Configuring a Wi-Fi extender to improve your home wireless
If you see low to medium Wi-Fi bars on your phone out near your smoker it's likely your Wi-Fi reception isn't great. Checkout this article first on some tips on how to improve your Wi-Fi reception for your Smartfire and everything else in the house!
If pain persists, a good solution is a Wi-Fi extender. They work by connecting to your existing wireless network and then providing a new signal that devices can connect to. This really helps when you have a big house (or yard!) or if the main Wi-Fi router has to be at the front of the house and you're getting poor coverage out the back.
This guide is a walkthrough of how to setup a typical wall plug Wi-Fi Extender. The steps may vary slightly between brands but the principals will be the same and you can be encouraged that it's fairly cheap and easy to do!
Buying an extender
What you want is an extender that works on the 'B/G/N' wireless standard. You don't need anything particularly fancy as Smartfire isn't high throughput and the older standards have further range than the newer faster 'AC' standard. We chose this $25 AUD one from Kogan
(By the way, the 'AC' in the name is a bit misleading as this particular extender only works on 2.4ghz so it's not actually the newer faster 'AC' wireless standard!)
- Unpacked and plugged into a power socket and put the switch on the side in the 'repeater' setting
- I first connected to the "Wireless-N" network (either smartphone or laptop will be ok)
- Opened a browser and navigated to http://ap.setup the http:// helped stop the browser from going to Google! The password was 'admin'
- Clicking the Wizard icon down the bottom seemed the most fun idea so did that
- It nicely scanned for local Wi-Fi networks and I choose the one I wanted to extend. Bonus points as it adds '_EXT' to the name rather than trying to use the same name. This means your Smartfire won't get confused with multiple access points.
- Enter the password you use to connect to the network that you are extending. Note, this becomes the password of the extended network.
- After proceeding it then said to wait a while for the settings to apply
- It will kick you off the Wifi, as it's renaming it and everything. So after a little while you'll need connect your phone/laptop to the newly named network.
- Refresh the browser window for the wifi extender and it'll prompt you to log in again
- If you click the 'Wi-Fi' icon down the bottom of the screen and then choose 'Advanced Settings' you should see that it's already set Channel Width to 20mhz. If it's 20/40mhz, set it to 20mhz and Apply it.
You'll need to pair your Smartfire to the new Wi-Fi network. I found that if the extender and Smartfire were on the same table the Smartfire wouldn't connect, so I suggest you keep them a few metres apart during setup!
- Turn off the Smartfire
- In the app, remove your Smartfire from your account. Click devices in side menu, click your device name, then on device details screen click top right menu button and choose remove from account.
- Force close the Smartfire app and re-open the app for a clean slate
- Power on your Smartfire
- Start setup in the app, it should find the nearby Smartfire Controller
- Make sure to choose the new extender Wi-Fi network name and type the password carefully
- Complete setup and the Smartfire should reconnect and be online!
Note, if you have a prior generation Wi-Fi only unit, you're best off to manually clear the Wi-Fi credentials and then perform setup again.
If your smoker is a fair distance from the house, the likely best placement is just inside the house or undercover just outside. Basically the extender is best placed around the halfway to two thirds point between your Wi-Fi router and the smoker.
Borrowing a diagram from the Kogan user manual, you should also pay attention to the signal strength lights on the extender to know the extender has a good connection to the main router.
Last consideration is height off the ground. As we covered in our article on Wi-Fi optimisation, putting Wi-Fi routers near the ground is far less than ideal as half the signal is simply hitting the ground and bouncing around. It's much better to be bench height or above so look for a suitable powerpoint. You could also potentially use a short extension lead to add some height if all your power sockets are low. Hiding it on top of a cupboard is a pretty good idea! You can always resort to plugging it straight in to a near ground power point if it's direct line of sight with no obstructions from the extender to the Smartfire's smoker location.
Just pay attention to the wireless strength lights on the extender and as reported by the Smartfire app to know how your tuning is working out!