Smart home devices are all about making our lives easier, but they could actually be making things more challenging by creating some problems with your home’s WiFi network. Your smart devices could be hoovering up bandwidth and creating cybersecurity problems without you even knowing it. This is why it’s so important to create a dedicated network for your smart home tech.
A dedicated WiFi network for your smart home tech is an absolute must. It improves your cybersecurity, opens up more bandwidth in your home network, and lets you get the most out of your smart home tech. You’ve got options ranging from simply adding a guest network to switching over to Z-wave or ZigBee connectivity if you’re looking to build a dedicated smart home network.
Here’s why switching over to a dedicated network for your smart home is an absolute must.
Why You Need a Dedicated WiFi Network For Your Smart Home Tech
You want your smart home devices to make your life easier, not to create unnecessary problems that you don’t see coming until it’s too late. Having all of your devices on a single network not only bogs that network town with traffic, it could also be creating serious cybersecurity problems.
These are the three big reasons why you need a dedicated WiFi network for your smart home.
Improve Your Cybersecurity
The first, and the most important, is cybersecurity.
We often overlook our cybersecurity until it’s too late. We reuse passwords, logins, and load all of our devices onto a single network. This will be fine for the vast majority of people, but for a few of us cybersecurity problems will go drastically wrong and lead to serious, even financial, problems.
In the world of cybersecurity, there’s a term we have called threat vectors. These are ways that hackers and other malicious actors can get into your private data. Each device that’s connected to your network opens up new threat vectors that could be used to compromise your cybersecurity.
There have been plenty of cases in the news of smart home devices being hacked. Everything from smart toasters to smart refrigerators have been hacked leading to cybersecurity problems. One quick fix for this is to put your tack on a dedicated network.
A dedicated WiFi network keeps all of your smart home tech in one place. This means that if a hacker gets into your smart technology, they’re only going to be able to find other smart devices. They won’t be able to gain access to things like a laptop, smartphone, or other devices. This is a great way to keep things safe.
Make Your Smart Home More Reliable
Smart devices can only ever be as good as their conductivity. When the connection goes down, so does all of their utility. This is the one big hurdle that the Internet of Things is still grappling with.
One thing you can do to improve the reliability of your devices is to give them their own dedicated network. This allows them to continue operating smoothly even if something happens to the main network.
The best way to do this isn’t through WiFi at all. Using ZigBee or Z-Wave connectivity is a great way to give your smart home devices a network that doesn’t entirely rely on a WiFi connection. A smart hub will still need to connect to the internet, but all of your devices can stay up and operational even if the WiFi goes down.
Improve Your Bandwidth and Connectivity
We have to talk about improving your internet bandwidth. All of your smart devices are taking up bandwidth on your Wi-Fi network. Any smart device that’s uploading pictures or videos on a regular basis is going to be using a lot more data than you might expect.
This could jeopardize the other internet activities that you enjoy. Things like streaming movies and playing video games also use a lot of bandwidth and you don’t want those competing with your smart home technology. This is especially important if you have a device like a Ring Doorbell that’s recording video and doing work as part of your home security system.
Giving your smart home technology its own network frees up your bandwidth. This allows your smart systems to stay operational without compromising on how you use the internet.
How To Create a Dedicated WiFi Network For Your Smart Home
Now we’re going to run through a few ways that you can give your smart home technology its own network. We’re going to talk about ways that you can double up on the WiFi network to improve security and bandwidth as well as ways of ditching WiFi all together when it comes to smart technology.
Let’s start with the easiest fixes and work our way to the more involved, and more fun, options!
Using a Guest Network
Your WiFi router probably comes with a guest network feature. If you haven’t been using your guest network feature to set up your smart home technology, now’s the time to start.
The Eero range of routers, which includes the new Ring Alarm Pro, offers a simple guest network feature within the Eero app:
The guest network features a unique SSID for your WiFi network. This allows you to create a separate network for your smart home devices. There’s a few pros and cons to this option.
The biggest pro is that this is incredibly easy. You already own all of the technology required and all you need to do is set up a guest network and switch all of your smart home devices over to that network. This provides a strong layer of cyber security protection as you’re smart devices when I’ll be on their own network and a hacker will essentially get stuck in a box if they attempt to enter your system through your smart devices.
The biggest con with this approach is that it does not improve your home’s WiFi bandwidth. It’s still the same WiFi connection even though your smart devices are on a guest network. This means that you might experience some WiFi lagging or connectivity issues when your bandwidth usage goes up.
Using 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz Bands
Another work around that you can consider is using your 2.4 GHz band for your smart technology and your 5 GHz band for your other devices like your PC and gaming consoles:
This gives you all of the cybersecurity benefits of using the guest network, but it also helps improve your bandwidth. The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are separate inside of your WiFi network and are designed to handle their own traffic. Now, this won’t improve your overall connection speed as that’s rated by your internet service provider, but it will clean up your WiFi network and streamline how it handles traffic.
The only downside to this option is that if your phone is connected on the 5 GHz band, it might struggle to communicate with some of your smart technology (especially if the router publishes two WiFi networks – one for 2.4 Ghz, and a separate one for 5 Ghz).
This all comes down to how the manufacturers for smart technology set up their devices, and how your individual router is configured.
Buying a Dedicated Router For Smart Devices
Now we’re talking. This is taking out the best possible solution, but it might be going a little bit too far.
Buying a dedicated WiFi router for all of your smart technology is by far the best option when it comes to cybersecurity and bandwidth.
You’ll be completely siloing all of your smart devices into their own dedicated network that has no connection to your other devices. This leaves a hacker completely trapped and unable to access anything important which means that you’ll be as safe as you can be.
This also completely frees up your bandwidth. All of your smart devices are going to be on a dedicated router and they’ll have zero impact on the rest of your internet traffic.
This might sound like the best possible option, but it could also be a little overkill. The odds of a hacker going after your particular smart refrigerator is fairly small and the amount of traffic that your smart devices are putting on your WiFi network might not also be that high.
This solution is really for the high volume users that have lots of smart devices and want a system that delivers peak performance.
What About WiFi Alternatives?
There’s another option that we haven’t considered yet. We’ve talked a lot about how you can make the WiFi network work, but what if we pulled the plug and got rid of the WiFi network all together?
Lowering Congesting With ZigBee and Z-Wave
Did you know that your WiFi network uses radio waves? It’s interesting to think that with how far technology has come, we’re still using radio to communicate in one way or another. This also includes ZigBee and Z-Wave connectivity.
These are all different frequencies of the same radio waves that bring FM radio to your car. ZigBee and Z-Wave use frequencies that are distinct from WiFi frequencies (well, ZigBee is 2.4 Ghz, but a different channel – so it doesn’t usually clash with WiFi). This means they have almost no impact on your WiFi network.
There are smart technology options that connect with ZigBee and Z-Wave for pretty much every need you could have. This includes smart lighting (like Philips Hue), security systems (like the Ring Alarm), and more. This also means you’re freeing up your WiFi network.
Using ZigBee or Z-Wave means that your cybersecurity will be as good as it can be when it comes to smart home tech. Hackers would need to get directly to the ZigBee and Z-Wave frequencies rather than just a standard WiFi network. You can think of this like parking a bike in a bank vault. Sure, someone “could” steal it, but they’d probably skip it for an easier target.
This approach also totally frees up your WiFi bandwidth. Now all of your smart technology traffic, besides the ZigBee or Z-Wave hub, will be skipping your WiFi altogether. This is a great option if you’re just building out your smart home ecosystem and you can pick these alternatives over WiFi.
You can also have a piecemeal solution – you could have all your smart lighting powered by ZigBee (via a Philips Hue Bridge, or an Echo with ZigBee support), then some Z-Wave devices connected to a SmartThings Hub – and then your smart speakers connected directly to your Wi-Fi router.
This will still reduce congestion on your Wi-Fi network, but it also means that you won’t have to stress about finding smart devices that only work with ZigBee (or Z-Wave).
If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!
16 thoughts on “Having A Dedicated Wi-Fi Network For Your Smart Home Tech”
Sooooo…. it sounds like you strongly recommend a dedicated router, and eero pro 6e is the best. We have a verizon router and one satellite. One google smart speaker, five google nest minis, and 25 smartlife bulbs. There have been break-ins in our neighborhood recently, so we now want to add a security system, but I’m reading that wifi load is an issue. Your great articles here are the first I’m learning about a dedicated wifi router. And looks like you’d recommend Ring (as opposed to Arlo, or some other – I’m looking at reviews now). Am I understanding you correctly so far?
Sorry to hear about the break-ins. Yes the Eero Pro 6e is an awesome router. In terms of smart cameras, I like Ring for their simple functionality and integration with other systems (since Amazon own them). However their image quality isn’t perfect, so I would suggest adding one or two 4k cameras into the mix too. For example, ones from Reolink or Annke. These can record 24/7 in a great quality, and make a good complement to Ring in my opinion.
If I run a 2nd wifi router just for Iot devices configured only for 2.4Ghz that is connected to my main XB8 router via ethernet, am I still able to control them on my phone/tablets/laptops? Won’t it be a problem to have them being on 2 separate wifi routers, and isolate them from my control on my main internet connection? I’m a wanna-be nerd, and only know just enough to be a problem!
Good question, it can depend on both your routers’ internal setup and programming. But generally speaking, your main XB8 router should see all other connected devices (from the 2nd router’s Wi-Fi) as Ethernet/connected devices. You should then be able to control them as normal.
In my setup, I have my main Eero Pro router. I then have some mesh Wi-Fi discs connected to this, and also a second router in my garage. All of my Wi-Fi devices – even those connecting to the garage’s router – show up on my Eero app.
I remember several years ago there were these network devices that you plugged into a wall socket and you got the Internet via the buildings electricity cabling in the walls, very useful devices. I also believe there were wifi versions which created a sperate Hotspot I guess you could call it. Would something like that work? I’m wanting to create a separate “hub” that all my IoT connect to which in turn connects to my modem/router but I’m not keen on having yet another router as I already have 3 devices for Internet, router, modem, Wall device modem connects to which I have no idea what it actually is lol.
So anyway would some kind of wall socket Hotspot device work?
I think what you’re referring to are powerline adapters. As you say, these send internet data over a building’s electrical wiring – and then devices on each end will convert this back into internet data. You can buy household versions of these (just search for powerline adapters – TP-Link are probably the best known make here), although naturally you can get more industrial units for apartment blocks.
One downside of powerline adapters are that they’re never quite as reliable as Ethernet… or even plain ‘ol Wi-Fi, in my opinion. I used to use powerline adapters in my current house, but I would have random drops from the internet (a few a day) – so eventually I run an ethernet cable from my living room, into my loft, and then down into the bedrooms and study. This has resulted in 0 internet drops.
So there’s pros and cons to powerline adapters in my books.
I seem to be having success, but hoping it’s not a fluke, and would love your opinion. We recently had fiber optic lines connected to the house. I set up a Linksys mesh system with a WiFi 6e router and wifi 5 nodes (wasn’t the original plan, but it’s what we got!) The Linksys 6e router connect to the Internet to the modem, provided by the fiber optic service provider. Now, the question… I have also connected the Ring Alarm Pro by separate ethernet directly to the modem. I see that is not how you have yours wired, but it seems to be working. I also have products that work with a Ring (Lutron lights), plugged by a third Ethernet cable into the modem. The lights are working and activate with motion noted on the Ring devices. The ring alarm and all the devices are working and my Internet in the house is working well. What am I risking? I know I could have interference, but if I don’t have it now, can I cross that concern off my list? Also, should devices show up on both networks?
Hey Elizabeth, great question (and home network setup!). That all sounds fine to be honest: since your modem seems to ‘give out’ internet data freely (i.e. you don’t need to connect devices to your Linksys mesh system), there’s no reason why you can’t just plug multiple devices and/or routers straight into the modem.
Your assumptions are correct – as long as you don’t have interference, you should be good to go. And even if you do have interference, you might be fine to just change the Wi-Fi channel so that they no longer clash.
Regarding your last question, I doubt that devices will show up on both networks since you have two separate Wi-Fi networks, essentially. They would only show up if you plugged the Ring Alarm Pro into your Linksys router, for example. At this point, any devices connected to your Alarm Pro would also appear on your Linksys.
I found your article (Having A Dedicated Wi-Fi Network For Your Smart Home Tech) extremely informative. I have Ring doorbells, Lutron lighting, and I am also thinking about adding a SimplisSafe alarm. I am concerned about Wi-Fi security and bandwidth. What are your recommendations to separate my smart devices?
Glad you found it useful. To be honest, any router can work fine (to separate your smart devices) – or you could see if your existing router has a ‘guest network’ feature (which creates a new Wi-Fi network that your smart tech can connect to). The main benefit here is that if one of your smart devices gets hacked – or it leaks the network name and password – your other router won’t be compromised. So a hacked device won’t allow your other devices (including PCs, laptops – and all their files) from being compromised too.
That’s the main benefit of having a separate smart device, although naturally the extra bandwidth/throughout is useful too.
I have a simple modem/router handling a WFH (needs security), my own computer (low security), streaming TV, 5 Google/Alexa assistants, 6 Wyze cams (more while on vaca) and 10 Shelly (relays) switches. I can’t keep the Shelly devices connected so I need to upgrade. Your Guest solution might work but it’s probably time for a dedicated router for IoT – does this sound right? If so, does the 2nd router feed through the first or could it go direct to the modem? Finally, which manufacturer do you think has the best UI (given our plan)?
Hey Doug yeah the guest network can work well – but if you have so many devices, a dedicated router might be the best option (especially if you plan on buying more Wi-Fi devices in the future… like many of us are!). In terms of how you connect the router, it depends on your setup. If your modem has multiple Ethernet ports, then plugging the IoT router into here will work fine. However in many cases (including mine), the modem only has a single Ethernet port – which connects to the main household router. In this case, you would need to plug your IoT router into the main router, so that the network topology is:
Modem <----> Main Router <----> IoT Router
In terms of the best UI, I quite like the simplicity from Eero – although this is app based, which you might see as a pro or con. pfSense apparently have a great UI, as do Ubiquity – although I haven’t played around with them much at all recently.
Thanks for the additional info AND for the initial article! Given the WFH environment, the popularity of gaming and IoT, I’m surprised one of the network companies doesn’t offer a router with multiple networks (above and beyond a guest network).
I found your YouTube and subscribed. Thanks again, great info!!
Thanks Doug, I appreciate it – glad to have helped!
Thanks for this post!
Though really a rookie question here,
I have like 6-10 Xiaomi devices: Rice cooker, smart lights, Hanging lights, Doorbell and Mesh system (in access point mode).
I started seeing problems with the internet, especially with Wi-Fi. As the above devices are connected to it and plus our phones, laptop & smart TV also connected to the same router sucking out all the internet.
Therefore I want to make all smart devices on a dedicated router. If I buy another router for this purpose, this router still needs to be connected to my ISP router – correct (so that it can provide internet for these devices)? Then how does this improve the overall Wi-Fi traffic?
Or is it the case that a dedicated router only brings in a security angle?
Note that my smart devices are supported over Wi-Fi only. Sadly no ZigBee or Z-Wave Gateway option is possible.
Hi Akshay, that sounds like a good setup, and interesting question.
So in general, if you have so many devices that you don’t have any upload/download speeds ‘left’, then you’re right that another router won’t bring any direct speed benefits (because everything is already maxed out). The main benefit in this case would be security (as you say), but it might also help alleviate some of the stress/demand to your existing router too – making some devices feel a bit faster, potentially.
However in reality, it’s unlikely that phones, laptops and smart TVs are consuming every bit of download speeds available – unless you have (say) a 10 Mbit connection and they are all streaming video. Assuming you have a faster internet connection (say, above 50 Mbit/second), I doubt that all your devices are constantly downloading 50 Mbit/second.
In this case, a dedicated router would help because the bottleneck is likely related to having too many devices on a single router – instead of capping out your ISP’s speeds.
I hope that makes sense?