Have you ever noticed your internet speeds slowing down during a storm and wondered if it was because of the weather?
We all know such drastic events as a power or phone line being downed by extreme wind or a fallen tree branch in a storm can interrupt our power, phone, and internet service, but what about less extreme cases?
Can the cold itself do it? What about heat?
Here’s how Temperature Affects your Internet
Wi-Fi itself is not likely to be affected by weather or temperature. If you’re using wireless internet in your house, you have to plug a wire into the router. The source of the signal originally comes from wired internet which can be affected by temperature to some degree.
How Come my Wi-Fi Is Slower When it’s Really Cold?
As mentioned above, your Wi-Fi router isn’t getting its signal from anywhere.
It’s getting it from a wire that connects you to the local service provided by your ISP.
There are two kinds of wires that you might use for your internet, and both are affected differently by temperature, so let’s take a look:
The most ubiquitous device for transferring power and signals of all kinds is the humble copper wire.
While wire designs have gotten more sophisticated and complicated over the years, the basic concept hasn’t changed much: a copper length surrounded by insulating material. Electricity running through copper wires is how almost all wired electronic signals worldwide are transmitted.
Copper, of course, is metal.
And metal is notoriously conducive to heat. This means when it gets cold, the wires will shed the heat they’re carrying very quickly and can rapidly contract in size.
This can cause copper wires to be particularly vulnerable to breakage and damage when especially cold.
As far as we can tell, the cold itself does not directly slow down the speed of information moving through the wire, but it can result in minor damage that will cause interruptions or slowdowns until repaired.
A fiber-optic connection is a far less common (and more expensive) option, nonetheless growing in popularity.
Fiber-optic cables use pulses of light instead of electricity to transmit information, and they do so using coils of plastic or glass rather than copper metal.
As a result, they tend to be more resistant to temperature damage than traditional copper wires.
So if you want to quickly find out whether it’s even possible for your internet to be slowed down by the cold, double-check what kind of wires are being used to deliver it to your home. If it’s a traditional copper wire, then cold might be causing your slowdown.
The cold is probably not the culprit if you’re on a fiber-optic network.
Can Extreme Temperatures Directly Affect my Wi-Fi Speed?
As we’ve mentioned above, the temperature cannot directly affect your Wi-Fi speed, but it can indirectly affect it by affecting the wired connection to your Wi-Fi router.
We’ve already discussed how cold can cause potentially internet-slowing damage to copper wires but doesn’t do much to fiber-optics. But what about extreme heat? Let’s take a look.
Just as cold causes materials—especially (but not limited to) metals—to contract and get slightly smaller, heat does the opposite, causing expansion. This can cause copper wires to sag and soften, contributing to packet loss and making the signal move less efficiently through the soft, saggy, hot wire.
Notably, fiber optic cables are also susceptible to this.
While they may not sag as much as a metal wire, the plastics used in fiber cables will suffer similar sagging and softening from extreme heat, which in turn causes similar issues in terms of packet loss and overall less efficient signal.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the way your cable is routed to you makes a big difference in how temperature affects it. Namely, if your network uses aerial, suspended cables (like most phone lines), they’ll be especially susceptible to temperature effects.
Conversely, if you’re on a network using buried, underground cable, it will generally be much better insulated and supported against temperature damage.
How Do I Check if Extreme Temperatures Impact my Wi-Fi Connection?
You might be realizing what a complex issue we’re getting into trying to answer this question, as there are a lot of moving parts—or should we say, moving signals—involved in the equation.
Is it cold you’re worried about? Or heat? What kind of wire does your network use? How do the wires get from your ISP to your home? All of this and more can have a major impact on whether temperature might affect your internet speeds.
To help simplify things, here’s a handy checklist you can use to try and figure out whether the weather could be interfering with your internet speed:
- Determine whether you’re worried about heat or cold.
- Find out whether you’re on a fiber-optic network or a standard copper wire one.
At this point, if it’s cold you’re worried about, and you’re on a fiber network, stop here: the weather is probably not the problem.
Otherwise, keep going.
- Find out whether your network uses buried cables or aerial ones.
If the answer is buried cables, you can stop here: the weather is probably not the culprit.
- Are you worried about the cold and have an aerial copper wire connection?
- Are you worried about the heat and have an aerial connection of either copper or fiber?
If any of these are the case, the temperature might be what’s causing your slow speeds, though it’s not a guarantee.
Are you using your internet during peak hours?
Peak hours are usually between 6 and 11 PM, though they can be at any time when a very large number of people are using the internet from the same network at once.
If your slowdowns are occurring during peak hours, the odds are good the other users on the network are the real reason your speed is slower.
If you’re not using your internet during peak hours, or you feel the decrease in speed is even greater than usual during such hours, and you made it to the end of the list, odds are at least decent the heat or cold is responsible.
Can You Stop Extreme Temperatures From Interfering with Your Wi-Fi?
The bad news is that if you are experiencing slowdowns due to temperature, there’s nothing you can do to fix the problem with the network itself.
Unless you’re a professional technician hired by the relevant company to repair the lines, there’s nothing you can personally do.
And, if you are such a technician, you probably don’t need this article in the first place.
But fear not, there is good news! While you can’t personally fix the lines that may be experiencing heat or cold damage, what you can do is get a signal booster.
A signal booster does what it says on the tin, taking a weak Wi-Fi or phone signal and amplifying it to a more usable level.
These can also be useful for improving the Wi-Fi signal around weak points in your house.
If you want to use your Wi-Fi several rooms away from the router, installing a signal booster in the room you wish to use your Wi-Fi in will help you get a more usable signal wherever you intend to use it.