With the boom in use of smart devices, fast, reliable internet throughout your property is becoming a must-have. But many of us still struggle to get good coverage everywhere we need it. That’s why it’s crucial to have the right home network setup.
A well-designed home network can stop buffering, slow internet and signal dropouts, and make the best use of your broadband speed. You can install or upgrade any time, but the perfect time is when you’re planning building or home improvement works. Making the right decisions from the outset can save a great deal of time, hassle and money later.
Here are our home networking insights and tips to help plan, for now and for your connected home of the future.
What is a home network?
It’s essentially the connection of a group of devices to your broadband router – TV, tablet, smart heating, music player, etc. The connections can be wireless, or hard-wired with an ethernet cable.
Some people plug certain devices directly into their router, for example home computers. However most rely heavily on their router’s in-built WiFi to connect a multitude of gadgets and smart tech.
And for many, that’s where the problems start.
Why many home WiFi networks struggle
Your standard router from your internet provider can probably handle up to eight WiFi devices connecting at a time, if you’re lucky. Once you add WiFi boosters or repeaters they take up more connections. This leads to dropouts or timeouts as your smart gadgets wait in the queue to be able to connect.
This situation will only get worse as you add more and more wireless devices.
Homes also tend to be full of WiFi blockers including underfloor heating, thick walls and even household objects like mirrors. These will interfere with your WiFi signal and reduce its strength the further you are from you router.
Why it makes sense to invest in a wired network for your property
There’s a tendency to think WiFi will just work for everything, so why would you bother with cabling. Ironically, however, having a correctly installed and configured wired network in your home is the best way to get strong, fast WiFi wherever you need it.
Turning off your router’s WiFi signal and hard-wiring wireless access points into it instead will always give better WiFi speeds and coverage than just relying on your wireless router and/or WiFi boosters and repeaters. The combination of wired and wireless creates a single, seamless home network that makes full use of your broadband speed.
With a wired network setup in your home you can also plug in static appliances, like a smart TV or fridge, directly into your network. This will give a more reliable internet connection and will also take some of the load off your wireless network.
No more annoying signal dropouts or buffering.
When is the best time to plan a new home network setup?
You can do it at any time, but for practical reasons it’s often easiest to lay new network cabling when you’re having other work done. This could be renovation or restoration work, building an extension, re-wiring, or installing new flooring.
If floorboards are already being lifted for an electric or plumbing job, it’s easier and tidier to lay the cabling for your home network at the same time. Most of us don’t want wiring on show, so the more access to spaces to hide it, the better. If you’ve already laid your new oak flooring it’s much more difficult to run hidden cables retrospectively.
Having said that, there are work-arounds if internal cabling just isn’t an option. Specialist external network cable can run outside alongside existing wiring, guttering or drain pipes.
A mesh WiFi system is another solution, but more access points would be needed to cover the same area. They can also suffer interference and capacity issues as they rely on WiFi to connect to each other.
Who should you contact to help design & build your home network?
WiFi and networking sit in the IT field, so it’s important to make sure whoever you choose is an IT professional with suitable experience.
Currently there isn’t a nationwide standard for WiFi and network installers; unlike gas fitters (CORGI) or electricians (NICIEC). There are some tradespeople from other more established fields that may dabble. However networking is so much more than just running cables.
A specialist with a full understanding of network configuration and presentation will make sure the installation is fit for purpose. (After all, you probably wouldn’t go to a bicycle repair shop to fix your car.)
When choosing a network installer, find out:
- What experience and/or qualifications do they have?
- How long have they worked in this field and what kind of work have they done?
- Can they give you references from previous customers?
- Do they carry out a free survey of your home as part of the planning process?
- Are they prepared to work with your other contractors, if required?
And make sure that they:
- are not just laying cable, but are properly terminating and labelling each cable run, ready for use
- can talk knowledgably on how the system can be used, and make relevant suggestions to maximise its use
- are able to answer your questions, or find answers if they don’t have the specific knowledge (which may be the case if your query relates to a specific device)
Above all, you need to be able to trust them.
Planning your home network setup: key considerations
As with most home projects, proper planning is essential. Here are some the most important areas to address.
Ensuring the setup suits your needs:
- When designing your network setup, it should be customised to your needs. Make sure you specify what’s important to you at the outset. This might include capacity for multiple devices to connect at the same time, ability to restrict usage or specific security requirements.
- Make sure the solution will make full use of your broadband speed. Spare capacity to cope with future improvements in internet speeds is also a good idea.
- Find out if any services from your internet provider will be affected, for example multi-room TV. You need to make sure anything you consider essential will work with your network.
- Specify CAT6 ethernet cable. Older CAT5 cable is cheaper, but has lower capacity, so is less future-proof.
- You need to make sure you’ll have enough capacity. For example, multiple network points in heavy use areas. A living room, for example, might need several connection points for TV, Sky box, games console, music player, etc. A bedroom, on the other hand, might only need one or two.
- Ideally specify a central point where all your cabling will meet to keep things together and tidy. An under stairs cupboard or utility room are normally good places. Make sure each cable will be labelled during the installation and the corresponding number marked on the network point it connects to. This makes it much easier to trace, diagnose and fix any issues further down the line, potentially saving a lot of time and cost.
- If you have the opportunity, get your main phone point moved to the same central location as the cabling. This keeps everything together, neat and tidy, and you can hide your router there, safe and out of the way.
In addition, there are also the usual common-sense considerations to cover in the planning and installation of your home network setup. Make sure you get three quotes, for instance. And be prepared to pay a deposit, but don’t expect to pay in full up-front. Making sure that some of the payment is due on completion will give you some come-back in case you’re not happy with the results.
Installing or upgrading your home network: 5 steps to success
- Think about what you want your home network to do and what devices it needs to support
- Consider your wired and wireless network as a whole when you’re planning
- Get specialist, expert home networking advice and guidance
- Use a suitably experienced network/WiFi installer
- Don’t forget the logistics of laying network cable – oak flooring is great, but lay the cabling first!
Get your installation right and you’ll have a fast, reliable home network to enjoy all the benefits of a connected home for years to come.
Get help with your ideal home network setup
If you’re in the Bristol and Bath area and thinking of upgrading or installing a home network, we can help. We are your local experts in home network planning, design and installation. Whatever the age, layout or size of your property.
Contact us today for a free survey and quote for your ideal solution.