Sure, fairy lights can slow your Wi-Fi, but humans are also pretty bad

2 Dec 2015

If you’re finding it hard to stream It’s A Wonderful Life this Christmas, it might be down to the twinkling fairy lights on your Christmas tree, or else one of a myriad of different things.

When we think of the harm fairy lights can do each Christmas, we usually think of the annual warning from fire services about the dangers of leaving them on overnight, but now we must heed a slightly less serious, but incredibly frustrating, issue with them.

The news of their Wi-Fi sucking powers comes following a report from the UK communications watchdog, Ofcom, which coincided with the British public getting access to an app that tells you the quality of your home Wi-Fi.

But while the small, twinkling lights are getting most of the attention, it’s best to note that almost every electrical device in the home can have a detrimental effect on your home Wi-Fi speed.

Emitting its signal at a frequency of 2.4GHz, Wi-Fi gets frustratingly close to the same signals emitted by other electrical devices, with the worst offender being the humble microwave.

We should also bear in mind the cordless telephone, which also operates on a relatively similar frequency, but given the sharp decline in their use these days, it’s probably not as relevant as it once was.

When turned on, a microwave emits microwave frequencies that come pretty close to 2.4GHz, which immediately drowns out Wi-Fi signal, slowing it all the way down, and yet, it can still slow it down even when it’s turned off as an absorbent metal box.

Kitchen appliances and humans

The latter reason for poor Wi-Fi, as it turns out, is the real killer here as practically everything in your kitchen is just one big Wi-Fi party pooper.

The fridge, the oven, kettles and even the toaster all contribute that little bit towards the slowdown, which, when combined, turn the kitchen into a pretty useless place to put a router.

But that’s not all. You, yes you humble reader, are also a problem. As it turns out, our fleshy bodies are pretty good at absorbing radio waves on the 2.4GHz spectrum, so you might just be as bad as your toaster, for example.

And yes, fairy lights do affect your Wi-Fi due to weak electromagnetic interference, but comparing it to the TV that’s struggling to receive Wi-Fi reception or the stereo blaring out Mistletoe and Wine, it’s not that bad.

So if you want a merry Wi-Fi Christmas this year, it’s probably best to remove yourself from the house, you Wi-Fi absorbent entity, and leave the fairy lights in peace.

Fairy lights on Christmas tree image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic