Gone are the days when we plugged all our devices into a wired network to access the internet at home. In fact, many smart devices that you buy today don’t even have a network socket so you have to connect over wifi. However, what if the wifi doesn’t extend over your whole house? Maybe your house is rather tall, so the top floors or basement don’t get coverage? Or maybe it is a rather wide bungalow so the ends don’t have coverage? In this article we run through your three options for extending wifi across you whole house. We’ll also provide direct links to the products so that you don’t need to go hunting for them.
I can’t be bothered to read the whole article, please summarize!
The best option for most is to use the power network in your house as a data network which enables you to place an additional wifi access point in the dead zone that needs addressing. This access point talks to your main router over the power cabling already in your house so there is no additional wiring. You should buy a kit like this: Netgear Powerline 500 with Wi-Fi – Essentials Edition on Amazon
For those that want to read on…
The equipment that your Internet provider gives you usually contains a modem (the bit that connects to the internet), a router (the bit that manages traffic on your network and talks to the router) and a wifi access point (the bit that provides the wifi signal). Now, these bits all work in tandem in one box usually, so you don’t need to worry about them being separate. However, what we want to do is get more wifi coverage, so you don’t need another modem or another router, you just need more wifi access points. The challenge is how these access points connect to your main router and hence the internet. We’ll walk through three options here: 1) rewire your home with fast ethernet cabling (extreme solution but the best), 2) add wireless repeaters (ok solution, but we’ve not had great performance) or 3) a powerline solution that turns your existing power cabling into a wired network (our recommendation).
So, in no particular order:
1. Rewire your home adding in network cable across the house. BUDGET: Depends on the local cost of labor
Performance wise, this is the best solution. Network cables are designed to carry computer communication traffic and they do this very well.
You’ll be looking to do two things:
- Place a wireless access point which broadcasts a wifi network in the dead spot(s) in your home. You can call this network what ever you like, but make sure you connect to it at least once on your devices so that they know it can be connected to
- Connect this new wifi access point to your main router with network cables. One end of the network cable plugs into the back of your router (make sure you have a spare network port) and the other end plugs into your new wifi access point
Whilst this can be done simply by buying some network cable from Amazon you’re going to want it not to look really crappy in your home. This means paying an electrician to lay the cables and place network sockets (as you probably have seen in your workplace) next to your new wifi hotspot.
On the plus side, this solution will give you excellent performance. Generally these network cables can operate at gigabit speed, which is going to be faster than pretty much all but the fastest of internet connections. If you invest in a good wifi hotspot you’ll be getting great performance.
Consider the following access point:Edimax BR-6428nS V2 300Mbps Wireless Range Extender / Access Point on Amazon
In addition you’ll need plenty of network cable, although your electrician should be able to provide this.
2. Add wireless repeaters at the edge of your wireless coverage. BUDGET: $35
This solution is completely wireless and doesn’t require adding any new cabling to your home. The idea is this: your main wifi access point that is broadcasting from your router gets to a certain distance in your home. You place a repeater, essentially a booster, inside this coverage area which in turn broadcasts another network which will extend further than the original signal. When your device connects to the repeater, the communication is then passed on to your main wifi network.
This is a good idea if you are extending your coverage just a little bit. In reality we’ve found that this tends to be quiet a flaky solution for real world use. To get any decent extension in coverage the repeater needs to be placed at the edge of the original wifi coverage area, this means it already is receiving quite a poor signal.
It is significantly cheaper than option 1, but unless there is some reason that holds you back from option 3 using powerline devices, there’s no really compelling reason to go with this option. If you are going to, then check out the following Netgear device:
Netgeart WiFi Extender Essentials on Amazon
3. Use a powerline device and a wifi access point. BUDGET sub $60:
This one requires a bit of an explanation. In essence you are doing option 1 (placing a wifi access point in the dead zone(s) and connecting it to your router with a wire) however, instead of placing network cable across your home you use a pair of devices that send the data signal over your home’s existing power network. There’s no need to add any extra wiring to your home.
The devices you need to get plug in to your power sockets and allow you to plug a network cable into them. You need to buy them in pairs, so that you plug one into the mains near your router (and connect a network cable from your router to the powerline device) and then you plug the other device into the mains next to your new wifi access point and connect the network cable from the access point to the powerline device. In this manner your new wifi access point is connected to your router over the power network in your house.
You’ll find that some devices put the wifi access point and powerline device into one unit in one of the pair so that you don’t need to have a separate access point (we’d recommend this option unless you have a good reason to keep the wifi access point separate from the powerline device).
Now, the speed you get will not be the same as running dedicated network cable around your home. It will also be influenced by the quality of wiring in your home. Most devices nowadays conform to the HomePlugAV500 specification – which in theory can transmit data across your powerline at 500mb / sec (you will see some devices which conform to the AV2 specification introduction in 2012, however there aren’t that many of them out there). In reality the speed you will achieve will be much lower, however even if you only get a 100mb transmit rate, this is likely still faster than your web connection and good for most use cases.
One thing to look out for on the devices is whether they allow you to plug other mains powered devices into them (known as passing through the power). This can be handy if you are short of mains sockets, but not essential.
We’d recommend a pair of devices such as these Netgear ones, they are completely plug and play (meaning no configuration) and one of the pair has a wifi hotspot included in it (no extra plugging in):
Netgear Powerline 500 with Wi-Fi – Essentials Edition on Amazon