By Sam Schoutko, Personal Lines Underwriter

The last blog post I wrote detailed what a smart home is, how you can implement it into your home, and how you really don’t need to be intimidated by it.  Most of it was broad strokes though and I would like to give more specifics in a series of future posts.  I want to start with the most essential piece of any smart home: your router.

Most people don’t have a clue about the internet setup in their home – the people from your internet service provider come and set it up then tell you the Wi-fi password and you are good to go.  90% of the time this suffices for your basic needs as far as connecting your laptop, cell phone, and maybe a smart TV.  When you add more and more devices though it can tax the basic router* they provide you and sometimes you need to upgrade that portion of your home network in order to improve performance and range.

*Quick disclaimer: there are two main parts of any home internet network: the router and the modem.  The modem is what receives the signal from your internet service provider (ISP) and switches it to an ethernet cable you can plug directly into your computer.  Most people take that cable and instead plug it into a router which then broadcasts the internet via Wi-fi throughout your home.  A lot of ISP’s provide the modem and router in one unit.  You can bypass the wireless portion of the combo box and just use it as a modem while you purchase your own router (or you can purchase your own upgraded combo box).  That is the setup I advocate for and do myself.  There are many more details but I don’t want to get too technical.

In my home (just my wife and dog and I) we have 2 cell phones, 1 tablet, and 1 laptop.  This is normal and probably would be fine for even the most basic router.  On top of this I also have connected to the Wi-fi – a thermostat, 3 smart light bulbs, virtual dog walker, Xbox One, 2 smart TVs, Chromecast, dog cell phone, 2 Roku’s, a printer, Wi-fi dog kennel and an external hard drive (a few of those are jokes).  While all that isn’t used simultaneously it is still taxing on a basic router and as such I have upgraded to something that can handle that type of traffic.

It does not matter how new your neat smart home toy is if your router is not up to the task of supporting it.  If you have a sprinkler system and have a Wi-fi controller in your garage for it but you don’t get a signal in your garage you might need to get a new router that is strong enough to punch through the walls and reach it.  Maybe you have all new smart light bulbs in your home or smart outlets and the number of items connecting makes your video streaming lag a great deal.  There are a myriad of problems that can be fixed by simply just investing in a good router.

There are way more technical details about your home network that vary from situation to situation and the point of this blog post isn’t to fix everything or get into the nitty gritty of home networking – it’s to get you thinking about it.  Keep in mind that a good reliable router is the most important part to the start of any smart home and most likely the first thing you need to invest in.  Think of it as a cornerstone to everything you need to build on – with poor speed and range from your router you won’t be able to utilize all the neat items you purchase to make your home more convenient.

In future posts I would like to detail different examples of smart home products but I started with this one because I feel it is the most important.  I hope it helps you on your path to a smarter home!

SamAbout Sam

Sam enjoys spending time with his wife Krista and their Siberian Husky, Ecko, while not at work.  Krista is a wonderful cook and baker so their relationship works well as he is a wonderful eater of the food she cooks and bakes.  They enjoy keeping up to date on the latest movies and traveling to see family.  As new homeowners, there is always a project to tackle around the house as well.

Photo by Sean MacEntee

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