It should be simple. You have a wireless router, so you shouldn’t have a problem connecting any devices, right? Wrong. Depending on where you’re standing, you might not have any signal at all. Dead spots are all too common and limit your smart home’s capabilities.
Usually, you notice annoying Wi-Fi dead spots when you can’t stream a video on your phone. You might also find that your new smart bulb in the hallway lamp won’t set up at all. The good news is you can eliminate most dead spots easily.
Common Causes of Dead Spots
One of the most common solutions is to simply move your router. This does work sometimes, but it won’t work if there’s still a major barrier in the way.
Before you try to eliminate any of these spots, it’s a good idea to learn what causes them to begin with. It’ll also be easier to quickly find these spots when you’re mapping out your connectivity later.
Some of the most common causes of dead spots include:
- Walls – the thicker the wall, the weaker the Wi-Fi signal. Thin walls won’t give you much of a problem, but concrete might cut you off completely.
- Appliances – appliances often interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. Refrigerators are one of the worst culprits.
- Older wiring – older types of metal wiring can interfere as well.
- Larger metal objects – while you might not have things like metal filing cabinets in your home, these can still be problematic. If you have a home office with metal cabinets of any type and your Wi-Fi signal is weak, this could be the problem.
It’s important to remember that a dead spot is an area where you rarely, if ever, get a signal. Depending on your ISP, your speeds might vary throughout the day. If you have slow Wi-Fi in the evenings, this isn’t a dead spot – it’s just a busy time of day. The same is true if your speeds slow down when you have too many connected devices at the same time.
Testing Your Home
Now you get to have some fun. It’s time to map out your home to find all the dead spots and see where your signal is the strongest. You’ll need this map to help you eliminate the bad areas for a more even signal throughout your entire home.
The most straightforward method is to turn on Wi-Fi on your phone and slowly walk around your home. Pay close attention to the signal strength. Ideally, do this early in the morning or late at night when there aren’t as many people using it.
You can also use special apps and tools to map out your signal strength and even determine if there’s interference from other wireless routers around your neighborhood. A few popular options include:
- NetSpot – afree version allows you to create a basic map or use the seven-day free trial. The app works on Windows, Mac, and Android.
- Network Analyzer – this is a basic app that measures signal strength. It’s only available for iOS.
- Ekahau HeatMapper – while it’s marketed for enterprises, the free version works well for homes. It’s for Windows only.
Read the tutorials for each before using them to ensure you fully understand what the maps mean. NetSpot and Ekahau use color-coded maps to help you easily visualize dead spots to see where to place more access points.
Eliminating Dead Spots
Now that you know where the dead spots are, it’s time to start eliminating them. The first step is to move your wireless router to a more central location, if possible.
For example, if your router is located on the far-left of the first story of your three-story home, you’ll have more dead spots on the right side and upper floors. Moving your router to a central location on the second story will eliminate many of your issues.
A few other simple ways to eliminate dead spots include:
- Raise your router’s antenna, if it has one.
- Ensure all devices use the same 802.11 protocol. (This can slow performance even if it’s not a dead zone.) Open your wireless network properties on all devices and ensure the “802.11” protocol is the same for each.
- Install a repeater or extender. Look for a model that creates a dual-band Wi-Fi network to prevent performance issues. These systems give you two or more routers that send a boosted signal to each other for better overall coverage.
- Install signal boosters. Boosters help your signal reach further. These are great for smaller dead spots. Extenders actually create a second network to rebroadcast your original Wi-Fi signal.
- Move your router away from major interference. For instance, move the router closer to a doorway or away from kitchen appliances.
- Use Wi-Fi analyzer tools to use a less congested frequency. This can cause dead spots when you have numerous Wi-Fi networks in an area, such as a close neighborhood.
- Upgrade to a more powerful router. If your router is older or doesn’t broadcast a signal wide enough, you’ll have dead spots.
Don’t worry if it takes a little trial and error to eliminate your dead spots. All the work is worth it to ensure your smart home devices work wherever you want to place them.
Image credit: Selective focus of businessman holding wire with connector near router by DepositPhotos