Most people leave their router running continuously. Some choose to turn their WiFi (the Access Point on the router) off when they are not using the network. This serves the purpose of reducing radio signal emissions, preventing anyone from attempting to connect to your broadcast network name, and conserving energy.
The amount of electric power you could save by turning off your router, however, is not worth the trouble, and constantly powering off your modem-combined Access Point can affect your internet speed at an ISP level. Still, there are good reasons to turn off your home router at night — to limit internet use by children, for example — and I will go over the arguments for and against leaving your router on all the time vs turning it off when it’s not in use.
Here are some situations in which I’ve experimented with turning my router off:
- When going on vacation or away for an extended period;
- When feeling like I needed to physically limit Internet access so I’d get to bed on time (this was short-lived);
- Turning off all WiFi networks in the house at night to sleep;
- Simply to reboot the router after a week of heavy use downloading or streaming lots of data.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Turning Off Your Router
Turn Off Your Router When on Vacation or Extended Time Away
If you are going away, should you unplug your router while on vacation? This depends on whether you have a home NAS or several internet-connected devices that you access through your router while you are remotely located.
IoT: If you have a home security system that gives you live streams of the goings-on via your home network, then obviously you would choose to leave your network running while you’re away on vacation. “Smart home” devices themselves, on the other hand, are an entirely separate security issue.
I’ve found it easier just to leave the router and Access Points left on while I’m away for extended periods. As long as my network is secured with WPA2 security, I have few worries about someone hacking into my network, plus I can access my NAS from afar.
- In the past, I have turned off my home network when I wasn’t there. I liked knowing I had nothing consuming energy nor emitting an SSID into the air space to help google triangulate the whereabouts of everyone in the area.
- Now, I have a smart thermostat that I like to control from afar, so I leave my router on the entire time I’m away. Sometimes the power goes out — one time the power outage damaged my router, but it could have happened even if I had been home.
So, for extra peace of mind, you might want to disable the WiFi part of your network while you’re away or at night, unless you have other IoT devices connected to your network.
Use the Router’s Timer for Productivity and Better Sleep
- Schedule on and off time: Some brands of routers have software with a timer so you can schedule your router’s on and off schedule.
- Limit Internet Access: You might find this option useful if you have kids and want to limit their access to the Internet at certain hours.
- Constrain Work Hours: Some people, myself included, also like to limit their Internet time. While turning off the router does the trick, there are better ways to limit mindless Internet time and focus on productivity.
- For Health: some people feel better with the WiFi router unplugged at night, but cell phones are much more worrying. Consider turning your phones on Airplane mode and storing them in a Faraday bag away from your sleeping area at night.
On or Off For Router Longevity?
Home Router Energy Use / Cost to Run
If you are talking about only a router and not one with an integrated WiFi Access Point, then the router might fail earlier if you turn it off every night. Turning it off once in a while, however, may be beneficial.
- Routers use minimal electricity and by turning your router on and off too frequently, you can damage its internal power supply. Most power supplies have a capacitor that receives a large in-rush current when the unit is turned on; this places a physical stress on the capacitor, and is a likely cause of failure. Turning the router on and off could possibly shorten its life.
- Routers were made to run 24/7; turning the WiFi component on or off, if possible, will not pose a savings worth the effort, but will also not harm your device from a functional perspective.
- Statistically, turning a modem or router on and off daily is likely to reduce their life a bit.
Routers and Temperature / Overheating
Heat is the enemy of longevity in electronics.
Routers often come with built-in WiFi Access Points, and these can fail if they overheat. The WiFi (radio frequency) transistors are a likely failure point as their cooling is often inefficient, so the parts run hot. Manufacturers of consumer devices are under pressure to keep costs low, and sometimes manufacturers cut costs on cooling for the RF transistors. If you keep your air conditioning on during the day to prevent your router from heating to over 90 F, your router might last longer.
- Try to keep your electronics at a steady temperature, as heating and cooling of the RF transistors causes materials to expand and contract, which places mechanical stresses on the components and can shorten their useful life.
In general, electronic devices have amazing reliability and longevity; any difference you experience between leaving the router on and turning it off at night is not likely to have an observable impact on longevity or electricity cost.
- If your router overheats, try turning your router off, waiting a few minutes, and turning it back on. This brief break can allow it to cool down and work better.
Router Effect on Internet Speed
If your router undergoes heavy daily usage, a restart of your router at the end of each day will kill all connections. This in itself will lighten the traffic load in your network and free up router bandwidth and resources.
But disconnecting the modem and WiFi router every night and turning it back on in the morning can make the Internet laggy:
- A hidden issue of turning a modem and router on and off each day, is one of synchronization. If you have a DSL or ADSL broadband connection, your modem and the equipment at the telecommunications provider will learn what are the best parameters for your line; when you reboot, your connection is remade.
- When an ADSL connection is being established, the two ends of the link (normally at the telephone exchange and your modem) have to check out all the various radio frequencies across the ISP link to see which ones are viable. This line characterization can take many hours, and if it is interrupted or the link is down for a long time, then the characterization may be lost and have to be repeated. If the modem is being turned off regularly then it may not be running with the best parameters and as a result your connection may have worse performance.
- During this process, the speed can be erratic and there may be short breaks in service. If your ISP uses an ADSL connection, and powering off your router drops the actual broadband link to the ISP, then it might cause speed issues.
Reboot Your Router Every Week or Month
Instead of turning off your router every night, reboot your router once a month, or after heavy data streaming. Unplug the router for a few minutes and then plug it back it, OR restart the router by logging into its admin panel.
- Rebooting a router will reset the EPROMs (erasable programmable read-only memory) and force any updates if done dynamically.
Summary of Arguments for Leaving Router On All Night
- Depending on what type of internet technology you are using, switching off the modem/router can be unwise.
- Most ISPs have equipment that monitors the lines for faults, and switching off modems can show up as a fault; worse, some monitoring equipment can reset the line stats if the line is “dead” for more than 30–40 minutes, so it will keep trying to retrain the line settings.
- One friend went away for a month and because she had unplugged her router and modem, the ISP company cancelled her service without notifying her.
- Mine stays on 24/7. It doesn’t damage anything if you turn it off, but might increase the probability of a power supply failure.
- An occasional reboot is good for a home WiFi router. Just keep a good password on it and other security measures. You don’t want to broadcast an open WiFi network as you are responsible for what goes through it, and also having more devices connected to your network will slow down your connection.
- You might have “smart home” devices that rely on their WiFi connectivity: your smart doorbell, smart security cameras, smart lights, smart hub, Alexa or Google Home (surveillance tech), Xbox, etc., in which case it makes sense to leave your WiFi router on all the time. It might be necessary to ask Alexa or Google Home in the middle of the night some important question.
- Re: possible damage: unless there’s a wiring fault, or the unit is faulty, or you placed the router in direct sunlight or hidden it in a suffocating cabinet, the router won’t overheat to cause fire damage. Mine barely even gets warm. It doesn’t even emit much EMF either. EMF can cause some effects, and some people are more susceptible to it than others. Keep in mind that energy-saving LED lightbulbs give off far more EMF than regular bulbs.
Leaving Router On, But Shutting Down Technology At Night
So, do you turn off your WiFi when you go to bed at night?
I do not turn off my WiFi at night, but I do make sure the network signal is just strong enough to cover my work space, and I shut down all technology one or two hours before bedtime.
Shutting down your WiFi via your router scheduling firmware is ideal if you don’t have any wireless devices dependent on a connection to function (like a smart thermostat or other appliances).
Blue light emitted from screens can postpone or interfere with the natural production of melatonin (a chemical which helps to regulate your body and helps you fall asleep). This happens because light confuses your natural body rhythm and you are not able to fall asleep longer, which usually leads to even more mobile phone usage, amiright?
Despite many studies about WiFi affecting sleep and the human body, there is no clear evidence beyond the anecdotal variety about WiFi being bad for your sleep quality. One study shows that mobile phone exposure is bad for the quality of sleep in children, however, children who were exposed only to WiFi didn’t have problems. This further proves that we shouldn’t use phones or computers because of the screen light. (See: Environmental Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields Exposure at Home, Mobile and Cordless Phone Use, and Sleep Problems in 7-Year-Old Children.)
If you want to be on the safe side until we see more transparency in research about EMF and its effects on the human being, why not put your router outside of your bedroom and leave your technology out, too?
If you want to, this is how to schedule your router to turn off at night or when away on vacation.