is large with multiple floors or built with some of the problematic materials we mentioned earlier, mesh might be the way to go. Extenders require more work on the front end but may be a more affordable option, especially if you have a smaller home.
This may sound unlikely, but sometimes a good, old-fashioned reboot can do the trick. Just like a computer, your router may be experiencing minor issues that can be resolved by shutting down, waiting a minute, and restarting. It’s not a cure-all, but it can help with common issues like overheating.
Stay safe and stay connected!