WiFi upgrade for ESP8266

Is there any way to replace/upgrade the ESP8266 (ESP-12S) WiFi board to provide increased range and the ability of attaching an external antenna.

Also, is there any way to install a LAN ethernet port to provide better performance?

I have 3 IoTaWatt units and have them integrated in Home Assistant and would like more reliability.


No, the ESP8266 isn’t just the WiFi, it’s the whole shebang.

There is no way to use ethernet, and even if an external antenna were possible, that would involve a whole new round of FCC certification$.

For the money that would be involved in upgrading if your wishlist were possible, you could easily improve the WiFi. It’s technology that exists and it would provide other benefits in household connectivity.

Many times it’s not the signal strength that causes the problems, but congestion on the frequency being used. You may not be the only one using the channel. Ethernet would be great, but it’s just not available. If your RSSI is below 70, try using other channels. If its above 70, you need to improve the signal.

It is possible to hack the esp8266 module to add an external antenna (https://www.instructables.com/External-Antenna-for-ESP8266/ or https://community.openhab.org/t/esp8266-antenna-mod-extend-wifi-range/78982/9). You could also swap the nodeMCU for an ESP8266 with an external antenna port (nothing I found online is pin-compatible so you’d need to make an adapter board or jumper connections and reflash the firmware). Any mods would invalidate the FCC certification.

Like overeasy said, your time/money is better spent improving WiFi coverage. Lots of options for WiFi extenders in the $40 and less range (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=wifi+extender)

I have this router:

I can communicate just fine with my 2 IotaWatts about 100 feet through 2 walls and circuit breaker panel door (have them stuffed inside panel). One of the walls is an exterior wall into garage so it’s got foam insulation as well.

Thanks for all the help and suggestions. Most of the time, the IoTaWatts work fine. However, one or more loses the connection and either I have to reboot or wait until it decides to reconnect. I realize that for the manufacturer to improve on the unit would require a lot of headaches from the FCC certification, not to mention the money involved in the hardware upgrade.

That being said, I really don’t understand why I have problems because I have a Asus GT-AX11000 router with about 65 clients and most are ethernet. The IoTaWatts are about 50 feet away and the signal RSSI is in the -70 to -80 range.

I never had any luck with range extenders in the past, but it seems like the only option to improve the signal. Thanks again to all for your help!!

The usable threshold for WiFi is around -80 dBm so it’s not surprising that OP is having trouble staying connected. It’s also not too surprising that some people are having this problem.

I expect that in most parts of the US the main breaker box is installed somewhere in the interior of the house. But here in Texas, it is very common for it to be on an exterior wall. Exterior walls are commonly built with a radiant barrier which makes a pretty effective RF shield. My IotaWatt is installed in a PVC box next to my main breaker box. I have a wireless access point inside the house, no more than 15’ from the IotaWatt. The signal strength is unusable. My temporary solution was to install a dedicated AP on the interior wall directly opposite the IotaWatt on the outside, no more than 18" apart. This works but the RSSI is only around -60 dBm. I will eventually move that AP outside, inside the PVC box. But I have to wire ethernet to the outside box to make that work.

I can’t say what OP’s specific problem is without more details, but it’s pretty clear that he has a high RF loss path between his wireless router and the IotaWatt. I provided some detail of my situation as an example of how this can be a significant problem.

WiFi range extenders have a pretty poor reputation. The big issue is that they necessarily cut bandwidth in half, so people find the performance poor. It may work OK for a low bandwidth device like the IotaWatt though. So that may be worth a try. A better solution would be to install an access point as close to the IotaWatt as is possible, but that will require installation of ethernet cabling.

Folks may think I don’t have these problems - well I don’t anymore, but I’ve paid my dues. My house has three levels with the basement, and quite a few interior walls. I’ve been through several of the arachnoid “gamer” routers with little satisfaction. Tried adding range extenders, tried mesh, tried extra APs with same and different SSIDs. Nothing really worked that well.

Then I ditched the consumer stuff and went with Ubiquiti. I started with a USG router. It has all of the features to do everything I wanted, and doesn’t have any WiFi. So now the WiFi is separate from the router. All of my wired stuff goes through a gigabit switch to the USG.

Then I added a UAP-AC-LR access point. I installed it in the first floor ceiling using a POE injector so it was easy to wire up. The Unifi software maps it all out nicely and gives me a lot of insight into what’s going on.

I can add additional APs as I please to extent the network. I have an off-brand AP in an outbuilding that works fine, but I intend to replace with a Ubiquiti unit that is currently out of stock. They also have weatherproof APs for outdoor use, and you can connect long range links to go to buildings that ordinarily would be unthinkable with consumer gear.

If you live in a small appartment, maybe the cable company router with WiFi is fine, but in today’s environment everything is connecting to the WiFi. For about the same money as the fancy “gamer” routers, you can convert to a robust infrastructure that is fast and expandable - for much less money than say an i-phone.

I don’t miss the hassles, digital noise on the TV, or dropped sessions in remote parts of the house.

@overeasy I think you are absolutely right. I have a ASUS GT-AX11000 router and this consumer stuff is not at all reliable. Last year I talked my brother into getting a Ubiquity system and he installed it and almost all of his WiFi and network problems were resolved. I have an extensive network and I know I have to take the jump to Ubiquity and will soon. I just want to let everyone know that @overeasy’s suggestion is words to the wise.