How objects in your home can interfere with your wi-fi signal

A lot can get between your best intentions and an interruption-free internet connection. Here’s how to remove the barriers – physical and technological – to faster Wi-Fi.

Your Home
6 min read
Even in 2021, internet speeds can be inconsistent – sometimes you’re streaming at the speed of light, and other times things come to a grinding halt.

When it comes to what’s slowing you down, there’s no shortage of potential culprits. Has your once trusty router seen better days? Perhaps your partner burnt through your data on a binge they won’t admit to?

But it doesn’t stop there. Your shady next-door neighbour is piggybacking on your network. Your crummy toaster interferes with the power source. Your sneaky dog has somehow located a place in the house that causes a data blind spot, which simultaneously decreases your internet connection and increases their chances of a walk.

Of course, most of the above, we doubt. But how can we sort fact from fiction when it comes to what is slowing down, and what can potentially speed up your internet?


Getting closer, getting faster

By definition, this is the easiest one to measure. Ever noticed that your Wi-Fi signal is stronger the closer you are to the modem? That’s because it is. For this reason, it is important to consider where you place your modem in your house.

For optimum coverage, it’s recommended you place your router in a central part of the house. This will ensure your Wi-Fi range covers as much of your property as possible, minimising the chances of blind spots. If it’s a two-storey house, the second level is generally preferred.

Wherever you decide to put your modem, also keep in mind that overheating can damage – and in extreme circumstances, even disable – the hardware.

Resist covering the modem with any materials or documents – airflow is important to the device and helps to stabilise its temperature.

The problem next door

It’s true that your neighbour may be partly to blame for your lacklustre internet connection. But before you bang on their door demanding an apology, consider this – you may also be affecting theirs. It’s an especially common problem for close-knit properties on the 2.4 GHz band, but these interference issues can be managed.

For identifying the overlaps, you can download an AirPort utility. With the knowledge available there, you are looking to check if there is an over reliance on certain channels.

If so, it’s worth looking into switching your network to a less popular channel.

Due to the specifications of your particular modem, it’s worth contacting your provider before altering any settings here. They may also recommend you buy a dual-band router, which can be purchased for as little as AU$100.

If you’re friendly with your neighbours, having a chat and seeing if there is a way to increase the distance between your routers could help both your causes, but it’s worth noting these disturbances can be temperamental.

Bluetooth barriers

Bluetooth technology is the most common form of data connection between mobile and fixed devices. While it was criticised by some users as unreliable in its early years, it has well and truly established itself as the go-to tech for things like headphones and gaming hardware.

Many Bluetooth devices use the 2.4 GHz band, which is also common with Wi-Fi. This may be the cause of your connection interference. You can opt to change your Wi-Fi signal, but that should only be something you pursue if the problems persists.

Space invaders

Wi-Fi technology is remarkably adaptable to its surroundings, but there are fibres and textiles that can interfere with your signal.

Synthetic materials, wood and glass are considered Wi-Fi friendly, and your data will have no trouble bouncing around and beyond these surfaces. Plaster and concrete can cause problems.

Of all common household materials, metal is considered to be the peskiest when it comes to messing with your Wi-Fi signal, so it should be kept out of the immediate vicinity of the modem where possible.

Technically, the more that stands between your router and the device that requires the connection, the tougher it will be for the signal to travel, but the difference of something like an open or shut door is generally quite minor.

Mysterious myriad of devices

Due to the particularly unique frequency of microwaves, baby monitors and radio locators, you may find that this trio of household items can throw off your Wi-Fi signal.

Microwaves are known to interfere with the 2.4 GHz band that Wi-Fi uses, so you may have to brace for slower internet for those few minutes while yesterday’s dinner becomes today’s lunch.

Similarly, baby monitors (which transmit the audio and sometimes visuals of your precious new born) and radio locators (often used to help you find the missing keys you were sure you left by the door) can also get in the way of super-fast Wi-Fi. Simply distance these transistors from the router to reduce interference.

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