5 ways to extend your WiFi range and boost your signal
18 October 2021 | Celia Topping
Do you want to catch up on Bake Off in bed but the signal keeps dropping out? Or need to quickly send an email from the kitchen but it’s a dead zone? You’re not alone.
These situations, and many more, are irritating to say the least. In a world where we expect to be able to be online wherever and whenever we want, it’s frustrating to not be able to do so in your own home! Plus, as more homes are becoming increasingly “smart”, the importance of a good, solid Wifi connection is vital to keep your home running as smoothly as possible.
In this article we’ll guide you through some tips and tricks that can pep up that sluggish WiFi, troubleshoot your router issues, and optimise your network.
First of all, check your wired internet connection
Let’s begin at where the internet initially enters your home – at the modem.
- Plug your computer directly into your modem, using an ethernet cable (pictured above).
- Run a test to check WiFi speed, with a site like Speedtest or Fast.com. Then check that it matches the stated speed on your internet bill.
- If it doesn’t match, give your provider a call. Your modem might need replacing.
- If it does match, then you might need to upgrade your plan to a faster speed.
- If the modem is fine, try the test again, but wirelessly, standing next to your router. If you have the same speed next to the router, but slower speeds elsewhere, read on for some tips...
Why Is my WiFi signal so bad? 7 factors that affect WiFi performance
- Physical distance: WiFi routers don’t have unlimited power. Cheaper ones could have problems even with small apartments, so be sure to use the best you can afford.
- Objects getting in the way: the WiFi signal can be absorbed or even blocked completely if things get between your router and your device. Walls, furniture, appliances, and even people(!) can cause an obstruction. If your WiFi network is high frequency (5GHz) then it’s more likely to get blocked, as high frequencies don’t go through solid objects as well as lower frequency signals (2.4GHz).
- Interference: radios, mobile phones, microwaves, baby monitors, and many other devices can all interfere with WiFi signals because they’re on the same radio frequency. If you live in a block of flats, this could be even more likely to happen.
- Your router’s power: you can load up some computers with as much software as you can buy and they’ll run fine. Others can barely manage an email. It’s the same with routers. Low-end, cheap routers just won’t have the power to run all your smart home devices, plus your computer, phone, printer, and whatever else you’re depending on it for. You may simply need a bigger router.
- Bandwidth hoggers: your teen is streaming Netflix in his room, your toddler is catching up on CBeebies in the lounge and your partner is video calling their mum. When this happens, your problem might not be your WiFi signal, but the hoggers who are taking up all the bandwidth. Something’s gotta give!
- Your internet service provider: don’t waste time trying to troubleshoot your WiFi without running a speed test (as described above) first. Get straight on the phone to your provider if the speeds don’t match what they promise.
- Performance-enhancing features: if you’ve got a new modern router, it’s likely that it has some built-in performance-enhancing features. These might have names like Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO), or beamforming. You might need to switch these on manually for them to kick in. Check your manual for instructions, or search online if you’ve already thrown them away! Unfortunately, old routers don’t have these features, so an upgrade could help.
So, now you know why your WiFi performance is affected, let’s look at what you can do to improve it.
5 ways to extend your WiFi range
1. Move your router
Get the most from your existing router by making sure it’s in a central location in your home. You might feel like hiding the ugly-looking router away, but it needs to be clear of obstructions to work properly. Especially make sure you keep it away from metal, the top WiFi signal disruptor!
2. Upgrade to a better router
If you’ve had your router for a few years, it’s possible you need an upgrade. Older routers don’t have the most up-to-date firmware or features, so a new one could be all you need. Malware is more likely to attack an old router too.
Call your provider, and if you’re a loyal customer, they might even give you one for free.
3. Get a mesh WiFi kit
If you live in a large house, or an old house with thick walls that can block WiFi signals, a mesh kit might be just what you need.
A mesh WiFi system is made up of a main router, with multiple satellite units that you can connect around your home. And there you have it: seamless WiFi coverage!
Popular brands include Asus, Eero, Orbi and Google. You can start with just one satellite unit, and add more as and when you need them.
4. Don’t forget to reboot
Yes, it’s that same old advice, “Turn it off and on again”. This simple process clears the router’s memory and allows updates to install. If an install starts once you’ve switched it back on, allow it to update completely. It could take up to 10 minutes, but your signal will be much stronger afterwards.
5. Buy a wireless booster or WiFi extender
If you’re struggling to get a connection in the far reaches of your home, installing a WiFi extender could fix your woes. Sometimes called WiFi boosters, these devices extend the wireless signal from your router, so it can reach the furthest corners of your home. Read on for our top wireless booster picks.
Top 4 WiFi boosters
If you need more WiFi coverage in your home, a WiFi booster will rebroadcast your existing WiFi signal. This gives you a stronger signal wherever you are in your home. Here are some of our favourites:
Name: Netgear Nighthawk X6 EX7700 Mesh Range Extender
Price: £97.10 from broadbandbuyer.com
Key features: FastLane3 technology which features Tri-Band WiFi with speeds up to 2.2 Gbps. Tri-band can improve signal quality and speed if you live in a built-up area.
Name: TP-Link RE650 AC2600 Wi-Fi Range Extender
Price: £87.50 from ebuyer.com
Key features: Ultimate Wireless speed with MU-MIMO technology (this allows the router to communicate with multiple devices at the same time)
Name: Netgear Orbi RBK50
Price: £329.99 from Netgear
Key features: a hybrid between a WiFi booster and a WiFi router, with up to 5000 square feet of coverage.
Name: Linksys Velop WiFi extender
Price: £79.99 at Amazon
Key features: this small device makes it easy to set up parental controls and separate password-protected WiFi.
Got your WiFi fixed? Now let’s sort out your heating!
With your freshly optimised WiFi, wouldn’t it be nice to control your heating from wherever you are and save energy while doing so? Smart thermostats can do just that.
There are so many benefits to having a smart thermostat:
- Control your heating from anywhere, all via an app on your phone, tablet, or other device
- See all kinds of data to help you waste less energy and be more energy-efficient
- Thanks to all that energy saving, smart thermostats can help cut your bills and save you money
- Which is also better for the environment, as you reduce your carbon footprint
To find out even more about smart thermostats, read our comprehensive guide. And remember, all OVO members get £79.991 off a wireless tadoº Smart Thermostat, which can help you reduce your heating bills by up to 31%2.
If you've got more questions about WiFi, why not head to the OVO Forum? The Forum is where our green community comes together to share their firsthand experiences of green living, and to help each other out. There are tonnes of discussions about every aspect of WiFi, so why not get involved and join the conversation?
Sources and references:
1Saving based on manufacturer's recommended retail price of £199.99.
2 An independent study has shown that installing and correctly using a tadoº smart thermostat can reduce your energy use from heating by up to 31%. The study found that the tadoº device can reduce heating energy requirements by 14-26% through controlling the heat source (e.g. boiler or heat pump). You could also save another 7% by turning down the heating based on the weather forecast, depending on the window sizes. If the window surfaces are relatively large, the energy saving will increase.