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New Houses Killing Wi-Fi

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the break-out-the-cat-5 dept.

Communications 358

Barence writes "Poor Wi-Fi or mobile reception is one of the banes of modern living — and modern building techniques could be making things worse. PC Pro has photos of a new-build being covered from floorboards to rafters in a tin-foil like material. The "highly reflective" material could have unpredictable results for radio signals, potentially bouncing mobile signals away from the house or preventing Wi-Fi signals from reaching the garden. And the new householder is likely to be none the wiser."

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I personally love it (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817006)

Since moving into my new home, I've noticed a significant reduction in secret CIA messages being injected into my brainwaves. Goodbye ugly tinfoil hat!

Re:I personally love it (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817300)

Since moving into my new home, I've noticed a significant reduction in secret CIA messages being injected into my brainwaves. Goodbye ugly tinfoil hat!

That was close to my first thought on reading the topic for this story. It will interfere with government surveillance.

Look for government agencies investing in counter tinfoil surveillance technology.

It's win-win, they get to hear you talk in your sleep, and we get better wi-fi.

Re:I personally love it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817536)

We must not allow a tinfoil gap!

Re:I personally love it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817380)

Thats exactly what they want you to think. What do you think old satellites operate in the "C" Band...?

Non-issue really (4, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817036)

Insulation isn't usually put on interrior walls and I have no need to broadcast my wifi outside of my house. Those that do can position their WAP near a window.

I'm also certain this is not an a recent issue. Almost all the insulation I've seen, apart from spray insulation, has some kind of foil-like backing.

Maybe complainers should spend 2 minutes trying a different wifi channel instead of blaming their home.

Re:Non-issue really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817152)

Most of the insulation I've used has had a paper backing, similar to a paper bag. Not that I've used a lot, but I've helped out family on these things from time to time. This is less of an insulation and more of a house wrap (like Tyvek). My last house didn't have this, or any wrap, but I still had terrible cell signal inside the house, but 4-bars of 3G in the front yard.

Re:Non-issue really (3, Insightful)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817474)

More over, this article contains no fact or anything close to it about whether this material affects transmission at all. It was simply a blogger walking past a house being built and saying "hmm", then googling. The material is said to have "reflectivity", but of what? It never says it's constructed of metal or a problem material, the blogger just describes it as "foil-like". What if it means heat reflectivity? What effect exactly has been studied in materials that appear to the eye to be "foil like"? This is just poppycock on the level of "Well I don't see how the towers could have fell down... gubment musta put nukes in the basement!"

Re:Non-issue really (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817566)

Most of the insulation I've used has had a paper backing, similar to a paper bag. Not that I've used a lot, but I've helped out family on these things from time to time. This is less of an insulation and more of a house wrap (like Tyvek). My last house didn't have this, or any wrap, but I still had terrible cell signal inside the house, but 4-bars of 3G in the front yard.

This is the foam board type insulation that is nailed to the studs prior the siding/brick being attached to the outside wall. I've seen insulation rolls with Mylar backing, but it's not very common.

Re:Non-issue really (1)

Whalou (721698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817156)

You might lose your cell phone signal once inside the house which would be problematic.

Re:Non-issue really (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817222)

Yea, you might. The article has no evidence, conducted no tests, and received no information from the manufacturer or really anyone else. They saw something that looked like tinfoil on an unfinished house, and then wrote a completely speculative article claiming that it will affect wireless waves. My parents house is covered in a material that looks exactly the same (no idea if it actually is the same). I can sit by the pool 20 yards from the house and easily get a strong signal to the wireless router in the kitchen. Maybe this new stuff is different and maybe it causes a problem, but it's flat out irresponsible to write an article claiming that it's a problem without a shred of evidence.

Re:Non-issue really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817290)

Yea, you might. The article has no evidence, conducted no tests, and received no information from the manufacturer or really anyone else.

It's actually worse than that. Not only did they NOT do any of those things, but they can't even convince themselves of their theory:

If owners of these brand-spanking new houses move in and discover they can’t get a reliable Wi-Fi signal in the garden, or that they can’t get a reliable 3G signal on their smartphone, that foil-like coating might well be the culprit. Conversely, it might even improve Wi-Fi signals internally by mirroring the signal.

So to sum it up, the insulation might make things worse, or it might make it better. Wow, such insight!

Re:Non-issue really (2)

IronicToo (514475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817572)

Mod parent up, worthless article by a clueless author. Has anyone ever tried blocking WiFi with aluminum foil? It doesn't work, one of my electrical engineering professors tried it to use it to isolate two antennas from each other, aluminum foil had no effect. Leaves on the other hand (due to high water content) stop it dead. A better article would have talked about the hidden dangers of planting trees around the house. Not sure how cell would behave (very different frequency).

Issue really. (1)

xMrFishx (1956084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817372)

Definitely, I live in a new build student accommodation block. I can only get mobile phone signal with my phone sitting on the window sill, and it's only GSM at that. Outside I get a nice full bar 3G connection. The only way I can make phone calls is by using my Bluetooth headset, as if I pick the phone up, calls will drop shortly after. This means I must regularly keep my headset charged and can have a maximum of 4 hours talking with about an hour charge break in the middle, god forbid I forget to charge my headset and someone calls me. It can be very inconvenient.

I may to be moving into a new build elsewhere eventually but I have a feeling I'll have to purchase a transmitter power controllable WiFi access point (adverse to a standard router where the transmitter power is fixed generally) such as a Cisco commercial AP and possibly a mobile phone repeater. Hopefully that will solve both wireless issues if the building also suffers from Faraday caging. Cheap routers really struggle to penetrate this, or rather don't reflect enough times to go out of a window or through a doorway and thus drop off. Not ideal.

Re:Issue really. (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817508)

I really don't believe that this is anything "new". When I got out of high school (Class of '74) I went into construction. During my apprenticeship as a carpenter, we put up houses with insulation that looked like pressed fiber impregnated with tar, we put up other insulation that looked a lot like styrofoam with foil backing, AND, we most commonly put up fiberglass bats. I didn't pay for the stuff, and I didn't know what it cost - but it was fairly obvious that when we used the pressed fiber stuff, it generally went into a low budget home. Fiberglass bats went into midrange homes. And, that styrofoam with the foil backing went into upper class homes - oftentimes in addition to the fiberglass bats.

So - some goony birds saw that insulation, and wondered if it might interfere with radio waves. Or, to be fair, I guess they were curious about it's impact on some specific bandwidths. I can assure you that the foil backed insulation had no effect on AM/FM radio reception, because we ALWAYS had radios playing.

I couldn't say about WIFI or cellphones, or wireless internet. It might stop it - but I doubt it.

Re:Issue really. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817626)

And there is the proof of the conspiracy. I too was unable to receive either cellular or WiFi in 1974.

Stucco (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817706)

Houses with Stucco have this issue as well. Builders use a steel mesh to adhere the Stucco to the house which acts like a Faraday Cage.

Re:Non-issue really (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817170)

Yes, in fact this would actually be a good thing if it cuts down on emissions into and out of the house. We have people complaining about emissions from powerline ethernet (been a bit of fuss about that here in the UK recently) interfering with DAB and FM radio reception, and of course we have video senders and baby monitors jamming the 2.4GHz band and making it hard to find a usable wifi channel. Personally I'd be happy to live in a faraday cage.

Re:Non-issue really (2)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817340)

We have people complaining about emissions from powerline ethernet (been a bit of fuss about that here in the UK recently)

Must be nice to have the complaints based on real concerns... Here (Vancouver Island) we had a cellphone tower project cancelled because the PTA didn't want "radiation" within a half kilometer of an elementary school... but the open tank sewage plant is OK.

Re:Non-issue really (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817634)

So do they plan on going after that unlicensed fusion reactor that bathes their children in radiation all day?

Re:Non-issue really (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817652)

How is the PTA full of the most stupid, uneducated people on the planet?

Re:Non-issue really (3, Interesting)

agentgonzo (1026204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817684)

I just heard this lunchtime that when they installed the new radar equipment on the top of Portsdown hill (Just outside Portsmouth - if you live close, the big blue buildings with the radar on Portsdown hill) they attached the motors only and had it turning for 2-3 weeks before any radar emitters were turned on. They got umpteen complaints from local residents during that period that the 'new radars' were interfering with their TV and causing 'bad reception'. All these phone numbers got logged as time-wasters for subsequent public complaints!

Re:Non-issue really (4, Insightful)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817186)

A networking company I've done contract work for has a small hotel client constructed with steel framing instead of wood. Only 2 floors, 8 rooms per side/floor, front and back, but WiFi is a nightmare. There are *5* AP's in the building; one central, 2 each in the attic space either side of the central router, & one AP even has to have a yagi on it to reach into the bottom, corner room with signal strength sufficient to keep hotel guests from complaining. After working there 3 times in the past 2 years resolving issues, I think that steel construction is more of a concern than a radiant barrier layer on the insulation of an exterior wall...

Re:Non-issue really (4, Interesting)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817208)

Most interior walls are insulated just not with the wrap.

If this stuff is RF reflective you can get all kinds of weird multipath issues, signal bouncing round.

However one good thing is that it would help keep your signal IN your house, which is great for security.

Double edged sword.

Who browses the web in their garden? I go out there to unplug!

Re:Non-issue really (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817442)

i just thought of something, when we moved into our current house, we put in a wooden floor (on the second floor, it's a drive-in house) and under that floor is insulation which has a foil layer. That might explain the dismal wifi reception just a few meters up

Re:Non-issue really (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817210)

I was just about to write the same thing. We moved from a 1920's colonial to a 1980's modern colonial which has foil backed foam on the exterior walls in addition to the typical insulation. Adding outlets is a bit of a pain, so is finding studs, though no where near as bad as slat and mortar. Anyway I'll take the $200/mo utility savings over having to install a couple of extra access points.

Re:Non-issue really (4, Interesting)

BKX (5066) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817226)

I wouldn't say it's a non-issue, but it's certainly not a new issue. A lot of houses use insulation or soundboard (which is metal coated, like in the picture in TFA) in bedrooms, to deaden sounds (who wants their kids to hear sex noises?); even older houses have it. In fact, my brother and I both put insulating soundboard in our master bedrooms for noise reasons, and because the stuff was on sale for $2/sheet at our local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. As these materials become more common, we'll be seeing them and their problems in more and more new houses and in more and more retrofits and remodels.

And another annoyance, in many older homes, such as my father's and my old college dorm building, is the use of "Stucco of Death". That stuff is aw[esome|full]. It will cause severe roadrash when you're drunk and fall into it, much to your detriment and friends' laughter. And the chicken wire that is used as a backing for the stucco is a very good Faraday cage. It's nearly impossible to get signal for any cell phone in my dad's house even though you get full bars outside and at open windows/doors, and no one can get his wifi signal outside, even though he has four APs throughout his house.

Re:Non-issue really (3, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817584)

From my time working in the cell phone industry, I'd say "fooie!" to this being a problem at all. Atleast with cell towers, metal objects created almost no interfierance. Water was the devil. A huge chunk of metal in from of an antena had only a tiny impact, but fill that chunk of metal with water, say like a water tower, and it's like a giant black hole for radio signals. We also had issues with small lakes bouncing signals like crazy. You could be driving around a lake, have a tower 100 feet away from you, and another 12 miles away across the lake, and we'd have to put them on no-handoff lists, because a little bit of waves in the water can give the CC the impression that you are getting a better signal from across the lake.

A think layer of tin on the back of your insulation, that has been being used for decades, isn't going to cause any issue that hasn't already been dealt with.


Re:Non-issue really (1)

BKX (5066) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817688)

I give the thin tin sheeting probably not being a problem, since I have no issues with my soundboard (my first paragraph was most disagreeing with OP about the use of insulation on interior wall.) The chicken wire from stucco thing, I can assure you, is 100% true. Now, it's possible that water is the actual cause and the chicken wire a coincidence since we're in Michigan and there are streams in everyone's back yard and pools, ponds, and lakes are everywhere, but it seems like a bit too much coincidence that phones work near the windows and doors, but not the walls and interior spaces.

Re:Non-issue really (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817680)

Yes it can be a real pain in the arse.

My parents never had wifi issues at their house but since they had an extension to extend their kitchen into a large kitchen/living area they can no longer connect to the Wifi router in another room. That room is really a wifi deadzone now, it's not really the end of the world, but it's not really ideal either and is somewhat inconvenient- the whole idea of wifi being that you can roam, and so if you have to go back to another part of the house to use it then, well, that's somewhat of a problem.

For most people it's no big deal, but I would suggest anyone wanting an extension built where this may be a problem does actually consider it at least, because it's not something simple or cheap to change afterwards and you may find yourself back to wired or with an ugly wireless extender sat around the entraince to the new room.

Re:Non-issue really (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817228)

Well, I mostly agree but having a thin sheet of metal over most of your outside walls might very well have negative consequences for reception inside as well. Signals bounce you know and it will create pockets were the interference is destructive. So you might experience strange dead zones and such, but these can probably be mostly solved by moving the laptop three feet to the left.

You make sure these house wraps are grounded and thus prevent them from becoming a passive radiator, but that will have other consequences.

Antenna (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817456)

Get one.

Use it.

Re:Non-issue really (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817708)

Yup. This will actually improve in-house wifi - Your neighbors won't cause as much interference to your network.

If you need outdoor wifi - set up an access point outside.

It will be detrimental to cell phone reception indoors however - but there are technical solutions to that. The amount of money you save on energy by having reflective barriers will make up for the cost of a Wilson amplifier setup - [] . Interestingly enough, the shielding of the home will be beneficial here - Such amp systems break if there is insufficient isolation between the outdoor antenna and the indoor one.

Sales of Access Points Looking Up (1)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817042)

This should boost the low end Tech jobs. Lots of external antennas and WiFi boosters to be installed.

This is because the antenna was invented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817062)

Few meters of cable, small antenna and.... miracle!
Better this way and have heat saving house.

Re:This is because the antenna was invented (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817120)

Few meters of cable, small antenna and.... miracle!

Sooo you're saying we should have a cable put the antenna for the wifi right next to our receiving antenna? ...... :P

Re:This is because the antenna was invented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817280)

You say that like it's a bad thing. If it helps houses to keep cool in the summer and hot in the winter, we're all for it. Less energy wasted.

Signed, all the wi-fi equipment manufacturers.

even more killing? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817086)

stand by for the next huge wave of media butt cheese, served up as god's word, which remains unproven, as are the dead & dismembered.

Re:even more killing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817160)

the dead and dismembered are unproven, no war exists.

...advantages outweigh the problems (5, Insightful)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817100)

it reflects huge amounts of radiant energy transfer from your envelope materials away from the interior of your home, making it that much more efficient to cool, and during winter it helps keep the heat inside the house. The wifi 'issue' just doesn't seem to be that much of an issue when you're talking about one of the core efficiencies in your house, and one of the biggest loads on the nation's energy usage.

can have your cake and eat it too (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817444)

It should be possible to make the material transparent in the radio spectrum but reflective in the visible/infrared spectrum. This would be the best of both worlds.

Re:can have your cake and eat it too (2)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817600)

possible, surely. financially prohibitive? no demand? perhaps.

Grounded? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817102)

From a look at the exterior shot provided, no special effort appears to have been taken to ground the foil. It appears to just be there to keep moisture and/or rabid sheetrock mites from getting into the interior material. I'm a bit surprised that some plastic wasn't cheaper; but it seems otherwise sensible enough.

For those who know more than I about the dark arts of RF propagation, what would the effect be of ungrounded conductive sheets? Substantial signal attenuation? Not much effect? Completely unpredictable absorption and re-emmision that could vary wildly according to the exact geometry of the piece?

In a similar vein, if one had an AP/router that one didn't love to much(not so hard when they start at $20...), what would the effect be of attempting to use the metal foil as an antenna, by coupling it directly to the antenna output? Horribly non-optimized for the frequency, I'd imagine; but would it be expected to Not Work, to Not Work and kill the RF amp, to work somewhat, to work better than one might expect?

Re:Grounded? (1)

Spirilis (3338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817182)

Plastic wouldn't have the infrared heat reflectivity / low emissivity of foil, that's why they use foil. Good question about grounding it though--none of the insulation products really have that in mind (that I know of anyhow), and I'd imagine connecting it in any way to the electrical system (even the ground) would have to be studied for implications for fire safety/etc.

Re:Grounded? (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817316)

what would the effect be of ungrounded conductive sheets

Large ungrounded sheets can still have a significant effect on RF. At the higher frequencies such as 2.4 GHz, any substantial piece of metal can, in effect, be a virtual ground and, as you mention, significantly attenuate the signal. More likely it will reflect signals (more on that below). Taken to an extreme, a house wrapped head to toe in a metal would become a sort of Faraday cage, with no RF passing in or out. In practice, this isn't going to happen, because gaps in the foil will let some signal out. There is also the matter of those big holes called windows and doors, which will still let plenty of energy pass. It tends to be very difficult to build a room that is completely shielded, unless that has been designed into it from the beginning. This is one reason why RF test labs are so expensive.

A more likely effect of all that foil would be that signals inside the house bounce around a lot more than normal. All those internal reflections and multiple paths from transmitter to receiver can problematic for Wifi, just like it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation from opposite ends of a very echo-y room. Turning up your broadcast strength, akin to shouting, only makes matters worse.

Re:Grounded? (3, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817470)

The material is being used for its additive insulation value, PERIOD. It is not a moisture barrier, nor is it there to block "sheetrock mites". WTF? THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SHEETROCK MITES.

Good grief. The original unsubstantiated hysteria in TFA was bad enough; don't heap more FUD on the pile.

Re:Grounded? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817514)

I was attempting a deadpan joke with the 'rabid sheetrock mites'. I'll try to be more overt.

Re:Grounded? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817580)

You must be deadly at poker. I really wasn't seeing your tell. Sorry for being so snippy.

Re:Grounded? (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817620)

It is not a moisture barrier, nor is it there to block "sheetrock mites".

That's what you think. I'm Scottish; our building standards require us to use paisley-backed foil insulation in the walls to act as a barrier to keep microscopic haggis from migrating through the walls into our drinks cabinets, and consuming all our whisky. It's a serious problem. I wouldn't be at all surprised if other countries didn't have something similar.

It's called... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817106)

The rest of the planet already has it, only they don't build ticky-tacky houses that need them in every fucking wall.

same with tin roofs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817116)

my brothers house in Austrlai has the same problem. The roof is steel tin and they get almost no mobile reception

"Alarm Bells"? (2)

Tintivilus (88810) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817122)

Author of TFA says he doesn't know if the material he observed has an impact on radio, just quoting the fact that it's "reflective" from a vendor brochure, but according to the same pdf [] the material is in fact metallic

Protect TF200 Thermo includes a tough non-woven PP core with a durable bright high purity permeable aluminium layer, bonded to the substrate.

Yep, sounds like a radio-eater all right. Interesting stuff, too.

So where is the real article? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817356)

Instead of a guy looking at a photo we need somebody that has pulled some of the offcuts out of an industrial bin and measured what happens when they send signals at the popular wifi frequencies through it.
We are not supposed to be the couch potatoes here.
My excuses for not doing it is that I have only a small amount of knowledge about RF, no gear apart from a few cheap access points and small antennas, and more importantly live halfway around the world from where this stuff is going into houses. It seems to all be black plastic filling that role around here.

Re:So where is the real article? (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817660)

The stuff is $7-$10/sheet (4'x8') at most home improvement stores. I just got done insulating an outbuilding with it (and with the foiled bubble wrap for the parts that the solid polystyrene board wouldn't work well for). Given an average new home and my experience with the outbuilding, yeah, this will block WiFi. My phone drops coverage to almost nill inside and full bars outside. Both operate in a similar frequency range.

awesome (1, Insightful)

spirit_fingers (777604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817126)

At least I won't have to wear my tinfoil hat at home.

It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817150)

It won't be long before 'home wrapped in tinfoil to help prevent brain cancer' is going to start showing up in real estate ads.


Re:It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817274)

I'm actually curious what the effect would be, as I assume no effort is made to ground the wrap. Would it act as a shield.. or just a large antenna.

Paranoia aside, I think we actually could do with a little less RF. If this stuff just incidently provides a shield agaisnt the insane amount of random RF that we get blasted with day to day, I don't see the harm. If you want wifi outside your house, get an external antenna!

I also wonder if shielding the outside of your house would improve reception inside.

Really? (2)

yoshi_mon (172895) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817166)

And the new householder is likely to be none the wiser.

You are telling me that Joe and Jane Enduser don't know about how RF works? Or that their computer is not the monitor? Or that their smartphones are also working off of RF?

And further that there are new homes that are being built without setting up even some basic runs for modern say CAT6 wires? You say that all you need is co-ax? Or some 1900 tech pair of twisted strands?

Oh and the right wing tells me to chant USA USA USA no matter what idiotic news I see? Golly Lassy! Tech Timmy is down a well! Better go run to Fox News with why ignorance is good!

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817292)

Maybe you should look in your mirror and then ask yourself about ignorance?

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817616)

Good god, you're going to die of a coronary if you don't stop obsessing over politics so much that you have to insert your inane rantings into every unrelated topic.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817638)

Shit, just show me a house with conduit so I can run my own wires. I hate having to break open walls and drill through firestops to wire a bedroom with ethernet.

RF tight house. (1)

unlocked (305145) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817168)

I would think you would want a house shielded from all RF in or out so you could use external antenna and control what comes in and out and what is available even down to each room.

Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817196)

I like how Slashdot takes the default position that anything perceived as disrupting internet access is a bad thing.

Maybe some consumers would actually LIKE to attenuate the radio signals passing through, and to and from their house?

I mean, okay from room-to-room, you'll probably want reception, but not necessarily outside.

This is nothing that can't be solved with a few repaters. I mean come on. You bought the house. You'll probably stick around for most of the 30 year mortgage, right?

Oh wait, you're going to rent it out to some poor suckers? Slumlord, FTW!

Re:Big Deal (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817314)

This is nothing that can't be solved with a few repaters.

Or some wires!

Ok, I get that for laptops wifi makes sense .. but if it's a desktop... wire that up!

And if your gonna run some wires, for the love of the great fire cactus, put some conduit in place and leave a permanent wire pull!

Site Survey (1)

rogueippacket (1977626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817202)

If WiFi is that important to you, you need to carry out a site survey before buying. Here are a couple questions I ask myself before buying a house:
  1. Does it have complete cell phone coverage? If so, WiFi is probably also a safe bet. If still concerned, bring a laptop and AP along.
  1. Is it wired for Cat5e/6 or Coax? If not, how easy is it to do? Is there an accessible panel in the basement?
  1. Which ISPs rule the area? Once I know that, I usually call and ask if they can provide decent service to the house.

It may seem funny when these things actually factor into buying a house or not, but they can be a deal-breaker for some.

keeps neighbors off my network (1) (1102617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817204)

That surely will help keeping my neighborhood from connecting to my network. *tinfoil wrapping my house now*

Really reaching here (2)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817214)

I love to complain about stupid things more than your average person, but is this really a problem? Put a repeater in the window. My heating bill, on a 1980s house is by far once of the most cash sucking and depressing aspects of my budget.

And as an added bonus, maybe it'll keep neighbors from stealing everyone's wifi.

Re:Really reaching here (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817278)

My heating bill, on a 1980s house is by far once of the most cash sucking and depressing aspects of my budget.

Same here, but with a 1920's house. I'll be breaking out the Bacofoil tonight, and covering the whole place with it.

Re:Really reaching here (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817578)

Only because you chose to not fix that problem.

$1500 to have the house insulation upgraded.
$6800 to have the AC and furnace changed over to a SEER 18 and a 98% efficient setup.
$6500 to have new double pane windows installed
$1100 to have the house checked for air leaks and those fixed with caulking.

My winter heating bill IN January when it was 6-10 degrees F outside most of the time in michigan up where we get real snow was $80.00, December was less and Febuary was less.

and you can do all of that in stages. the furnace and AC I got $1500.00 off my taxes because I bought them, that paid for the insulation. The windows we did over the course of a year one window at a time. I had a carpenter show me the first two times, I did the rest except for the big 8'X12' picture windows in the front room.

Stopping restaurants for 2 years paid for the windows, insulation and air leak check and repair. The furnace and AC were paid for by not buying a new car this year, suffering with a 42" 720p plasma, and torturing my family by not going to Florida for a 1 week vacation but staying home. I know I should be turned in for torturing my family.

Most people live in old houses with crap insulation and crap windows that have a 600 year old furnace in the basement that are never maintained properly. Your home is in disrepair, fix it and your heat and AC bills drop like a rock.

Re:Really reaching here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817358)

My heating bill, on a 1980s house is by far once of the most cash sucking and depressing aspects of my budget.

Homes use about 22% of our nation's energy and big part of that is because of our stick frame building methods. Our homes have been built pretty much the same way for that last couple of centuries. Sure we have indoor plumbing, electricity and insulation, but the framing is pretty much the same thing except for some minor tweaks over the years.

It's horribly inefficient to build, maintain and heat. There are better ways to build homes that cost the same BUT unfortunately, they're manufactured - I'm not talking about trailers but houses that are built to quality standards that are impossible to do on the job site. But no, people don't get them because manufactured home == trailer, dog, Confederate flag, missing teeth, and country music.

Phones? (3, Interesting)

identity0 (77976) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817242)

Uh, Wifi? I'd think the cell phones (I assume that's what OP means by 'mobiles') are the important one...

Plenty of people including myself only have a cell phone these days.

My apartment's fine, but I have school in a very concrete-and-steel building that has very poor phone reception, which ends up draining my battery in no time. They do have good wifi because of a lot of APs, though. Remember, you can add more APs for wifi, but not for phones.

Re:Phones? (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817406)

There are several products out there that act to boost cellphone reception in a building that inhibits reception. I haven't tried them but they seem to get decent reviews. I have poor reception in my current house and was tempted to try one but I don't want to drop the money on one and find out that it was just because I'm too far from the tower at the house.

Re:Phones? (1)

fizzup (788545) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817494)

Remember, you can add more APs for wifi, but not for phones.

Proven false by example. []

Re:Phones? (2)

Tintivilus (88810) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817512)

Remember, you can add more APs for wifi, but not for phones.

Not true. Residential users can use broadband backhaul for relatively cheap (

Bigger users can get bigger equipment. Last year, my office installed entire cell stations for major providers in our main equipment rooms and wired them with low-loss coax to little dome antennas scattered around the buildings. Helps coverage immensely :)

Re:Phones? (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817534)

Actually additional cellular APs can be added., however this may not be desirable for a school.

Re:Phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817618)

These things sell like crazy:

Every challenge presents an opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817252)

Surely the savings as a result of engery efficiency would pay for an external access point (if desired) a femtocell box for your cellular signal issues and a faster internet connection to power it all...

Building codes (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817306)

This is irritating, but what I think is more irritating is that fiber is not required in all new buildings, especially condos and apartment buildings. It's a huge pain to get it in there once the building is built, and data wiring is just as important electrical wiring in the future. Why isn't this being done?

Re:Building codes (2)

Combatso (1793216) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817624)

you will find very few low, or non voltage wiring requirments in any code... the reason hydro lines are required by code, how to run cable, where to put outlets, number of outlets per wall (min) and cable size.. its becuase its dangerous stuff... houses rarely burn, and people rarely die becuase fiber was installed wrong.. However, over-amp'ing copper or alluminum can start fires and kill people... so all the stuff the home owner wont see, needs to meet code before its covered.. building codes are for safety,... that isnt to say, that in new home construction one shouldnt wire the house for all forseen future projects.. When I reno'd my house I ran 2 runs of cat5e, 2 runs of rg6, and since i had a few boxes in the garage, 1 run of cat6 to each room back to a wiring closet (i use the term closet losely). I think i'm using 2 of the wires total, just for my media centre PC... but im set for my forseeable future... it would be pointless for me to install fiber, since I wont be using it and its not going to net me any return when I sell.... If i was mistaken by your comment, and you meant, fiber to the prem during construction, thats up to you municipality to decide... I know the last mile provdiders here are doing that in my municipality for all the new developments.

Re:Building codes (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817674)

Building legislation is always a few years behind everything else, and is almost invariably a reaction to legislation or safety issues rather than a reaction to an inconvenience.

Fun fact: The UK enacted the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, which essentially forced organisations to make allowances for people with disabilities.

UK building regulations caught up in 2004. Lots of large organisations commissioned buildings some years after 1995 and found they had to make changes shortly after the builders had left, and because it had all been done according to building regulations there was very little they could do apart from stump up the cost.

Re:Building codes (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817694)

Because you can't just plug fiber into your computer. Most motherboards come with ethernet ports, but I have never seen one with fiber input.

Content free article (3, Insightful)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817318)

Wow, talk about content free.

That article had even less content than the guy who was pushing his blog posts awhile back.

Your insulation 'might' be blocking wifi &/or 3g. But we don't know, we didn't bother to do any actual research.


SemiSpook (1382311) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817364)

Google it, if you don't know what it is (and why the hell are you on /. if you don't know).

I agree with someone above: this is a double edged sword. A lot of folks are starting to use lighter, reflective materials in order to handle other forms of radiating heat and insulation (you'll see this more in older construction vice newer). Issue is a lot of these materials rely on metallic foils (much akin to those space blankets we all started seeing back in the mid-80s), and people just don't have a good idea as to how these foils interact with radio waves.

I would say in either case (new or old construction), do your due diligence to do an adequate Wi-Fi survey (I'd recommend using ALL the 802.11 standards (a, b, g, AND n)) as well as determining if the residence is either wired or capable to be wired with Cat5e/Cat6. Personally, I'd go the wired route, as it's more secure and you can combine cabling with coax, phone, HDMI, etc. to multiple points in a room, allowing for maximum flexibility. Sure, costs a little extra, but in the end, it's definitely worth it.

Yay! 40 MHz N channels! (1)

PolaRis75 (206869) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817410)

While cell phones not working in my house would be a little irritating, I would be very happy to have radio blocking on the outside walls - sure I couldn't use my wireless in the garden, but neighbors and passers-by wouldn't be able to use it either ... AND, most important of all, it would block out my neighbor's networks which would allow my AP to actually use 40 MHz channels and give me closer to the advertised speeds!

i'd rather buy 2-3 more wifi bases (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817418)

than spend $500 more in heating costs every year

i for one welcome our new tin foil energy saving house overlords

Great! (2)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817432)

Far less leakage, and less chance of home builders skipping putting in ethernet. All new homes should be wired and not counting on wifi to do the trick.

Really a Problem? (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817436)

Here in Texas, the "shiny reflective material" is used to help keep electricity costs down in the Summer. I have a 2500 sq. ft. single story home built in 2009 and get WiFi throughout, no problems. I keep my wireless router deep in the walk-in closet of the master bedroom. Something tells me this isn't as big of a problem as the story is letting on to.

depends (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817448)

Probably depends on the area and building styles / economic status. Homes around Northern MI are largely particle-board, I can't see that causing any hindrance to wireless signals.

We call it sisalation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817454)

Here in Aus, we call it sisalation, and have been using it in building since year dot. It does not stop you using wi-fi.

Old hat. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817476)

Call someone that has aluminum siding and aluminum screens on their home as them how their home from 1950 that was resided in the 70's or 80's works for wifi to the garden or the grotto.. This is not new. Nor is it news to anyone that actually has a clue about Wifi or home building in general.

Insulation boards have had foil backing for decades. a lot of other building products as well.

It's just whiny rich people that notice after moving into their new McMansion. Because they are too damn cheap to buy a second AP for the back yard.

Could be worse (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817488)

It wouldn't be terribly difficult to set up a booster for the house. If a cell signal booster is the price for more energy efficient homes, that seems like a fair trade.

We used to live in a steel house and would have to stand in front of the upstairs window to get a cell signal. It was pretty funny announcing to people they had to go upstairs to make a call.

Other issues with modern buildings and WiFi (1)

frinkster (149158) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817500)

I live in a modern high-rise building in the middle of a dense downtown area. To comply with fire codes, all interior studs are metal - in fact almost nothing inside the building (besides furniture) will burn. This definitely affects my WiFi - I have my router in my living room and I have trouble getting a usable signal in my bedroom. My solution of course was to wire the place with ethernet and have multiple routers.

On the other hand, I have floor-to-ceiling glass for about 40% of my exterior walls. Thus I see about 30 or 40 WiFi routers from neighboring buildings - with very good signal strength. It's a strange dynamic - it's hard to see nearby routers but distant routers are easy to see.

Re:Other issues with modern buildings and WiFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817610)

Not to mention that CBS (Concrete Block & Steel) has been popular for ages and is well documented to affect radio reception. Heck, I can't pick up any radio stations from my interior office at work.

I'm building a house now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35817516)

...and the cost of wiring the whole house w/ cat6e is so low that it was a no-brainer.

I haven't moved in yet, so I don't know how wifi reception will be, but with the ability to have a couple wifi repeaters spread around the house, I'm really not worried.

In the grand scheme of things (the cost of a house), I don't really see the problem here.

New invention (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817528)

So they have now created a new invention, a house to act as a microwave oven. Quick, where are the patent lawyers.

Same goes for a lot of older homes (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817562)

Some houses use chicken wire with the lathe and plaster. Same effect. They have to answer their phones on the patio.

Aren't most new houses wired? (1)

Kevin Stevens (227724) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817590)

I would think that most if not all new houses these days are wired up in each room for cable and ethernet/phone. Is this not the case? Obviously you still want wireless to work, as I constantly walk around my house with my phone and laptop, but for the most part these problems should be easy to mitigate.

Personally I would be very wary about buying new construction that didn't have wiring to the rooms- who knows where else they may have cut corners!

Maybe this was new, in the 1970's (1)

rjejr (921275) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817602)

Early in the 1970's my father redid our living room. Before he put up the sheetrock he put up foil insulation. Our Christmas morning home videos looks like we are inside a spaceship. From outside the light was insane. Of course using those big old super 8 movie camera spotlights probably made things a lot brighter.

Phones, tv and wifi (1)

aedan (196243) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817606)

We moved from a '70s to a brand new house two years ago.

My Elgato stopped working, the BT Homehub signal doesn't make it to the garden (the Apple TImeCapsule does) and my phone battery doesn't last as long as before.

Other people moved into the street and said they wouldn't bother getting a land line so we see them standing in the front garden to make phone calls.

Heating bills are lower.

Old stucco (2)

c (8461) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817622)

My last house was built in 1925, and covered in stucco. Newer stucco is usually some kind of latex goop and doesn't need much of a backing, but this old stucco was basically mortar and needed metal mesh to support it. In this case, it was a heavy diamond mesh like you find on outside stairs and whatnot. The guys who blew insulation into the walls from the outside just loved it...

That being said, I never saw a significant problem with either cellular phone or wifi signals.

But you don't have any proof though, right? (1)

Steneub (1070216) | more than 3 years ago | (#35817628)

"could... unpredictable... potentially"

Call me when there's an actual demonstrated problem. Maybe the new materials will act as an amplifier? The situation would be different from floorplan to floorplan and from one wifi antenna placement to the next. You can hem and haw all you want, but you don't know for sure until you field test.
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