If you find the Wi-Fi signal in your home lacking or have areas where you don’t have coverage at all, a Wi-Fi mesh system could solve those problems.
For some time now, money expert Clark Howard has talked about how he uses a mesh system to make sure everyone in his house has a strong Wi-Fi signal no matter where in the house they are or how many devices they have connected.
After putting up with dead zones and poor signal strength in my own home for years, I finally decided to try a mesh system myself.
Guess what? Clark was right again.
A Wi-Fi Mesh System Improved the Signal in My Home to a Shocking Degree
My house is more than 100 years old and has plaster walls. So it’s no surprise that the farther away I was from the wireless router, the worse my signal was. I had done some research on what I could do to improve the signal but hadn’t taken any action.
I should have listened to Clark a long time ago.
What Is a Wi-Fi Mesh System?
A Wi-Fi mesh system is essentially a router that connects directly to your modem. But instead of being a single device, the mesh consists of a number of different “nodes” that you can place throughout your home.
The number of nodes you need will depend on the size of your home, but most systems usually come with two or three.
You can add more nodes later depending on your needs. They’re all part of a single wireless network that you connect your devices to, so it’s like having multiple wireless routers placed throughout your home.
Mesh systems start around $100 to cover a couple of thousand square feet and top out at around $1,000 for up to 10,000 square feet of coverage.
Some popular makers of Wi-Fi mesh systems include Eero, Linksys, Netgear, Asus and Google.
How I Chose My Mesh System
After doing some more research, I settled on a TP-Link Deco M5 Wi-Fi System for my home.
It got good reviews and promised to cover around 5,500 square feet, which is more than enough for my needs. Best of all, at around $150 for three nodes (in late 2019), it was one of the less expensive options out there.
There are three main areas of my home where I most often use my laptop or cell phone and was most interested in improving the Wi-Fi signal:
- The Kitchen: When I work from home, I use the kitchen table as my desk. The kitchen is separated from our old router by a plaster wall. Although the signal was usually good there, I knew any increase in speed would help me be more efficient.
- The Porch: When the weather is nice, I like to work on the porch sometimes. More importantly, I love streaming music from my phone to a wireless speaker when we have guests over. The porch is separated from the router by several plaster walls, and of course, it’s outdoors. The signal here was weak at best, non-existent at worst.
- The Upstairs Bedroom: When my wife is working from home, she’s often on video conferences. She likes to take these from this room because she’s able to isolate herself from the noise of the rest of the house. This room is upstairs from the old router, so it is separated from the router by several plaster walls and the floor of the second story of our home. The signal here, especially with the door closed, was usually very weak.
Setting Up a Wi-Fi Mesh System
Here’s what the Deco M5 looked like straight out of the box:
As you can see, there wasn’t a lot to set up. It’s just the nodes, their power cords, and an Ethernet cable.
Most mesh systems these days come with an app that walks you through the setup of your system. That was the case with the Deco M5. I found this process to be a breeze with the help of the app. The steps consisted of:
- Connecting one node to my cable modem via the Ethernet cable
- Naming the new mesh system and creating a password for it
- Using guidance from the app, placing the other two nodes at strategic locations in my house
- Using the app to connect the nodes
- Connecting my devices to the new mesh network
The whole process took around 15 minutes.
Here’s How Much a Mesh Network Improved Wi-Fi Coverage and Speed in My Home
I ran speed tests for my Wi-Fi signal with Speedtest by Ookla on my MacBook Air laptop before and after I installed my new mesh system. I have Xfinity Extreme Internet, which promises download speeds of up to 300 Mbps.
Here’s an example of what those speeds looked like before and after the installation of the mesh system. This is the kitchen table location:
The mesh drastically improved my download speed at this location. I ran three before and after speed tests at each location and found that to be true throughout the house. Here are the complete results:
|Location||Average Download Speed Before Mesh||Average Download Speed After Mesh||Percent Increase in Average Download Speed|
||99.93 Mbps||168.79 Mbps||69%|
|Porch||1.75 Mbps||47.62 Mbps||2621%|
|Upstairs Bedroom||8.63 Mbps||21.06 Mbps||144%|
Installing the mesh system drastically improved the Wi-Fi signal throughout the house — especially on the porch. I consider my $150 well spent.
If you are experiencing Wi-Fi dead zones or worse-than-expected performance, I highly recommend trying out a mesh system. Spending a little money upfront can save you a lot of frustration down the road. It’s a lesson I wish I’d learned much earlier.
The cost of mesh systems has dropped considerably over the last couple of years, so if you were put off by price you might feel differently now. As always, if you do decide you want to buy make sure you price compare to get the best deal.
This article was originally written by John Kress and published on October 25, 2019.