Purchasing a mesh router system is only half of the upgrade process. If your mesh node placement is poor, you will never realize the full benefits of a mesh system. These are the common mistakes you want to avoid.
Placing your mesh router in the same location as above
When shopping for a new mesh router system, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate your router placement.
Too many people have their traditional Wi-Fi router parked somewhere out of the way. This location is often dictated by where your Internet Service Provider (ISP) utility line enters your home.
The most common locations we come across are in living rooms where the original cable service entrance was or in the corners of the basement where the old phone service enters the house.
While mesh systems are quite useful for bandaging a situation like pushing the router into a corner of the basement, it’s not ideal.
Now, while setting up a new system, is a good time to consider moving your router to improve Wi-Fi coverage.
Just because your router has always been in a particular corner doesn’t mean it has to stay there. Moving your mesh router to a central location in your home will make it easier to effectively locate the other nodes and get better coverage throughout the house.
Placing nodes too close together
It may seem counter-intuitive, but you can place mesh nodes too close together. Hardware, both at the router level and at the device level, like your smartphone, is getting better all the time, but pushing the nodes together creates unnecessary load on both the mesh system and the devices that connect to it.
You don’t want to create radio congestion by placing nodes too close together, and you don’t want your devices to have to constantly re-evaluate which node to use because it’s not clear which one offers the best connection at any given time.
It’s a bit complicated to evaluate too much together. Obviously, you don’t want two nodes in the same small room or just on opposite sides of a wall, but both the layout of your home and the material it’s built with play a role in determining node proximity.
Placing nodes too far apart
You would think it would be immediately obvious if you had placed your nodes too far apart. However, Wi-Fi isn’t like a simple switch where it’s on and it works or it’s off and it doesn’t. There is no cut-and-dry rule “at X number of feet from router Y, the signal doesn’t work”.
Instead, the signal degrades over a given time span influenced not only by distance but by everything between the mesh node and its nearest node neighbor.
The ideal node location is where each node covers a maximum amount of area in the house with enough overlap between a node and the nearest node so that the two units can communicate with minimal interference and a strong signal.
The appearance of your home largely depends on many of the other factors on this list, such as where the main mesh router is placed and the configuration and construction of your home.
In general, though, a good guideline is to place the node roughly halfway between the mesh router and the area of your home where you get a really weak signal. The goal is for the node to pick up the signal from the router and carry it forward, so it doesn’t have to be so far away that it struggles to connect properly.
If nodes are too far apart, devices in semi-dead spots between them will experience slow load times, stutters, and other connectivity issues. That’s a good sign that you need to move one or more of the nodes (or add another one to the system).
In the diagram above, you can see how strategically placed mesh nodes (in this case, TP-Link M9 mesh nodes) cover the garage, patio, and the central structure of the house.
Placing the nodes against the exterior walls
Speaking of placing mesh nodes too far apart, a common mistake we encounter too often is placing the router (mesh network or otherwise) against an exterior wall.
Wi-Fi radiates from the router or mesh node in a fairly uniform shape (the shape depends on the type of antenna, but most units don’t have highly focused directional antennas, so it’s shaped like a doughnut, dome, sphere, or such). If you park your mesh node against an exterior wall, a significant amount of the signal will radiate out into your neighboring patio or apartment.
If you really want that coverage, like sending your Wi-Fi signal to a patio where you spend a lot of time, that’s fine. But if the mesh node is attached to an exterior wall that borders a space you don’t use, you should reposition the mesh node so that the sign is better aligned with the spaces you do use.
Placement of the nodes behind radio absorbing materials
You can go a long way to improving the placement of mesh nodes if you think of your home in terms of what materials exist between one node and the next.
Imagine for a moment that you are Superman and that you can look through floors and walls, seeing everything between where you plan to place the main mesh router and where you will place nodes. What is between the node and the base if you draw a line through the air and the intermediate structures of the house?
There are some materials that absorb so little Wi-Fi signal that they might as well be outdoors. Windows are virtually invisible unless tinted with metallic film. Interior drywall walls with wood studs absorb a little, but not much.
Things like refrigerators and other large appliances, cast iron bathtubs (and metal plumbing in general, like large cast iron drains), concrete walls, old plaster walls with metal turning, steel studs, and anything else with composition metal and/or high density. absorbs a lot of Wi-Fi power.
That includes, by the way, the books. You may not have given much thought to a large bookcase or a whole wall full of books, but you should keep that in mind. While a single book won’t do much to block a Wi-Fi signal, hundreds of them stacked together suck up quite a bit of power.
With that in mind, try to place your mesh nodes where you can draw an imaginary line, free of any “heavy” obstacles (either visible or hidden in the walls) between the node, other nodes, and the router.
Sometimes simply moving a mesh node from one corner of a room to another is enough to help the signal pass through all the metal appliances in the kitchen or get a direct “line of sight” through the floor. without bumping into your old bathtub.
Placing nodes too low
Although technically this bug could be included with the previous advice about not parking mesh nodes behind radio absorbing materials, it is notable enough to discuss on its own.
Too often, people place their mesh nodes in locations that are too low for optimal signal dispersion. The density of any given room in your home is heavily weighted toward the floor. The furniture sits on the floor. All furniture objects (such as books, decorations, etc.) are closer to the ground. Our bodies also block Wi-Fi to some extent, by the way, and we’re also walking around and living our lives in the bottom half of the room.
There’s a reason why, when you’re in a place with a large corporate Wi-Fi network, like an office, university, or any other similar location, Wi-Fi hotspots are high. While part of placement is ease of deployment, a big part is that placing access points above users ensures that all bodies and furniture in the space don’t block the signal.
You can take a cue from those environments and move your mesh nodes as high as is practical (or acceptable for your interior design sensibilities) in your own home. Moving your mesh nodes from table height to ceiling height puts them above all the things in the room that block your signal.
It is worth noting that most consumer mesh systems on the market are designed for placement on horizontal surfaces. The antennas inside the node are positioned as if you were going to place the node on a table, shelf, or other horizontal surface, so that the radio signal radiates around the unit with a slightly weaker signal profile below the unit. .
In real-world conditions, the difference between, say, an Eero or Nest Wi-Fi node sitting flat or oriented at 90 degrees on a wall-mount bracket is negligible, but the signal will be objectively stronger in the “top” of the unit.
With that in mind, if you mount the unit on the wall, it pays to keep it horizontal or select the wall for vertical mounting so that the “top” of the unit faces inwards towards the most important areas of the house and not to his garden. Again, though, in the real world playing games on your phone or streaming video to your TV conditions, you’d be hard-pressed to tell a difference between the two orientations.
Wrapping up the list of mesh placement errors here is the perfect time to emphasize practical placement over optimal placement. We don’t want anyone reading this list of tips thinking they have to change everything about their mesh network design.
Before you move everything, look for easy wins, like simply putting the mesh node on top of the bookcase instead of burying it between the books on the shelf or changing which corner of the room a node is in so it can communicate in a straight line with other. node without the stove and refrigerator in the way.