Have you ever had your Wi-Fi go out on you? Were you able to fix the problem or not?
If so, it may have been caused by a dimmer switch. These electronic devices can emit electromagnetic waves that disrupt your wireless network and cause issues with connectivity.
Check out some tips on why this problem occurs and related information on how electromagnetic interference can wreak havoc on your wireless network.
What are dimmer switches?
A dimmer switch is an electrical device that is used to control the amount of electricity supplied to a light source.
This electric utility has typically been found in lamps and light fixtures.
Key features of dimmer switches according to Energy Star, the following are features that distinguish a dimmer switch:
(1) You can adjust the light level by turning the dial. It is equipped with different sliding positions for adjusting the light levels from 100 percent to off;
(2) it has a low voltage; and
(3) it works through a simple mechanical and electrical system.
Apart from turning light on or off, dimmer switches can also change the light intensities, making it easy to create a lighting ambiance or mood.
Some devices may have other features such as preset functions, for example offering bright lights when used as table lamps and soft lights when used as bedside lamps.
Dimmer switches come in a variety of designs – single pole, three-way and multi-location among others. They can also be divided into several categories, such as traditional dimmer switches and low-voltage dimmer switches.
The popularity of these devices is attributed to their versatility in different designs that are needed for different settings and the fact that they can be easily integrated into a home automation system through a few touches on your control panel screen.
Do dimmer switches affect WiFi?
With the growing use of smart home devices (window shades, light bulbs, security systems) and WiFi networks, we are constantly reminded to keep our electronics away from our router.
One of the items that you might not have thought would interfere with your WiFi is your dimmer switch! Many rooms have a dimmer switch for the lights – but what about interference with WiFi?
This is a question I asked myself, because although for most people they’re not in close proximity to the router and wireless devices, there’s a dimmer switch that controls the lights for that circuit.
As it turns out, there is some science behind the idea that switches can interfere with WiFi. I did some research to find out whether dimmer switches could affect the stability of a wireless WiFi network, and I discovered that, yes, dimmer switches can cause electromagnetic interference.
The possible effects of EMI on your WiFi router:
- Interference with internet access (slower downloads, service interruptions)
- More dropped signals or a less stable signal
- The wireless internet connection dropping entirely
How electromagnetic interference affects wifi
Electromagnetic interference, often abbreviated as EMI, is a disturbance that occurs because of the presence of electromagnetic energy and its effect on electrical circuits.
The most commonly known sources of electromagnetic interference are other electronic devices such as radios and cell phones but magnetism from motors, large electrical cables and power lines can also cause interference to the local environment.
This electromagnetic interference is measured in units of volts per meter or V/m. The stronger the voltage, the greater effect there will be on the wireless signals.
When observing these various sources of EMI, it quickly becomes apparent that they all affect each other and hence produce additional sources of interference.
As a result, it is important to study each of them individually as well as in conjunction with each other to correctly assess their effect and decide on the best solution to shield against interference.
When it comes to wifi, EMI has an immediate impact by weakening signal strength and hence reducing the range of a wireless network.
This means that a router’s signal may not reach some areas of your house or office.
However, even if you have a strong signal, the quality and speed of your connection is still dependent on several factors such as the number of devices connected to the network at once or even the weather (rain, humidity etc.).
Electromagnetic interference may also play a role in other wireless technologies such as bluetooth.
The reason for this is that bluetooth devices, like wifi routers use 2.4Ghz as a standard frequency for communication which is within the range of EMI frequencies in your home and office.
Hence interference from nearby cables and other sources are bound to interfere with your wireless devices.
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely eliminate EMI but you can shield against it by placing your wireless routers and other devices in metallic enclosures or away from sources of interference.
If you have more than one wifi router in your house, make sure that they use different channels to avoid interference.
How dimmer switch affects WiFi
When people use a Triac dimmer in combination with LED, it is possible for the interference to disrupt the radio signal reception of other electronics including Wi-Fi and wireless doorbells.
Inside every Triac dimmer is a copper coil.
It’s the same coil that makes the flicker and buzz.
The copper coil found in TRIAC dimmers is the cause of many interference and duration problems associated with wireless networks.
When a dimmer switch is used with an incandescent lamp, it reduces the voltage going to the lamp during negative-going cycles (when power is flowing away from the appliance).
As such, less power goes into the appliance than when using a non-dimmable device.
When you dim an LED light instead, the unidirectional electrical current to the lamp increases and decreases depending on how much power is flowing.
This means that the spike in energy flows during the peak of an LED circuit cycle requires it to flow somewhere else to avoid combustion.
The electricity goes into the coil and tries to absorb it.
But it cannot do that very well.
So, some of it goes across the cable network, and that can disturb signals like WiFi and radios from other rooms in the building.
Some possible solutions
How can you fix wifi issues when using dimmer switches?
Your home’s dimmers interrupt some of the frequency signals needed for a stable wifi connection.
But don’t worry–there two solutions.
Solution 1: Try a different type of dimmer switch
You can try a different brand of dimmer switch.
If all your other electronics are working well, then it’s the dimmer’s fault.
The same holds true if you don’t have any problems with one type of electronic but another one is giving you trouble.
Just trash that dimmer switch and try another type.
Solution 2: Upgrade your router or subscription
If solution #1 doesn’t work, then the problem is probably with your router or current internet plan.
This may mean that you have to upgrade it–or invest in a higher-quality model.
A simple fix like upgrading a hobbyist WiFi router tends to be cheaper and easier than trying to deal with the problem at the source.
Your dimmer switch may only be affecting a particular range of frequencies.
So, if you find a new router or upgrade the service to one that provides higher frequencies, you may be able to solve the problem.
If your home is wired with dimmer switches, it doesn’t mean that the wifi will always be a mess.
It just means that there’s a possibility of some interference in certain parts of the house due to frequency conflicts.
There are two ways of fixing this problem: finding another brand of dimmer switch that will work well with your other electronics, or upgrading your router to one that is capable of providing a better frequency.
What else can you do?
Always check the manual first before using any home electric device and see if there are any warnings about possible interference.
And try to avoid dimming your lights when working on your wifi or using other high-frequency devices.
It’d be better to avoid dimming altogether, but it’s not always possible.