back to article Wi-Fi Dream Home Of The Future™ gets instructions for builders

Interoperability and certification outfit the Wi-Fi Alliance has taken on quite a challenge: getting the home-building industry to do WiFi right. The organisation on Wednesday published a Home Design standard it hopes will see builders create homes that are free of WiFi dead spots and ready for the expected increase in …

Anonymous Coward

Little boxes, little boxes made of ticky tack

I couldn't help but be reminded of the old Pete Seeger song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUwUp-D_VV0

I can imagine a development full of this 'ticky tack' all using the same channels because the developers don't have a clue about setting things up correctly.

Oh wait... This is a dead as in six foot under idea already. As 99% of developers won't put in anything but the bare minimum of insulation etc and certainly no PV arrays because

1) it is too hard and they can't make Bog standard 'little boxes'

2) and might eat into their profits (or so they think)

3) UK homes are so small that the roof area is so tiny that a PV system will look ugly (to the punters) and not return any ROCI over 25 years. I've only seen one development (near Cheltenham Racecourse) where the PV system is built into the roof.

I like the idea and anyone building their own home (aka Grand Designs) will include stuff like this bot for us mere mortals? forget it.

Decent networking or battery storage? Not a chance.

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Re: Little boxes, little boxes made of ticky tack

"so tiny that a PV system will look ugly (to the punters)"

Meet the PV roof tile

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/elon-musk-solar-city-roofs

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Anonymous Coward

The problem with my house built in the 1970s is the number of neighbouring WAPs that are visible. Judging by the names some are over 100 metres away.

It has proven impossible to choose a free channel on 2.4Ghz. Some WAPs do not broadcast their SSID. Others do automatic channel hopping that seems eventually to land them on my channel - as presumably the least populated. The latter often seem to have a maximum signal strength indication - so why do they not see my WAP as physically too close for comfortable sharing?

I have now reverted to Ethernet-over-mains.

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Silver badge

Gave you an upvote but really, ethernet over mains? Was there no other choice?

I have managed to install discrete cabling on each house we have been in for some time now and have installed low-power wireless access points in appropriate locations where the kids insist on using their phones/tablets. If it is a laptop then use a bloody cable, you will get much better throughput than sharing a wifi link with half a dozen other bits of kit.

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Re: If it is a laptop then use a bloody cable

If it is a laptop then use a bloody cable, you will get much better throughput than sharing a wifi link

Very true but a lot of modern low profile laptops don't get an Ethernet port without plugging in a dongle. The RJ45 connector is too big for the laptop's case.

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Anonymous Coward

"The problem with my house built in the 1970s is the number of neighbouring WAPs that are visible. Judging by the names some are over 100 metres away.

It has proven impossible to choose a free channel on 2.4Ghz."

If you live in a place with more than 3 neighbours, and they haven't all let the default channel 1 settings (from personal statistics, around 90% of WAPS are on channel 1, struggling for any packet), it's not possible to have a dedicated 2.4 GHz channel at all !

Better use 5GHz only if you can ...

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Anonymous Coward

" Was there no other choice?"

Not really. The house has three floors and seven rooms - and the ADSL modem only works if it is in the master socket by the front door.

Originally I had an Ethernet cable dangling down the stairs but that was a trip hazard. It only served the lounge - with a hub connection through the wall to the study. Wi-fi solved the problem for a while using 11mbps, 54mbps, then finally 130mbps - until all the neighbours also took to wi-fi broadband.

When we did a rebuild of the top two floors of the house - the opportunity was taken to add cabling for many power, TV, and phone points to every room. Unfortunately that was in the days before the internet - so even the possible 10mbps Ethernet wasn't considered necessary. To add cables now would be a major operation to clear rooms, remove carpets, lift floors, and drill awkward holes up through stud partition bases.

Eventually 5.8GHz wi-fi might reduce the problem of neighbour interference. That would need an otherwise unnecessary tech refresh of the household's PCs though.

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Anonymous Coward

Can I offer some advice from personal experience?

Take them outside and up the wall, that's what I did, outdoor waterproof black Ethernet cable.

You can get the drill bit to go through the wall for about ten pounds at B&Q/Homebase/Online.

Don't forget to add the loop outside under the hole though to stop rain running down the cable into your house and fill the hole. (look at your BT line and you'll see what I mean)

If you can't do it yourself get a cheap as chips aerial fitter from the local paper to do it for you and just ask them to do the cables.

Only downside is you may have to run them round on a skirting board or under carpet but even then flat cable is an option.

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Silver badge
Thumb Up

If it is a laptop then use a bloody cable, you will get much better throughput than sharing a wifi link with half a dozen other bits of kit.

Probably, although I was surprised to note recently that my new(ish) laptop manages around 64Mb/s using wifi just as it does using Ethernet. And there are still over a dozen competing WAPs in my neighbourhood. No idea when that changed as it used to struggle to get above 30Mb/s on wifi.

I prefer Ethernet when throughput matters but having to replace the cable every year or so because the end is cracked and falling off (ooh er missus) with the laptop being picked up and put down is a bit tedious.

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Silver badge

CAT6

They should of course introduce the death penalty for builds who don't fit CAT6 cabling into the whole house.

The bastards I bought my new house from twenty something years back wouldn't let me come in a lay cabling before they did the plastering and such like. Oh boy would it make life easier if they had.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: CAT6

My first home network was 50ohm coax connecting computers in 2 rooms on different floors of my house.

This was then replaced with Cat3 and an 8 port hub covering 8 rooms across 3 floors and upgraded to Cat5e with a 24 port managed switch in 2002. The WiFi got upgraded to 5Ghz last year so I do wonder if I need to go to Cat6a .... but its an old house so easy to get to the cable runs and FTTP is available on the telegraph pole outside so I'm tempted but pretty sure it won't be my last network rewire project.

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Unhappy

"fewer than 35 devices per channel at time of installation "

Good luck with that.

If it ain't a law it's very unlikely to get done in many countries.

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Random thoughts

It feels like wifi as currently constituted is the wrong solution for an urban environment, as it's too difficult to get the signal propagating just far enough without interfering with neighbours.

Seems like lower-power line of sight access points fitted discreetly to the ceilings of each room, powered and networked by cat6, along with smoke/fire sensors, would produce a more consistent, higher bandwidth, less interfere-y solution.

Does this tech exist already?

FWIW since moving to the middle of nowhere (1 house per acre) my wifi is awesome. I can get good signal 30m down the garden through two walls. So it's just not fit for purpose in high density situations.

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Re: Random thoughts

Does this tech exist already?

It's called LiFi.

There's a two fold problem with it. In new builds, you're effectively slinging Cat 6 everywhere and using a new technology. As builders don't install Cat 6 anyway, there's little hope for Cat 6 + LiFi.

On existing housing stock, you've got the retrofit problem of slinging Cat 6 to the light pendants, which means pulling up carpets and floorboards. Not many people are going to want the hassle.

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Silver badge

getting the home-building industry to do WiFi right.

The typical british builder's response is liable to be "WiFi, guvnor? Wot's that then, when it's at home? Some sort of foreign thing is it?"

I had a load of building work done a few years ago, and was amazed by how untechnical builders are, even if they are conscientious about their work. With the big building firms, they insulate the loft by just chucking the rolls up there, leaving them unopened. And people expect companies with that attitude to worry about WiFi placement?

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Unhappy

Re: getting the home-building industry to do WiFi right.

Our new house will have a phone socket in every room, which isn't needed as we've got cordless phones. But the builders wouldn't consider replacing the phone wiring with Ethernet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: getting the home-building industry to do WiFi right.

"Our new house will have a phone socket in every room, [...]"

When the house had a rebuild in 1990 I worked out-of-hours to add cabling. For example - the lounge now has 21 power sockets and at least 4 phone sockets.

Every room has multiple power, TV/FM, and phone sockets - distributed to suit many possible furniture layouts. The TV/FM points in each room are fed off a roof-space distributor box. In each room the outlets are daisy-chained coax - with only the currently convenient one being terminated with a diplexer plate. The other outlets are blank plates behind which are coax connectors to effect the daisy chain.

A ring extender powers the extension phone sockets - but most rooms and landings have a cordless phone. There are also a few wired phones for reliability in emergencies

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Pint

Trunking

You either get this type of thing installed or do a retrofit. Makes all kinds of things easier and as a plus it won't need painting :-)

https://www.tlc-direct.co.uk/Products/UVSLS.html

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Re: Trunking

Maaaany moons ago there was a company in Crawley (Rose Auto Supplies I think) that did a catalogue (yes it was that long ago) and the cover was always tongue-in-cheek.

One year was an electric claw hammer that came in mains or cordless but the one this story is bringing to mind is the dual mains sockets for retrofitting into buildings post-decoration. They were infra-red so no cables to run. They had an amazing number of enquiries apparently.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trunking

"They were infra-red so no cables to run."

Byron used to do wall mounted switches that only had a small 12v battery. They used 433MHz to switch compatible power points or lights. Very useful for adding multiple-way light switches without the complication of wiring.

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Bronze badge

Lucky me

I'm in the process of buying a new property/waiting for it to be built. I was very happy when I saw that it's going to have fiber to the modem, and ethernet throughout as standard.

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FAIL

Re: Lucky me

Lucky you indeed. Mother is moving into a newbuild and the ****ing cheapskate ****wits aren't even allowing for a phone service without washing lines ! Their sole allowance for telephony is a backbox behind where the TV is expected to go in the living room, with a bit of wire sticking through the wall and dangling outside. No internal phone cabling, no provision for computers AT ALL and a house construction that makes discrete running of cables later on IMPOSSIBLE. When I commented, the vendor said "everything's wireless these days isn't it".

I have nothing I could possibly write in public to say about the standard of support by builders/developers for even 20th century technology, let alone 21st century living. IN this house, they've even cheaped out by not fitting a 32A supply for electric cooking. I don't think I could buy a new house unless I could buy it at the stage where they've built the shell and fitted the roof (and I have enough visibility to see that they've not f***ed any of that up) - and then I can do the rest properly, rather than paying for them to do it then paying to rip it all back to bare block and doing it again.

And WTF is this modern determination to build all new houses with cold slabs of concrete for the floor ?

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Re: Lucky me

We completed a major renovation of a house we bought last year. Part of the renovation we had the electrics completely rewired as the house was built in the early 80's. The electrician also rang 20 CAT6 data points through out the house for me in conduits in the wall as it's a full brick house. This way I can upgrade the cabling at any point easily or add extra cables. These go back to a patch panel in a 6RU wall mounted rack cabinet. I've got a 28 port Cisco 2960S PoE+ switch in the rack & 3 x 1142N AP's throughout the house. I've only enabled the 5Ghz radios in the Cisco WAP's. I've also got 3 10 port 3560CG Cisco PoE+ switches in places where I need a lot of connections like my home office, home theater room & lounge room. I'm planning to upgrade the WAP's when I get more 802.11ac devices.

As plumbers used to say "do it proper, do it with copper".

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Re: Lucky me

I don't think I could buy a new house unless I could buy it at the stage where they've built the shell and fitted the roof (and I have enough visibility to see that they've not f***ed any of that up) - and then I can do the rest properly, rather than paying for them to do it then paying to rip it all back to bare block and doing it again.

We're about to do something similar - demolish our 1960s bungalow and rebuild. One of the builders we've spoken to wants us to walk offsite and come back 6 months (yeah, right) later to a house completed for £1,000/sqm but I want what you do - a secure, weatherproof shell that I can fit out internally to my own requirements, and data is definitely one of those.

And WTF is this modern determination to build all new houses with cold slabs of concrete for the floor ?

If it's built to regulations then (on the ground floor) there will be oodles of insulation either under the slab or between the slab and the floor base. 250mm of expanded polystyrene is common.

There is an interesting argument about where best to put the insulation - a "lightweight" design (insulation on top of the slab) heats up quicker, but also cools down quicker while a "heavyweight" design (insulation under the slab) takes a lot of initial heating, but has a lot of "thermal inertia" which makes it much easier to maintain steady environmental conditions.

In very, very broad terms, "lightweight" constructions are better for irregularly-occupied houses, for example where a small number of occupants are out at work all day and may return at varied times; the house can be left to cool when unoccupied and heats up quickly when residents return.

Likewise "heavyweight" constructions may be better where the occupants are either mostly in the house during the day, or have regular hours away. It's worth noting that once heated, insulation regulations mean that all construction methods will have a similar rate of static heat loss.

Concrete slabs for upper floors are often an easy way to meet sound-transmission regulations, but also contribute to the thermal inertia of a building.

There's a similar argument to be made about partition walls; personally I won't have plasterboard anywhere in my house but the trend with spec. builders these days seems to be bent-tin studwork lined with 9.5mm plasterboard.

M.

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Re: Lucky me

If it's built to regulations then (on the ground floor) there will be oodles of insulation either under the slab or between the slab and the floor base

Insulation will not make it warm. Basic school level physics will tell you that the concrete slab won't be warmer (on average) than the layer of air above it - ie the coldest air in the room. Therefore the slab will almost always be colder than the room, and cold to your feet.

We're not talking heated concrete slabs here (which I'd be happy with) - we're talking "as cheap as we can build it" unheated slabs. As I said, I could not write what I really think of these developers without the post getting taken down for bad language !

As it happens, we're just waiting for the vendors to agree (acrimonious separation, they are arguing between themselves) on our offer so we can move. I already have on my list of things to do ... rip up the kitchen floor and reconcrete it with heating pipes in it. As well as fix the other cheapskate bodges in the extension - like full cold bridging across the cavity because they couldn't be ****ed taking the original outer leaf off and doing it right.

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Silver badge

Re: Lucky me

Insulation will not make it warm. Basic school level physics will tell you that the concrete slab won't be warmer (on average) than the layer of air above it - ie the coldest air in the room. Therefore the slab will almost always be colder than the room, and cold to your feet.

We're not talking heated concrete slabs here (which I'd be happy with) -

[...]

I already have on my list of things to do ... rip up the kitchen floor and reconcrete it with heating pipes in it.

I understand your argument, but insulation will stop it becoming a heat sink. An uninsulated concrete slab will be a bridge between the room and the relatively constant temperature of the ground underneath - probably around 10C all year around. Insulated, all you have to worry about is stratification in the air in your room, and a properly designed heating system should reduce this. Underfloor heating is one way of doing it, but there are options which might mean you don't have to dig up the floor. For example:

  • some wet systems are designed for retrofitting with a minimal build-up
  • electric mats are even thinner and can be laid in the tile grout. Even if for efficiency reasons you install a system not powerful enough to heat the room on its own, it can make a room heated by radiators more comfortable.
  • leaving aside underfloor solutions, you could consider replacing radiators with Thermaskirt which gives a comfort level much closer to underfloor heating than radiators do and doesn't involve re-laying the floor. Works just as well with carpets :-)

Research shows that people prefer their heads to be slightly cooler than their feet, and traditional radiators placed in stupid parts of the room (under windows, behind long curtains? Whoever thought that was a good idea?) work against this, causing convection currents which almost guarantee warm heads and cold feet, even without a concrete slab.

M.

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Re: Lucky me

That would very ideal house nowadays!

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