December 11, 2012
| by Lisa Montgomery
Living close to the shores of Lake Michigan is a beautiful thing … except for the terrible cell phone reception. Nearly everyone in my neck of the woods is plagued by it. Tired of taking my calls outside where I could sometimes find a good signal, I invested in an inexpensive cell phone booster. Although the reception wasn’t super strong, at least I no longer had to wear a coat and gloves to chat on the phone in the wintertime.
I found out a few days ago that it’s not only people on the western-facing side of the lake where I live that suffer, but also folks on the eastern-facing (Chicago) side of the water. In fact, it was such a huge problem for the owners of a newly remodeled home north of Chicago that they hired a custom electronics (CE) professional to install a solution that would ensure a healthy signal throughout their 13,000-square-foot home. Explains John Goldenne of Digital Home Technologies, Palatine, Ill.: “The owners had tried solution recommended by other contractors, and nothing worked. I wasn’t going to stop until I found something that would.”
Through testing, Goldenne discovered that signals in this residence weren’t just weak, but in many spots completely non-existent. “A measurement of -105 dB signifies no signal, and we were getting readings of -116.” This home would need an entire network of boosters and antennas, so while the house was being remodeled Goldenne and his crew ran cabling and installed multiple boosters, antennas and surge protectors from Wilson Electronics (The cabling would also support a Elan g! home automation system, surveillance cameras and other technologies.) “We sent Wilson a floorplan, the signal strength readings in different areas, and they suggested materials and where to locate the equipment.
The worst place for cell reception happened to be in the kitchen, so an antenna was placed in the crawlspace beneath it. “Instantly the reception went from -108 dB to –69,” says Goldenne. “This $900 investment in equipment was the proof we needed to outfit the entire house. We ended up with one outdoor antenna, five interior antennas and seven boosters.” The total cost of parts for this project was about $3,195—a price the homeowners were happy to pay to be able to finally use their cell phones.
This is one of several antennas that were installed strategically throughout the house. This one was hidden inside a cabinet in the rec room.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.