How Do I Improve My Wifi At Home?
March 7, 2023
Does it feel like your WiFi is slowing down? Are you having issues with buffering on Netflix? Is your online gaming suffering due to slow internet? Weak WiFi can be extremely frustrating, but so is spending money when you could improve your WiFi without spending a dime. Read on for some ways to improve your WiFi without overhauling your system or spending anything to improve it.
There’s a good chance the location of your WiFi router is wherever your Internet Service Provider (ISP) put the drop in your house. Sadly that’s usually the least path of resistance. That means the line comes off the pole or the box in your yard, to the nearest point of your home and they drilled a hole through the exterior wall. And then they installed your router inside of that point. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with optimizing coverage in your home or focusing on areas of greatest need.
Moving your router is one of the easiest ways to fix WiFi issues. This is because the antennas in your router radiate signal outward in roughly a donut shape. If you have the router set up against the wall in a far corner of your house, roughly half that donut shape — or less, if it’s in a corner — is inside your home, and the rest is outside in your yard or neighbor’s apartment.
Simply moving your router from an outside wall to a central location will do wonders for your WiFi experience as the coverage of the router is now over the most used spaces of your home. The more spread out your home is the bigger the impact moving the router to a central location will have. So how do you do that when the router is connected to an exterior wall? If you can leverage your existing coax network in your home you may be able to rout signal to a more central location in your home. Another option is installing a mesh WiFi system but there are costs associated with that. See my previous post ‘Is Home Mesh Wifi the Answer?’ for details on that.
On top of moving your router to a more central location in your home, you can also significantly improve your WiFi experience by moving the router to a higher location. I’ve seen Internet Service Providers install routers near TV locations when they can — so the router ends up in a cabinet under the TV. Putting aside the actual physical structure of your home, the bulk of the mass inside a home is between the floor and about 4–5 feet off the ground. That’s where the majority of our stuff — like furniture, TVs, bookshelves, appliances, etc. — is located. All representing obstructions to WiFi signal.
If your WiFi router is sitting on a shelf under your TV, a large portion of the WiFi signal is being absorbed by all the stuff down at its level. Just putting the router on the tallest bookshelf nearby or using the mounting holes on the back to mount it up near the ceiling will get it above most of the things that are interfering with the signal.
Routers aren’t exactly the most beautiful thing to look at, so if you want to conceal your router to make it stand out less you can do so. But if you cover your router to hide it, you need to be careful how you camouflage it so you don’t make your WiFi signal worse than when you started. Check out my previous post ‘What Can I Do With This Ugly Wifi Router?’ for some great suggestions on options that won’t compromise your WiFi.
Whether you’re able to easily move your router or not, you also need to pay attention to all the things in your home that block WiFi signals, including decor. You probably assumed that your fridge or other large metal appliances would block your WiFi signal. But you probably never considered that a fish tank or water heater is incredibly good at blocking WiFi. Or that the reason your signal is so bad on the opposite side of an open room is because your router signal is struggling with the giant metal RF shield in the back of your TV.
Maybe you move the router, or maybe you move the large mirror or metal wall sculpture that is screwing with your WiFi coverage. But either way, always be aware of what is between you and the router that might cause interference. For more information on what might be obstructing signal other than these examples, take a look at ‘Why Does My Home WiFi Stink?’
If somebody told you the best way to improve your WiFi is to not use it, you might consider that a little crazy. But there’s a very good reason I advise people to do just that. WiFi is great but it’s easy to overload your router with a lot of activity — especially if you have many high-demand devices running simultaneously.
One of the simplest solutions to that problem is to stop using WiFi and offload some of the bandwidth demands onto Ethernet. This frees up the WiFi for devices (like your phone) that don’t use Ethernet. I’m a huge proponent of this for a lot of reasons. In our new home build I plan to connect everything to Ethernet that can be — TVs, appliances, voice assistants and more. And I don’t plan to use wifi as my way of operating the IoT devices in my smart home ecosystem where I can get away with it. Obviously this is easier said than done. Unless your home already has Ethernet lines run or you know how to do it yourself, hiring a professional to do it could get pricey. But if you’re ready to take on a project like this, check out ‘What Do I Need to Install My Own Ethernet Cabling?’ Another option, as most homes have coax cabling run to support TV broadcast (cable or antenna) is to convert the coax to Ethernet. There’s a fairly easy way to do that — read my post ‘Want To Network Your Smart Home But All You Have Is Coax?’
If your WiFi router is in your living room near your smart TV, you might as well plug the TV directly into the router with an Ethernet cable. Not only will you get a better experience on the using Ethernet with the TV, but all the WiFi resources that were previously being used by your TV to deliver streaming content are now free for other uses in your home.
Another way to make sure your getting the most out of your WiFi router is stay on top of firmware updates. This will ensure your router isn’t vulnerable to known security exploits but it’s also a great idea because many firmware updates are actually performance patches. If you read over the update notes for your router, for every entry that details patching a critical vulnerability, you’ll find hundreds of entries that read like “Fixed bug that affected iPhone fast roaming” or “Update improves beamforming performance in high-density environments.”
If you live in an apartment or neighborhood with closely packed homes, it’s possible that your router’s WiFi channel allocation is conflicting with the allocation of other nearby routers. By scanning for both your WiFi channel settings and the settings of nearby routers, you can manually change the WiFi channel allocation for your router to take advantage of the least used space. This has the greatest benefit for devices on the 2.4Ghz band as it has longer range compared to the 5Ghz band. But investigating both bands and making adjustments is worthwhile.
Regarding WiFi bands, which ones you use can have an impact on performance. The majority of routers use the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. The newest ones use 6Ghz, but as of early this year, very few devices out there now can take full advantage of it. If you’re interested in learning more about WiFi 6 read this recent post: What Is All The Buzz About Wifi 6?
While your router should manage which band devices use to create an optimal experience for everyone and every device, that’s not always the case. You may want to experiment with manually managing the bands your router uses. Some people find that disabling the 2.4Ghz band entirely yields a superior experience. But because 2.4Ghz has a longer range than 5Ghz, relying only on 5Ghz might not be the right solution for you and many smart home devices require 2.4GHz.
Although some ISPs are good about upgrading customer equipment, most aren’t. Once your equipment is installed, there is a good chance you’ll have it for as long as you have that ISP or until a major update to the ISP’s infrastructure forces them to update everyone’s hardware.
Instead of hanging on to an old modem and WiFi router, call up your ISP and request an upgrade to their newest model. Be sure to emphasize that the old equipment just isn’t meeting the needs of your household as asking for a new model for the sake of a new model likely won’t get you very far.
If your ISP has a local office you can just walk into, it might be worth taking a trip there with your equipment in hand. Many times the customer service people you talk to in person are much more sympathetic to your challenges, especially when you have the equipment right there to turn in for the upgrade they have sitting behind the counter.
You can get a lot of mileage out of the WiFi tips and tricks I’ve outlined above. You might be amazed how much simply moving your WiFi router from a side room to the center of your home can improve your experience. Or what a difference it makes to plug your smart TV or computer directly into the router instead of using WiFi.
What do you think of some of these options to improve your internet experience? Have you already tried some of these? If so, we’d love to hear your feedback on how they worked. Have you tried other ways successfully to get better WiFi performance? I’d love to hear about that as I’m always looking for creative solutions to common problems.
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails what you think. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’
In full disclosure, I’m not an affiliate marketer with links to any online retailer on my website. When people read what I’ve written about a particular product and then click on those links and buy something from the retailer, I earn nothing from the retailer. The links are strictly a convenience for my readers.