Getting ready to upgrade your Wi-Fi setup? A mesh Wi-Fi system will eliminate dead spots across your home by extending coverage through several satellites or nodes. It’s an interesting idea, but every home is different, so it’s difficult to tell how many mesh Wi-Fi satellites you’ll actually need.
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you the exact number of mesh Wi-Fi nodes you need in your home. But we can point you in the right direction and give you a few tips before you buy a mesh Wi-Fi kit.
In a mesh Wi-Fi setup, several satellites or nodes communicate with a router to extend your network coverage. Mesh Wi-Fi technology seamlessly eliminates dead zones, though it doesn’t necessarily improve Wi-Fi speeds. And because mesh Wi-Fi kits are so expensive, you should ask yourself whether the investment is worth your money.
Now, the average router has about 150 feet of range. And only about half of that range is high-speed 5GHz Wi-Fi. That sounds unimpressive, I know, but it’s usually fine for small houses and apartments—your home may be 1,200 square feet, but if every bedroom door opens to the living room, you probably shouldn’t have any dead zones.
So, let’s say that you don’t have any dead zones in your home, but you aren’t getting acceptable Wi-Fi speeds on your gaming PC. If that’s the case, a mesh Wi-Fi system isn’t the most cost-effective solution to your problem. You may be better off connecting your PC to the Ethernet port of a cheap Wi-Fi range extender, for example, or snaking a long Ethernet cable across your home. (I don’t suggest using a Wi-Fi range extender for its wireless signal, though, as you need to manually select the extender through your device’s Wi-Fi settings.)
But if you’re experiencing any dead zones in your home, you could absolutely benefit from a mesh Wi-Fi system. I have just one suggestion for those in relatively small homes—try moving your router around before buying any new gear. A router works best in a nice open space; it shouldn’t be tucked behind a couch or shoved in a closet.
Because every home is different, it’s difficult to guess how many mesh Wi-Fi satellites your home will need. Square footage gives us a decent estimate, but homes have unique shapes, and denser walls (brick, lathe and plaster, etc) can interfere with Wi-Fi signals.
That said, here’s the number of mesh Wi-Fi nodes you may need in your home based on square footage:
- 1,500 Square Feet or Less: One router and one satellite
- 1,500 to 3,000 Square Feet: One router and two satellites
- 3,000 to 5,500 Square Feet: One router and three satellites
- 6,000+ Square Feet: One router and four satellites, or more
Keep in mind that these are very rough estimates. Those who live in two-story or three-story homes may need extra mesh Wi-Fi nodes. And if your modem lives on the far side of your house or apartment, you may need more Wi-Fi satellites to spread a mesh Wi-Fi router’s signal across your living space.
Also, you may notice that these estimates don’t line up with what manufacturers advertise for their mesh Wi-Fi kits. That’s because manufacturers are pretty liberal with this stuff. Real-world mesh Wi-Fi coverage never matches the Amazon description.
I strongly suggest buying a mesh Wi-Fi kit based on the square footage of your home. Then, if you still have dead zones, simply buy more mesh Wi-Fi satellites to expand your coverage (or add-on beacons, which are offered by some mesh Wi-Fi brands). You can always add extra nodes to a mesh Wi-Fi setup!
Mesh satellite placement really depends on the shape, size, and makeup of your home. But generally speaking, you should put each mesh Wi-Fi node about halfway between a dead zone and your router. This ensures wider coverage without making any major compromise to speed.
Each mesh Wi-Fi unit should be placed in an open area. Trying to squirrel Wi-Fi satellites behind furniture will only degrade your Wi-Fi signal. And while you may be tempted to place mesh Wi-Fi satellites near computers or game consoles, you should focus more on overall coverage than specific devices. (You can always use an Ethernet cable to link PCs or other devices to your mesh Wi-Fi satellites.)
Unfortunately, there are a ton of variables here, so you may need to do a bit of experimentation. Two-story homes may need satellites on each floor, for example. If you have a basement, it may need its own mesh Wi-Fi satellite. And if you have dense walls,
Here’s my suggestion; set up your mesh Wi-Fi satellites halfway between each dead zone. Then, test Wi-Fi performance across your home. This process may take a few days, but if the dead zones are gone and Wi-Fi speeds feel responsive, you don’t need to rearrange anything.
Bear in mind that some mesh Wi-Fi kits actually help you with satellite placement during setup. And if you have an Android phone, you can use the Wi-Fi Analyzer app to check signal strength throughout your home—75% to 80% signal in each room is ideal. (Unfortunately, such apps aren’t available on iOS.)
Generally speaking, any reputable mesh Wi-Fi system should work in your home. I suggest that you avoid ultra-cheap models, and of course, you should buy a system that’s appropriate for your Wi-Fi speeds. Brands like eero, Nest Wi-Fi, TP-Link, Netgear, and ASUS are usually the way to go.
You should also consider mesh Wi-Fi routers that support Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E. These next-gen wireless protocols offer faster speeds than traditional routers, so long as your devices support the Wi-Fi 6 or 6E standards.
And of course, if you own a smart home, you may want to buy a mesh Wi-Fi kit with integrated smart home functionality. Amazon’s eero routers pair perfectly with Alexa, and Nest Wi-Fi units double as Google Assistant smart speakers.
Bear in mind that some ISPs, including Xfinity, actually lease mesh Wi-Fi routers for a monthly fee. While this fee will obviously add up, it may be a good option if you don’t have hundreds of dollars on hand to buy a new mesh Wi-Fi system.