Make your Wi-Fi more friendly to smart-home devices

Getting your smart-home set up and working smoothly can be frustrating and time-consuming. Use these Wi-Fi tips to ensure the process goes smoothly.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The idea of a smart home is beautiful. You come home from work and the door unlocks, the kitchen and living room lights turn on, your entertainment system powers on, the TV switches to your favorite channel and the Nest turns up the heat a few degrees. All this happens without lifting a finger.

Getting everything set up to work as intended, however, can be a chore. Here are some Wi-Fi settings tips that can make the setup process go more smoothly.

5GHz may cause problems

A 5GHz network comes with a solid set of advantages. It's typically not as crowded as 2.4GHz, especially if you live in an apartment. This leads to less interference with Bluetooth devices, faster data rates and fewer problems with disconnects.

The unfortunate part is that not all smart devices are compatible with 5GHz. For instance, only Google's new Chromecast supports 5GHz. The older model supports only 2.4GHz. Many other smart home products, such as the August Smart Lock, only support 2.4GHz, as well.

For compatibility reasons, the best option is to stick to 2.4GHz for smart home products or use both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, if your router supports it.

If at first you don't succeed, power cycle

This may seem obvious, but if you're having trouble with your smart devices -- of any kind -- recognizing your wireless network, reboot everything. Reboot the smartphone or laptop you're using to setup the device and power cycle the router and smart device.

In setting up four separate Lifx bulbs and a Chromecast, I had trouble getting them to recognize my wireless network. A power cycle of every device involved seemed to help.

The important part here is patience. After power cycling everything, just walk away. Waiting for 5 to 10 minutes before trying to perform the setup again will improve the chances of everything going more smoothly.

SSID and security settings

In most scenarios, like if you live in a large neighborhood or an apartment, you're definitely going to want to secure your wireless network.

To configure your network, log in to your router's admin page by navigating to the router's IP address in a Web browser and using the default credentials to sign in. The credentials vary by brand, but are generally very easy to find, often on the bottom of the router itself or with a quick Internet search.

Once in the admin panel, choose an SSID that is easily differentiated from other nearby networks. It's also smart to steer clear of network names that may not be supported or recognized by smart devices, like emoji.

Next, secure the network. The best encryption to use for smart devices is WPA2. Finally, choose and set a passphrase that is easy to remember.

When all else fails, factory reset

If you've tried everything and are still having issues with the setup process, you may need to factory reset your smart device. Most smart home devices are very easily reset.

For example, to reset a Lifx bulb, turn the light switch off, unscrew the bulb from the socket, flip the small switch on the side of the bulb, screw it back in and turn the light switch back on. If successful, the bulb will cycle through several colors before returning to white.

Even though my bulbs and other smart devices are set up and work flawlessly, the vast majority of the time, it's often easier and faster to factory reset them and go through a setup again than it is to try to troubleshoot a light bulb by endlessly flipping the switch off and on or power-cycling your phone.

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