UK ISP Virgin Media (VMO2) has warned customers of their home broadband service to take extra care with their routers during the summer heatwave because if it “gets too hot” then your connection may “slow down” or even “grind to a halt all together,” said the provider in a new common sense style tips notice.
Overheating isn’t just a risk to people in a heatwave (i.e. heatstroke), it can also be a risk to electronic equipment too, as everything from Smartphones to Desktop Computers will produce some heat during normal operation. Most such devices have methods of managing or dissipating that heat (metal heatsinks, fans etc.), but past a certain point some devices will simply get too hot and start to malfunction (the first indication is usually slower processing as the CPU throttles).
In terms of broadband connectivity, most router manufactures are aware of this and design their hardware to operate at temperatures of up to around 40c (varies between manufacturers). So in theory the current heatwave shouldn’t be a problem, but in practice people sometimes place their routers in locations where the temperatures can still rise beyond the device’s rated maximum.
Suffice to say that Virgin Media’s new list of “top tips for a strong, reliable connection this summer” isn’t saying anything that common sense shouldn’t already have enabled you to figure out.
How safe is it to keep a router in direct sunlight?
Nobody wants hot Hub summer! It’s important to keep your router somewhere out of direct sunlight as it can overheat, just like your phone or laptop. But that doesn’t mean you should stick your router in a cupboard or hidden behind your TV either.
Although it beams wireless internet around your home, some things can prevent the signal from getting out, like large electrical appliances and even big bodies of water. And if it gets too hot, it can slow down your connection or even grind to a halt all together. Good placement of the Hub router can also mean greater reach, so you could get Wi-Fi in the back garden if your home layout allows.
To conclude, finding a good place for your router…
On top of that, we’d strongly advise against allowing your pets to rest on top of your router – even in winter (particularly cats and dogs, both of which treat routers like their own personal comfort pads), and if you can, it doesn’t hurt to place the router on a small stand, so that air can move freely around it to help dissipate heat. Just use common sense and remember to balance device placement with the need for good WiFi (here).
At an extreme, you could also consider buying one of those laptop cooling mats (usually with fans), but in the UK this really shouldn’t be necessary. We should add that modern networks also have other kit to worry about, such as Mesh WiFi repeaters, where once again you should apply common sense.
Naturally, it goes without saying that pouring water over your router or putting it in the freezer to cool down are both things that should generally be avoided. Admittedly, electronics do like the cold, but they don’t like the moisture that forms and defrosts after being left switched-off in a fridge or freezer (risk of damage, short circuits, corrosion etc.).
As for VMO2’s ‘fish tanks’ example, we’re still not entirely sure about that one (they probably meant it in reference more to WiFi signals than heat). Obviously, you don’t want the router to be at risk of falling into a fish tank (because fish are notorious for their hacking skills), but that seems like a different problem.