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Can a physicist help you figure out the best place for your Wi-Fi router?

Maria LeLaurin
Maria LeLaurin

Sep 21, 2022 — 4 min read

To get the best signal, put your router in a central, elevated location away from concrete/brick walls, electronics, water and microwaves.

These days, getting a strong Wi-Fi signal throughout your home at any given moment is expected, yet not always guaranteed. You might be surprised to find that the problem may not be related to your internet service provider or your device but, instead, due to the location of your Wi-Fi router.

Tips on where to place your Wi-Fi router

So, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or physicist to find the best place to put your router; however, understanding a bit on how walls, microwaves, water and more can affect your signal strength can give you better Wi-Fi performance. Here are some things you can do to optimize your Wi-Fi experience.

1. Put the router in a central location

Routers send signals out in all directions so by placing it in a central location you eliminate the distance from any given device in your home and can get a better connection. Place it in a corner and all you’re doing is sending part of your connection to one area of your home and the other part outside. If you live in a two-story house, place the router closer to the ceiling on the first floor or closer to the floor on the second level to allow for best coverage.

2. Don’t put your router near a microwave oven or other electronic equipment

Because items like microwave ovens, cordless phones, Bluetooth headsets, LCD monitors and some baby monitors operate on the 2.4GHz band just like your router, they’ll undoubtedly interfere with the signal. Move the router as far away as possible from these devices without losing your Wi-Fi connection altogether.

3. Stay away from concrete or brick walls

Any time your router and device need to communicate and there’s a load-bearing wall in between, chances are the signal will be weak. A Wi-Fi extender or a mesh network may help you get around this issue.

4. Place your router on a high shelf

Routers send the signal downward so the higher you place the router, the better off you’ll be.

5. Adjust the angle of the antennas

If you have more than one antenna, then adjust them so they’re not all in the same direction. Try positioning them in a mix of horizontal and vertical positions. If you live in a two-story home, angle the antennas parallel to the floor. Sometimes the antennas are inside the router so all you have to do is rotate the router to accomplish the same thing.

6. Avoid water

Got an aquarium? Wireless signals can’t pass through water so don’t try to hide your router behind all those beautiful fish.

7. Keep the orientation intact

Use the orientation the router is designed for. If it’s meant to sit horizontally, then don’t place it vertically and vice versa.

8. Be aware of windows

Although windows don’t do much to impede your Wi-Fi connection, they do open up your signal to the neighbors, which only further clogs up the 2.4GHz band.

Don’t just take our word for it, take it from a physicist!

Finding the optimal place to put your router doesn’t require rocket science, but physics and mathematics can be used to calculate and pinpoint the ideal location for you. Fortunately for most, there’s an app that can help you mathematically pinpoint router placement so you don’t need a fancy calculator or extensive knowledge of electromagnetic waves.

Interested in how the physics work? Jason Cole, a physicist turned software engineer from London, used the Helmholtz equation and an architectural layout of his apartment to create a refractive index map in order to find the best place to put his router. The result? Putting his router right “smack bang in the middle of the flat” gave the best distribution of signal strength.

Consider upgrading your Wi-Fi equipment

It’s critical that you have the right Wi-Fi router for the size of your home, which might mean shopping for a new router altogether. If you live in a small apartment or a home that’s a maximum of 1,500 square feet, choose a router that supports 802.11ac (also called Wi-Fi 5)  and operates on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. For multi-level homes or households with a larger square space, consider a Wi-Fi extender or the newer Wi-Fi 6 generation so you get coverage in every room and floor.

Also, keep in mind that a technician may set up your router near a wall during professional installation. In theory, that’s a good thing because it keeps the router out of your way. But the truth is the wall gets in the router’s way and becomes a roadblock for the coveted signal.

Optimization goes beyond the router

Your Wi-Fi router is just one factor in getting the most out of your internet experience. To ensure that you have the best internet or Wi-Fi plans for your needs, count on us for easy-to-use comparison data covering price, service, speed and more. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or bookmark our Resource Center for a first look.

By Marie LeLaurin