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Clarifying the Confusion Over Turning Off WiFi vs Broadband at Night

Saturday, Oct 8th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 16,688
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Over the past week we’ve seen a feeding frenzy of UK news reports (here, here, here, here and here) that warn consumers against “turning off Wi-Fi at night” to save electricity, which is usually followed by claims that doing so could hamper the speed and stability of your broadband ISP connection. But this is not entirely accurate.

The aspect that all of these reports get wrong is that they confuse WiFi with the broadband connection from your ISP. The WiFi side of all this only relates to your local home network (i.e. Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN) and has no physical bearing on your broadband line.

NOTE: At present you’ll pay around 34p per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity (i.e. using a device for 1 hour that continuously sucks 1000 Watts costs 34p).

In fact, almost all routers will usually enable you to safely turn off Wi-Fi in the settings, without needing to disable or disrupt your broadband connection. But since the WiFi processor (chip) itself only gobbles a tiny amount of electricity (anything from a few hundred milliwatts to 1-3 Watts – depending upon network activity), then doing this isn’t really worth the effort.

Admittedly, switching off WiFi can cause some entirely predictable localised connectivity issues within the home, such as with “smart” devices and systems that need to communicate their data with other kit on your network or online servers (e.g. video doorbells, alarms, home battery/solar systems). But such devices are designed to cope with WiFi outages and this still won’t cause the broadband line itself to become slower or more unstable.

However, it is true to say that switching off the whole of your router at night (these gobble around 6 – 20 Watts of power) might potentially cause problems on some lines. Consumers with modern full fibre connections don’t need to worry about this, but frequently switching-off the router on a copper based broadband line (i.e. ADSL, FTTC / VDSL2 or G.fast) could cause the Dynamic Line Management (DLM) system to assume your connection is unstable and drop the speed to compensate.

As a side note, a lot of network operators tend to automatically push firmware (software) updates down to their broadband routers in homes during the early hours of the morning. Completely turning off the router during this period would disrupt that and might cause you to miss vital security or feature additions.

Such confusion has most likely arisen in the media because consumers have, over many years, been almost conditioned to think that the wireless (WiFi) signal from their router is the same as their broadband connection, when they are in fact two very different physical networks and technologies that can be interconnected. Little wonder that so many people end up wrongfully blaming faults with their WiFi / local network on their ISP, often even when the router is a third-party model, and thus describing them as “broadband problems“.

In short, you can safely switch-off the WiFi feature on your router without harming your broadband line. But the power saving from doing this is miniscule, and it’s probably best avoided if you have any essential smart devices that depend upon it.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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29 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    I expect frequently power cycling the router will shorten its life as well. When left indefinitely on equipment can last a lot longer, usually on computers its Windows complaining which necessitates a restart.

  2. Avatar photo Jerry says:

    If it’s come to this, “to save electricity” then people really have some huge problems in their lives?

    Switching off mobile phone chargers when not being used would save people more all-round.

    It would be much more cost effective and efficient to change to LED light bulbs than mess with your router like this.

    Boiling only the water you need or investing in timers for your lights would save money. WiFi-App plug timers are £8 each and can adjust daily to sunrise/sunset so they save money all year round without ever needing ANY further seasonal adjustments after initial setup. They pay for themselves.

    Lowering your internet speed and/or tv package(s) will shed what you literally do not use/watch and might save £30.00 a month instead of 3p a month.

    People could turn the fridge down, turn thermostat down, turn boiler water temp down, have showers instead of bath, so much efficiency to be had WITHOUT turning the Internet off.

    One of my very unfit pub friends has joined 24x7x365 PUREGYM and ONLY has showers there because it’s significantly cheaper than having hot water at home.

    Sad times, brought to you by our thoroughly incompetent government and greedy corporations.

    Good article thanks.

    1. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

      I agree. I live in a Motorhome full time and I use the Gym for showers and often in winter to sit in and have a coffee.. I save a load anyway and work from my MH but still – every little helps.

      It’s not as sad as having “warm banks” to me that’s even worse..

    2. Avatar photo Chris W says:

      “Switching off mobile phone chargers when not being used would save people more all-round.”

      No it won’t, I’ve yet to encounter a phone charger that uses any measurable (on a plug-in energy monitor) amount of energy when it’s not charging. This common misconception is probably why people are turning routers and things off at night.

    3. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      > No it won’t, I’ve yet to encounter a phone charger that uses any measurable (on a plug-in energy monitor) amount of energy when it’s not charging.

      Here here.

      But the comment about switching to LED lighting is definitely true.

    4. Avatar photo Eth0 Says No says:

      Agreed, well said.
      Exactly regards comment on government..
      Shameful, indeed

  3. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Dynamic Line Management (DLM) system to assume your connection is unstable and drop the speed to compensate will not happen if turn off router every nights. Should be fine as long it turn off more than 30 minutes once every 24 hours.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Once a day might be ok, but it does mean that if you need to reboot the router for other reasons, then you’re already at the point of showing more disconnections than normal and thus have a higher chance of being impacted.

  4. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Only really an issue in summer for homes heated by off-peak electricity. Leaving devices switched on simply reduces the power consumed by storage heaters.

    Roll on a warmer climate!

    1. Avatar photo MilesT says:

      Most of the power consumption of “always on” devices turns into heat (maybe a bit into light if the TV is actually fully on. and other radiations e.g. WiFi).

      Yes, wattage used for electric heating (even if only incidental) is more expensive than non-electric heating (especially at day rates), but that’s a even smaller impact on a small impact, although some of that heating is at a time of the day when it is not wanted and is wasted.

      Agree with many of the other comments that there are bigger items to consider.

      Bigger items to consider not otherwise mentioned
      * The poor heat retention capabilities of many UK homes, even newer ones, which wastes “accidental” heating as well as intentional
      * Updating to more efficient appliances (boilers, including change to a combi and ditching hot water tank, storage rads, fridge freezers, washing machines/dish washers)
      * power showers and showers fed off of hot water tanks vs. electric showers, electric hot water taps, and showers fed from a combi boiler

      Sadly fixing all of these also needs money.

      And my tip for something to make more of a difference than turning the router off is optimising the dish washing. Scrape thoroughly, wipe off even more with waste paper (free newspapers, junk mail), cold wash, then minimal boiling water for a hot rinse; with a little milton in the rinse water to be sure (with a cold rinse after if you use milton). Air dry as much as possible rather than washing tea towels (save these for glassware and get a dedicated glassware linen towel)

      If you are washing up for a larger family or a big group (needing more than one water change) then use the 4-5 bowl system (not coming up as a top internet search so here’s a description:scrape, cool/cold rinse with part used water, warm wash with part used water, hot wash with fresher water, hot rinse with milton, further very hot rinse without milton, air dry. As the first bowl gets too dirty then discard that one, refill with clean very hot to become the last bowl and move the rest down the line). This can be done with fewer bowls and more “staging” of dishes in-between stages although that’s not quick.

  5. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Turning off Wi-Fi may mean using more electricity! If a person has various smart devices connected to Wi-Fi that then lose their connection, those devices will be frantically searching for a signal. This often means they are more active using more power, and in some cases smart devices go into an Access point mode in order to allow a phone and app to connect to them to allow configuration of a new Wi-Fi network. Devices searching for a signal or in access point mode will have ramped CPUs and will fail to go into lower power states.

    The most power savings will come from turning of devices connected to Wi-Fi, rather than Wi-Fi itself.

    1. Avatar photo plunet says:

      Those smart devices that go into AP mode when they loose their WiFi would effectively be susceptible to attack and misconfiguration by miscreants.

    2. Avatar photo Phil says:

      Exactly, tell Google, although they set themselves to only accept a strong Wi-Fi signal so you do need to be physically close to get a successful connection to go on and do anything.

  6. Avatar photo Join says:

    They keyword in this article is “MIGHT” cause issues if turned off nightly. I have to disagree with this general consensus because I have been turning off my router nightly when ADSL first came out, for years, across different providers, with ZERO drop in speed and latency. The threshold for DLM is not that strict. I’m speaking from experience, not hear say.

  7. Avatar photo Steve Brown says:

    As a low electricity user my biggest issue is the rip-off standing charge at £15 per month. It wasn’t too long ago I was on a zero standing charge tariff where I paid a premium on my unit rate. This option was far more preferable for my setup than the current options. For me I really can’t reduce consumption any more than I have.

    1. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

      Yes – now it’s 50p a day and 33p a Kwh. I am glad I have a solar panel – Lifep04 battery and my mac mini/monitor combo uses 33W.

  8. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    Someone please correct my lack of knowledge. But why do ISPs need to have DLM? Just provide the maximum speed for their line and if they get micro drop outs so what? This is the exact reason why we have buffering. In the first stages of signing up to a new ISP your line is perfect. Its super fast and you get no dropouts no hiccups. Then DLM kicks in about a week later and your speed drops considerably due to seeing “errors” on your line when everything was fine and I would rather have that extra speed with some errors.

    1. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

      It is DLM that works out line speed and stuff from what i gather – hence the 10 days training period when it was ADSL/FTTC although I know FTTC is much better

    2. Avatar photo XGS Is On says:

      DLM reduces fault rate and, hence, cost to provide services. Stability is more important than a little extra speed to most.

      DLM pushes many lines harder than the standard uncapped 6 dB margin does.

  9. Avatar photo Liam says:

    The way people confuse WiFi and broadband is an everyday frustration when you work for an ISP. Customers constantly complain if they get slow WiFi at places in their home. If they pay for 1gig broadband they seem to expect to see 1gig on WiFi on their iPhone on a speed test run in their shed at the end of the garden.

    Quite what they are needing to do on a phone that would need anywhere near those kind of speeds is a whole other story!

    1. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

      Maybe all ISP routers shod have a small LCD screen with current line speed and health reported in constantly scrolling text rather than a bunch of bon descript LEDs. This would help show the line to the house is good/bad and remove from the WiFi part.

    2. Avatar photo Humphrey says:

      For me it’s good when you have been out with the Family and have a load of videos/pics to back up to Google and places.. Makes a world of difference.

    3. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @Just a thought, a line of LEDs are fine, but a lot of providers these days are giving out routers with one light, that changes colour, I noticed that with my brother’s BT router, a big round thing stuck in the middle, also my plusnet hub 2 have one light, but it does have a Wi-Fi light under it.
      A text display would be nice, I agree, but I still prefer a row of LED lights.

    4. Avatar photo slurmsmckenzie says:

      “The way people confuse WiFi and broadband is an everyday frustration when you work for an ISP” – funny you should say that… no reflection on you and I completely agree, but it reminds me of the exact opposite when I recently spoke to an “expert” from Virgin Media about how my mother’s VM router wasn’t connecting to their network.

      I explained that I was connected to the router via the web interface and could see the system log had some errors when attempting the WAN connection, telling him what the exact error codes were… his response?
      “So wifi isn’t working at all then?”
      “Erm, yes, wifi is working as that is how I’m connected to the router to allow me to access the GUI and see the WAN connection errors that I told you about…”
      “But you can’t access the internet, no?”
      “Erm, well, no, because of the WAN errors like I said”
      “Right, so you can’t access the internet and so wifi isn’t working at all, we’ll need to send an engineer round to replace the router”

      I mean, the router was the problem and everything worked once they replaced it, but I couldn’t get over how their “expert” wasn’t able to differentiate between “wifi” and a WAN connection. I feel like I can excuse punters more than “experts” employed by an ISP for making that mistake!

  10. Avatar photo Icaras says:

    What a pointless article. Most people don’t know the difference between wifi and broadband, nor do they care. Most people refer to broadband as “the wifi”, and you won’t change that behaviour after all these years.

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Then they need to learn, this is where problems happen when things go wrong.

    2. Avatar photo ZN28UK says:

      So your solution to people not knowing is to not educate them on that?
      Yeah. I can see how that’ll work.

    3. Avatar photo Damian says:

      I tried educating someone on the local village Facebook page about the difference between broadband and WiFi.

      It was the biggest waste of my time ever.

    4. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @Damian, no good doing it on Facebook, you need to show them, like I did with someone a few months ago, i even turned the Wi-Fi off on their router and then connected their laptop to the router using a cable, they got it eventually.

Comments are closed

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