Home internet is an important part of connecting our digital lives. While some areas still struggle with high speed internet options, most Americans can easily find a broadband connection at home. While your internet service provider (ISP) provides their own router to connect you to their service, they’re typically not that good, especially for WiFi. If you have trouble getting a good WiFi signal or internet connection at home, follow these steps to build an amazing home network that includes the latest smart home goodies.
It starts with a Gigabit Switch and a WiFi Access Point
This is the hub that all of your networking equipment and PCs will connect to so you need to make sure it’s fast and has lots of ports (plugs for ethernet cables), 12-24 ports at a minimum. Make sure this 24-port switch is capable of a Gigabit for every port. Don’t buy a switch that has two ports with Gigabit and the rest 100 megabytes. Make sure it’s Gigabyte all the way. You’ll need the extra bandwidth when everyone in the family is using it at the same time, especially if you have printers, TVs, and other devices that your family members may be going to instead of going to the Internet. Ok, we’ve already established that your ISP’s router isn’t that good, but you’re stuck with it if your provider demands it, which they commonly do. Plug that into your switch and plug your WiFi Access Point into the switch too. If additional WiFi Access Points are needed to provide full house coverage, plug those into the hub too. If you plan on going entirely wireless, you can just connect the access points directly to the ISP provided router if it has multiple ports.
After the Gigabit switch, the next link in building a reliable home network is the right WiFi router or WiFi Access Point. Assuming you have quality internet service, the next bottleneck to consider is your home WiFi Access Point. There are many WiFi access points available today, but the best offer high speeds through the wireless AC connection standard. AC access points can reach 1.3 gigabits per second (Gbps).
Keep in mind that WiFi access points have limited reach and speeds depending on multiple factors, including WiFi antenna used, house characteristics like stone or brick walls, electrical appliances, devices competing on the same frequencies, etc. Speeds are also a factor of the router frequency, measured at either 2.4 gigahertz (Ghz) or 5.0 gigahertz. 2.4 Ghz allows for a wider connection range, but expect slightly slower speeds. 5 Ghz offers faster speeds, but with shorter range. This is because the 2.4 Ghz band can more easily penetrate walls, but carries less data in the narrower wavelengths.
A smart router like the Google OnHub decides which frequency to use based on the device’s optimal connection, whereas older routers make you pick between the 2.4 and 5 Ghz networks. My Google WiFi OnHub AC1900 router by TP-Link fixed 90% of my internet problems at my old house caused by the standard Comcast router, but in my bigger home that I moved into recently, I needed a little more power to reach the entire home and yard with fast speeds. That’s where a mesh network comes in. This router has a $200 list price but is available on Amazon for $119 with Prime shipping. A mesh network means placing multiple WiFi access points evenly throughout the house, all connected through ethernet cable running to the switch we talked about earlier. Or, you could buy dual channel access points and have them interconnect wirelessly with each other but at least one has to be connected to the switch or if you’re not using a switch, then they have to be connected to the ISP’s router.
Add on a mesh WiFi network if needed
My new 2,000 square foot house sits on a lot with a great yard. The California ranch style house also results in some rooms being a long way from my router. With no upstairs, the kitchen, dining area, family room, laundry room, and yard are all a long way from the home office where the OnHub router lives. But that doesn’t mean I had to live with shoddy internet in those areas.
In the old days, a network extender may have done the trick, but network extenders come with limited capabilities. The farther distance can lead to lag, and multiple networks running close together can lead to problems with channel overlap and dropped signals and packets. This is fancy lingo for a bad connection.
Google and other companies recently released mesh networks, which are made up of multiple network nodes or hubs. I purchased a 3 pack of Google WiFi access points, which look like nice white hockey pucks with a light, and placed them in strategic locations around my house.
Thanks to the power of Google WiFi, no matter where anyone is around the home, they have a fast connection. The software ensures the channel used by the network is unique from my neighbors, picks the best band for the device’s connection, and avoids the lag and performance issues of extenders.
Google WiFi regularly costs $129 each or $299 for a set of three. Currently the Google Store has them listed at $114 for a single WiFi or $264 for three. They are currently available for the same price at Amazon. You can also find them at local Best Buy and Walmart stores.
Start with basic smart home appliances
Once you have your network in place, you can take advantage of the exciting developments in smart homes. We have smart light switches, Google Home, and a smart garage door opener. But that is just scratching the surface in what is possible today.
You can get smart appliances, light bulbs, door locks, door bells, security systems, and more. In some cases, you may need a hub like the Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub. Other smart home products, like Philips Hue bulbs, come with their own hub.
Once you have great internet throughout your entire home, the opportunities are endless. If you thought talking to your home was something from science fiction movies, get ready to dive in yourself.
The Jetson’s home isn’t too far off
The Jetsons was a great TV show that gave us a taste of what the future has in store. Other science fiction books and shows in history like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea gave more hints at what we may be able to look forward to in the future. But the future is here. It is happening today.
If you have the right home, a few dollars to invest, and some internet ingenuity, you can quickly turn your home into a smart home. If you don’t have a home you feel is worth the investment, it’s time to get looking for the right one! If you are looking to buy a home in the near future, start your search with the right agent. To find the right agent, head to AgentHarvest.