The Best Ways to Improve Your WiFi Signal Strength

The placement of a wireless access point (WAP) can dramatically impact the strength and reliability of your WiFi signal. So where exactly should you place your WAP to ensure a solid signal? Let’s explore this further.

wireless access point

What Is a Wireless Access Point?

A wireless access point is a device that allows wireless devices to connect to a wired network using WiFi or related standards. It extends the range of your network and eliminates the need for wires.

A WAP receives data from a router via an Ethernet cable, then converts the data into a radio signal that can be picked up by WiFi-enabled devices. There are a few things that can affect the signal that the WAP sends to your devices, these include Signal Strength, Range and Interference.

How Does a Wireless Access Point Work?

Wifi Signal Strength

The strength of your wifi signal greatly depends on the location of your WAP. The further away your device is from the WAP, the weaker the signal.

  • Range- The range of your wifi network is also influenced by the placement of your WAP. Ideally, you want a location that allows the signal to reach all corners of your home or office.
  • Interference

Electronic devices and physical obstructions can interfere with your WiFi signal. Proper placement can help avoid these issues.

Best Locations for Your Wireless Access Point

Placing your WAP in a central location, preferably high up, can help ensure the signal covers your entire area. It is recommended to install a WAP on the ceiling. For commercial offices, this is a requirement. Residential installations may be more challenging, since running a cable to a proper location can be difficult. In these situations, you will need to be creative in where you place a WAP in your house. Consider placing your WAP near the devices that will be using it most often. However, remember to maintain a balance so that all devices receive a good signal.

This article is more focused on residential wifi networks, if you are interested in commercial wifi networks, click here.

Understanding Wifi Signal Interference

It is never a good idea to place a WAP on a desk, in a drawer, on the floor, in a bookshelf, in the basement, etc. You get the idea. At the end of the day, a WAP is an antenna. Antennas like to be in locations that are free and clear so their broadcasts can reach the maximum receivers. Books, wood, duct work, drywall, brick, shelving, appliances and metal objects will all reduce signal quality. Finally, never place a WAP near a microwave or cordless phone. These devices emit electromagnetic waves that can interfere with wifi signals.

Wireless Access Point Signals

Most wifi issues are caused by one of two things: physical obstructions and/or interference. Sometimes the resolution can be as simple as moving the WAP to another location. In other cases, interference can pose a problem. Depending on the source of interference it can be harder to resolve.

As mentioned above, walls, floors, and ceilings can block wifi signals. It’s essential to take this into account when choosing a location for your WAP.

Other wireless networks and devices can interfere with your wifi signal. This is more likely in densely populated areas or in multifamily buildings where there may be a high density of wireless networks.

The WAPs themselves can cause problems as well. WAPs will broadcast wireless signals on two “channels”: 2.5Ghz and 5Ghz. Most residential WiFi routers are “dual band” meaning they can send both 2.5 and 5GHz. These channels have different features and should be used properly.

2.4Ghz

This channel is the original WiFi channel that was used back in the 90’s. It is still used by some older equipment, like printers. The biggest feature of 2.5Ghz is that it can cover long distances and can have better signal strength if there are physical obstructions. Under the right conditions, 2.5 GHz signals can pass speed of up to 450-600Mbps.

This sounds good, however 2.5Ghz is sends its data slower. 2.5Ghz can stay connected to a device as you move from floor to floor. Again, this sound good, however the signal strength is diminished as more obstructions get between your device and the WAP. This results in slower download speeds. For example, if your WAP is on the 1st floor of your house and you move to the 2nd floor, on the opposite side of the house, your device may still be connected to the 2.5GHz wireless network, however your download speeds will not be very good. Finally, 2.5GHz is prone to interference from other devices (microwaves and even garage door openers!).

It is recommended to turn off 2.5Ghz on your WAPs. Unless you have an old printer that you need to use on the wireless network, turn off 2.5Ghz. It will reduce the chance of you connecting to it and getting slow download speeds.

5Ghz

To begin with, this is not the same as 5G cellular networks for mobile phones, it is a different technology. 5Ghz WiFi produces a much faster signal, up to 1300Mbps, which results in faster download speeds. All newer devices (last 5-7 years), like laptops and mobile phones, have 5Ghz antennas. It is the de facto standard for WiFi.

But of course, there is a caveat to 5GHz signals- they are shorter and are less able to penetrate walls and other physical obstructions. This poses an issue, since most of today’s data hungry applications, like 4K video, Zoom calls and streaming depend on fast downloads.

WiFi Signal Strength

Ways to Enhance WiFi Signals

Typically, there are two ways to “enhance” your wifi signal strength, either through the use of extenders or by using a “mesh” system.

Wifi Extenders

Wifi extenders can help boost the range of your wifi network, especially in larger homes or offices. They can also be known as called wifi ‘boosters’, or ‘repeaters’, however they are the same thing.

Extenders are good since they are easy to setup, inexpensive and can be moved easily. However, as you may have guessed there are some drawbacks to extenders.

  • Extenders can cause interference with other devices like garage door openers or baby monitors. They can cause problems with your main wifi router too.
  • Signal quality can vary and may slow internet speeds down.
  • You have to connect to the extender’s wifi network to use it.
  • They may not be in a good location to provide great signals, since they typically plug into a power outlet.

Mesh Wifi Systems

A mesh wifi system consists of several devices that work together to create a strong and stable wifi network. Mesh systems replace your existing router with a mesh router and one or more mesh “satellite” antennas.

Mesh systems can be easy to setup, allow for flexible coverage, produce more reliable, faster download speeds, can easily add satellite antennas that can reduce “dead zones”. There are, of course, disadvantages to mesh systems.

  • They are more expensive than WiFi extenders, and even WiFi routers (which they replace).
  • Initial configuration can take longer depending on how many satellites you use and where they are located. However, the reliability and performance are worth the time investment.
  • Mesh systems won’t help you if your internet connection coming into your house (or business) is slow. What goes in, is what comes out. Don’t expect a 40Mbps internet connection to produce 300Mbps download speeds.  If this is your situation you will be wasting time and money. You will be better served by increasing your internet connection speed.
  • Power use is greater because each satellite needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet.

Which is better? Well, it depends on budget, the space you are trying to enhance and your level of expertise with computers and networking. A mesh network would be the right option for good coverage in a large home

Testing Your Wifi Signal Strength

There are several apps available that can help you determine the strength of your WiFi signal.

Android

iOS

Both Android and iOS

  • Fing-  Android, iOS (free, pay for unlocked features). Grade- B
  • Wi-Fi Sweetspots- Android, iOS (free). Grade- A
  • Network Analyzer- Android, iOS (free with ads, pay for unlocked features) Grade- B-

Various websites offer tools for testing your WiFi signal strength and identifying weak spots in your network.

Finally, if you’re unsure about the best location for your WAP, it may be helpful to consult a professional. They can assess your specific situation and provide expert advice. TechNoir Solutions has almost two decades of installing, managing, and maintaining wireless internet networks. If you need a good WiFi resource, you can contact us here: https://technoirsolstg.wpengine.com/contact

Conclusion

Proper placement of your wireless access point can significantly enhance the strength and reliability of your WiFi signal. By following the advice in this article, you should be able to find the ideal location for your WAP.

What is a wireless access point (WAP)

Where should I place my wireless access point?

What can interfere with a wifi signal?

How can I improve my wifi signal?

How can I test my wifi signal strength?