Category Archives: Uncategorized

Smart Living Requires Broad Wi-Fi Coverage and Bandwidth

The average home network wasn’t built to handle the number of connected devices that consumers have needed to use during the pandemic, especially when multiple family members are taking advantage of multiple services — streaming media, e-learning, videoconferencing — all at the same time.

As you know if you’ve read previous e-newsletters or even been to our website, we have seen an increased demand for commercial-grade networks in the home. Generally, this need doesn’t come from someone asking for more hard wiring or additional access points, it comes from people simply wanting the spinning wheel to go away when they’re trying to watch a movie or they are tired of their video call buffering. Last spring and summer we also received a lot of requests for connectivity outdoors, where many were working and studying, or where automated lights, cameras, and more are increasingly part of the smart living experience.

Homes large and small now function like corporate offices and require more internal bandwidth and Wi-Fi coverage, in the form of a powerful router, high-speed network switches and multiple, strategically placed wireless access points inside and outside of the home.

This need hasn’t created just a huge demand on our design and installation services, it has created a huge demand for the products we install, preferably Ubiquiti systems. More and more often the products sell out at our distributors within weeks of them receiving them, to the point that we order as soon as we get a contract. Even then, sometimes we have to go directly to the manufacturer in the hopes that they are keeping some in stock, but then we wait longer for supplies to be delivered when they are manufactured across the country.

This demand is not going to end any time soon, so all we can do is be honest about timelines and ask for patience, which we are fortunate to see from the majority of our clients. Once these network systems are in place in the home, clients forget what it was like to have Internet problems.

Clean air Technology

While Home & Office Network Solutions does not recommend or install Clean Air Technology we thought the topic might be of interest to our readers so we start with a basic question. Will it control the spread of Covid?

The pandemic has brought heightened awareness of just how filthy the world can be, and marketers are taking advantage of it.

Air filtration is a tricky, complicated business, but it’s one of the main ways that experts say the spread of Covid could be controlled. Even a cheap, homemade air purifier might help limit the spread of viruses in a room, if done right.

A portable air purifier might seem handy, but if it’s too small or not powerful enough, it won’t be able to move enough air to properly filter a room. Even if the purifier is efficient, how well it works will depend on a variety of factors as variable as the different environments where you might find yourself: the number of people in a room, the shape of the room, its temperature and humidity, and so on.

So, while these products might help prevent the spread of Covid, most are being sold with a disclaimer that they “may or may not prevent Covid transmission.” That said, buyer beware.

Fixed Clean Air Technology is available for home HVAC systems. Hospitals use specialized UVC (Ultraviolet C) lights to sanitize equipment. Technology similar to what they use is used in the home systems. The devices are encased in the HVAC ductwork to protect the homeowner from harm. This type of light can be incredibly harmful on surfaces and especially your skin and eyes. When you see consumer gadgets with UV sanitizers in them, what’s most likely being used is the shorter wavelength (and much gentler) far-UVC light. Still, far-UVC has been shown to inactivate airborne coronavirus particles but more research is needed on the effectiveness. An interesting explanation of Ultraviolet light sanitization can be found at https://insights.regencylighting.com/uvc-vs-faruvc.

A Recap of H&ONS in 2020

We started 2020 off on a very high note for the Little family. In January, our daughter, Rachel graduated from the LA Film School and our son, Ian got engaged (wedding planned for June 2021). The whole family flew to Los Angeles to spend a week celebrating, only to come home to Covid.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, our daughter was on a plane home, terrified of being quarantined alone in her small apartment in LA, a hot center already for Covid. We backed off performing installations as we quarantined with her for a few weeks, but our business was considered an essential business, so we knew we had to step up and get to work on helping at least some of the people of Northern VA that needed networking and AV services.

We quickly created a Covid plan, including mask and glove wearing, disinfecting and no contact billing. While we had contracts with customers, we accepted a delay in their installations if they chose to wait until they were comfortable to allow us into their homes. We also encouraged our customers to try a virtual service call, when applicable. While we were concerned for the business, by April we were back to scheduling site surveys, and scheduling a lot of them. Kids were finishing school at home and parents were working, so homeowners were discovering the limitations of their networking system and looking for solutions. We also had to deal with delays in getting materials as global manufacturing and distribution slowed down, so we got our orders in and hoped that materials would arrive in time for the installation date.

We worked tirelessly to help as many homeowners as possible over the Spring and Summer but the demand did become overwhelming to the point of having to turn away prospective business. Before writing this article, we counted over 75 prospective jobs that had to be turned away in the past 4 months, because we were booked 6-8 weeks out for both site surveys and installations. We created a wait list, returning to those who were willing to wait and scheduling once we got caught up. We try not to schedule more than 6 weeks out since so much can change in 6 weeks.

As you may know, we are a small business. Lew performs the site survey, writes the estimate and performs the installation with the aid of a single subcontractor. We have been operating this way since 2015, when we chose to restructure the business. Fortunately, back then we also had 3 outside subcontractors to assist on jobs, so it was a smooth transition. Over the years it has become increasingly difficult to find people in this area that we can count on as a subcontractor (we have tried), other than Daniel, our long time sub.

During the pandemic, we chose not to hire additional employees or even try out new subcontractors since we would be risking our customers’ health and our own. We can control our contact with others, but not that of others.

So, we continue to help those who can wait for our small team of highly skilled network installers. Given we barely have enough time for new installations, service calls are even more difficult to address. We still perform quite a few virtual service calls late in the day, and when we can squeeze in an on-site service call, we do so. Lew has also responded to an enormous number of emails from existing clients, trying to aid them in improving or fixing their own systems. Unfortunately, due to the amount of time that was given to these email responses and phone calls, we must now implement a new support policy. (see NEW policy below). We truly value our clients and repeat business, but responding to email and phone questions now that we’ve served over 1200 clients has become so time consuming that we just can’t do it for free anymore.

In the meantime, we want to apologize to all those who we could not serve in 2020 and hope that they were able to find another company to assist them, even pulling from out of state if needed. We also hope that some of these people will try us out again in 2021 when things settle down should they still have an interest in home networking or AV services.

We really look forward to getting back to normalcy in 2021, serving some of our past customers and of course adding new customers in the Northern VA area.

Have a wonderful Holiday season and we hope to see you in 2021.

Lew & Bonnie Little

Remote Control Not Working?

Here are some possible problems and fixes.

  1. IR relay receiver/emitter moved or fell off. IR Relays Systems retransmit the IR (Infrared Light) signal from your remote to the TV or another component such as a hidden cable box.    The picture shows an IR relay receiver attached to a TV. The receiver/emitter of the system could come loose with age or be knocked off when cleaning or moving the electronic device they are connected too. Look around your components, TV first, and see if there is an IR relay receiver hanging behind or beside it. Affix it back to the same area it was previously installed.  Check your other components to see if an IR emitter has fallen off.  Here is a picture of a typical IR emitter. Try your remote. If it still doesn’t work, you may need to adjust where you put the receiver and emitters as it may not be in the optimal location.
  2. Dead batteries: Some older remotes have batteries vs. charging stations. Check and replace the battery if it is not working properly.
  3. Needs a Reboot: Sometimes devices such as cable boxes and streaming media devices perform software updates when not in use. Occasionally the device may not restart cleanly.  The easiest way to clear this is to unplug it from the AC power outlet, count to 30 and plug it back in.  Give the unit time to become active, typically a minute or 2, and try to control it again.

FYI, If you have a universal remote such as a Logitech Harmony device they also use IR emitters.  These can be knocked out of place as described above.

“Back to School” and its IMPACT on YOUR Teleworking

If you struggled with your Internet back when schools were starting to go online in the Spring and you were also teleworking, it is going to get worse in another month or so, when the requirements to be online and in virtual classrooms increase for the new school year.

This is not a local issue. This is a national issue for all homeowners that are now going to need far more bandwidth than ever before. Don’t even think that living in Northern VA and having data centers in your backyard is going to provide you with plenty of bandwidth.

You can pay your internet provider to send you their maximum amount of bandwidth and still have problems due to it only getting “to” your home, and not necessarily “through” your home. You need to look at your home the way a commercial business looks at its workforce needs. A business’ IT department will make sure that every employee has the right tools to do their job, which includes computers and phones and topmost Internet without disruptions.

If you are going to have children on a computer, then later playing video games or streaming TV shows, while you are on your computer or having a virtual meeting, you are going to need to ensure that your “family” has the tools needed. These tools start with cabling and WiFi that will allow everyone to work and play at the same time.

Rule #1: If it can be hard-wired, get it wired. Hard wiring still provides a more constant connection than WiFi because you are literally tying directly into the internet providers service. WiFi is an RF (Radio Frequency) based transmission. RF transmissions are subject to interference from numerous things. Most interference is generated by things that are not in your control. Hardwiring devices eliminates this problem.

Rule #2: If you must use WiFi, figure out where you need it and assess the signal strength in that area.

Rule #3: Don’t look for a quick, cheap fix to improve your network. There are plenty of “hacks” on the Internet that can tell you how to improve your internet, but they have no idea what YOUR home is experiencing.

Also, keep in mind that your provider is also “busy” so the speed coming into your home is going to drop during busy times of the day.

Do an assessment now. Identify where your kids are going to do their homework and whether their laptop can be hardwired or if they are going to be using WiFi. Then you set up your teleworking station. Have everyone do a virtual call to a friend or family member at the same time, preferably during the day, during the week. Then, assess how it went. Did anyone’s screen lock up or stall? Take notes on what worked well and what didn’t work well. Then contact someone to provide a network design (preferably us) to optimize your home’s infrastructure.