How Your Home Can Affect Wireless Network Performance

Updated July 26, 2011
The environment your wireless network is subjected to will have an impact on its performance. (Summer Galyan)

A certified network technician discusses strategies to make sure you are getting the best range and performance from your wireless internet network.

Submitted by Dallas Smith of Dallas Smith — Certified Computer/Network Tech

A common misconception about wireless networks is that they all behave the same; this is not true. The environment your wireless network is subjected to will have an impact on its performance. For example, a house in northwest D.C. that is almost 100 years old may require a different strategy than a newly built house in northern Virginia. Here are some common things that will impact the range and performance of your wireless network.

Size of your home: The larger range a wireless network has to cover the higher the chance for potential dead spots

Location of equipment: Poor placement of equipment is a common problem. If you have a three story home, it is best to place the router somewhere in the middle of the second floor. A router should be as close to the center of all the equipment attempting to connect to it so that the range radius is as close to equal for all clients as possible.

In reality, most internet service providers will place equipment where it is convenient for them to bring it into the home and your router will need to be placed close to your provider’s equipment.

Make sure to take control whenever you have a new internet installation and do not simply let the technician have his way. Request that the technician choose a place in the home that is unobtrusive but also functional from a wireless perspective.

Materials home is built with: Many customers live in older homes and they sometimes have to use extra equipment to get a signal throughout their home due to the materials used to build it. Materials such as wood lathe, stucco, and heavy plaster create a strong barrier for your wireless signal to pass through, thus reducing its range.

Newer homes are mostly built using more permeable materials which have a smaller affect on your wireless network’s range. For older homes there are items that can extend your network’s range such as antenna/signal boosters and wireless range extenders.

Electromagnetic Interference: Anything that has electricity has an EMI field associated with it. The question is how big is it? Large appliances, air conditioners, furnaces and thick layers of electrical wire running together can create a strong EMI barrier which may reduce your wireless range.

The best way to avoid this is by positioning machines and other wireless equipment in areas that don’t require the wireless signal to pass through heavy EMI areas.

There are many things to consider when deciding whether or not your wireless network needs updating. If you are not comfortable or have questions you can seek the guidance of a qualified contractor or business on Angie’s List. Make sure you find a business that has recent reviews relating to wireless network setup.

Dallas Smith is a certified and highly experienced computer/network technician servicing the Washington D.C. metropolitan region. He holds a college degree in network systems and also three industry standard certifications in computer repair, networking and Windows Operating Systems. Furthermore, he has nearly 12 years of residential and corporate experience. He consults in the evenings and weekends in addition to his full time job as a Systems administrator for a financial firm.

As of July 29, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.