If you are looking to expand your Wi-Fi coverage to other areas that are outside your house such as your backyard, patio, shed, or gazebo, installing a Wi-Fi extender outside sounds like a good approach.
However, a common concern is whether a Wi-Fi extender is rugged enough to withstand water, dust as well as the outside heat, especially during summer.
Normal Wi-Fi extenders used in homes can not be used outside because they are not designed to endure harsh weather conditions. However, there are some special Wi-Fi extenders such as the Netgear Orbi and WAVLINK AC1200 that are built to withstand sun, rain and, dust and hence can be used outdoors.
Wi-Fi extender outdoor range
Generally, a Wi-Fi extender’s signal can reach a distance of between 100m (328 ft) and 200m (656 ft) when placed outside. However, this range can be longer or shorter depending on the design of the extender, how strong the signal received from the router is, and whether there is a clear line of sight between the extender and the connecting device(obstacles such as walls and trees will weaken the signal).
If you are looking to boost your signal in an area such as a farm where there are obstacles such as sheds and trees, it is advisable to use the 2.4 GHz frequency range since it is less affected by obstacles compared to the 5GHz frequency range.
Wi-Fi dead spots that cannot be eliminated using an extender alone and may require you to install a mesh network that combines multiple access points to create a single shareable network that is more reliable.
Where to mount an outdoor Wi-Fi extender
An outdoor Wi-Fi extender should be mounted midway between the router and the connecting device at a height of at least 4 feet, and it must be within a reasonable range of the Wi-Fi router’s signal. The LED signal strength indicators on the range extender should help you choose the best location for your range extender.
When mounting your Wi-Fi extender, it is important to keep the line of sight in mind. For the best reception, there should be a clear line of sight between the extender and the router and a clear line of sight between the extender and the problem area as well.
The following video shows how you can use a Wi-Fi extender outside, in this case the Wavlink AC1200:
Outdoor Wi-Fi extenders compatibility with routers
Most outdoor Wi-Fi extenders are universal, and should work with any router whether it has been provided by your ISP or you’ve bought it separately. However, configuring your outdoor extender via the WPS button may not be possible with all outdoor routers, but you can still establish a connection via an ethernet cable since most come with ethernet ports.
If you are too concerned about your outdoor extender being compatible with your router or just want to keep things simple, you can purchase products from the same manufacturer.
Type of cable needed to connect a Wi-Fi extender outdoors
To establish a wired connection between an outdoor Wi-Fi extender and router a CAT5e, CAT6, or CAT6a ethernet cable is used. One end of the ethernet cable should be plugged into the router’s output port and the other into the extender’s input port.
Some Wi-Fi extenders also support Power over Ethernet (PoE) which allows transmission of power over Ethernet cables, thus eliminating the need of having a power outlet close to the extender.
CAT5e, CAT6, and CAT6a ethernet cables can be plugged at a distance of about 100 m from the router. CAT5e supports up to 1GBps at 100 MHz, CAT6 supports up to 1Gbps at 250 MHz, and CAT6a supports up to 10Gbps at 500 MHz.
Generally, the higher the number the higher the data transfer rate and bandwidth offered by the cable. You can read more about the different ethernet cables here.
Two/multiple Wi-Fi extenders versus one extender
Two or multiple extenders are better than one if you are looking to boost the strength of your Wi-Fi signal and eliminate dead zones in a large area outdoors or a house or office with multiple rooms. And for the best network performance, you should not connect one extender to another, instead, all extenders should connect to the main router.
To reduce the possibility of two or more extenders interfering with each other, a different communication channel (separate SSIDs) should be set up for each range extender. Also, you should consider installing a mesh network such as Netgear Orbi or TP-Link Deco that allows you to set up satellite units that work seamlessly with each other.
The following video shows how a Netgear Orbi mesh network can be set up outdoors using multiple devices:
Wi-Fi extenders can be mounted anywhere outdoors as long as they have been designed to withstand various harsh outdoor conditions such as excess heat and humidity. Where possible, extenders should be mounted where there is a clear line of sight between the router and the extender for the best results.
Any obstacles around the range extender and connecting device tend to weaken the signal and should be avoided. How far an extender can boost the signal will depend on its design, wireless interference from other Wi-Fi devices, obstacles, as well as the strength of the signal received from the router.