How Do Wifi Extenders Work?


Wireless Networks

Wireless networks use radio waves to communicate. Routers receive signals, decode them and send the information invisibly to all of the electronic equipment in your home. The further wifi signals have to travel, the weaker they get. Think about driving out of town and having your car radio signal get weak or stop broadcasting. Wifi signals are the same way. When wifi signals have to travel distances, like reach out to your front or back yard or work around obstacles, they get weaker.

If you have a continuous problem with your devices disconnecting from wifi or a weak signal, and your router is behind a couch or in a closet, move your router. 

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Move router from behind couch Move router out of closet

Wifi Extenders

Wifi extenders do exactly what they sound like, they lengthen a wifi signal over a longer distance from a router. Wifi extenders work best when they’re used with one or two devices that always stay in the same place. The best placement for a wifi extender is halfway between a router and an electronic device. Wifi extenders will stretch a wifi signal, but they don’t strengthen the signal. In many cases, depending upon the distance from the router, the wifi extender may actually weaken the wifi signal. 

Mesh Networks

Mesh Networks allow multiple routers to work with each other as a team to share information. Mesh networks help improve your network speed, range and stability. A traditional home wifi network relies on one signal that gets distributed to all of your wifi enabled devices. Mesh networks use nodes, which are small devices that communicate with each other to keep wifi signals strong and going to the right places without being interrupted. A mesh network is likely to be a better option than a wifi extender if you have a large home. 

Wifi Network Basics

The further away from your router a wifi device is, the further the signal has to stretch to reach it. You might have noticed that your wifi signal is strong when you’re close to your router, but in other places you get no signal at all, or a weak signal that keeps disconnecting. Even though you can’t see anything, your wifi signals may be getting distorted by common things in and around your house.

Some common things that distort or weaken wifi signals are:

  • Brick
  • Stucco
  • Metal
  • Large glass doors
  • Mirrors
  • Microwaves
  • Fish tanks
  • Cordless phones
  • Baby monitors
  • Smart home appliances
  • Wifi enabled TV’s
  • Game consoles
  • Your neighbor’s wifi signal overlapping yours.

Think about how water in a rushing stream gets slower and broken up when it has to go around a rock. That’s similar to what your wifi signal is doing when it has to go around your TV, fish tank or sliding glass door. Or, if you’ve ever had your cell phone disconnect for no apparent reason, it probably got temporarily cut off from the cell phone tower signal. You didn’t see anything happen, but you know the signal got cut off. That’s the same thing that happens with wifi signals.

To learn more about wifi troubleshooting, click here.

How Wifi Extenders Work

Wifi extenders can be a good solution to stretch a wifi signal between a router and an electronic device. Wifi extenders still need to be within a reasonable distance from a wifi router, about 20 feet max, in order for them to work effectively. For homes that are 1500 square feet or under a wifi extender can be a good solution to extend your wifi range. There are many brands of wifi extenders available from electronic stores. The Ring Chime Pro is a wifi extender that was designed to work with Ring devices.

How Mesh Networks Work

Mesh networks allow multiple routers to work with each other as a team to share information and distribute wifi signals. Generally speaking, mesh networks will improve your wifi range, connectivity and stability.

For larger homes that may have a lot of electronic devices spread throughout the house, a mesh network may be a better solution than a wifi extender. When wifi signals have to travel between floors of a house, or building materials (brick, stucco, metal) that interfere with wifi signals, a mesh network is more likely to be able to overcome wifi obstacles than a wifi extender.

For many years, mesh network technology has required complicated set ups or professional installers. Now, mesh network technology is much simpler, more affordable and easier to set up for the average person. So you don’t have to sacrifice good performance because it’s too difficult or costly. One mesh network device is placed next to your current router and then nodes can be placed throughout your house in order to make sure your wifi signal stays strong and consistent.

Ring recommends eero mesh network systems as a way to help neighbors maintain wifi strength and stability.

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