You want a baby monitor that has good range and little interference. Unfortunately, monitors are notorious for bad interference. Interestingly, range, interference, and even clarity are all linked to each other. And ironically, when you find a monitor that has good range, often that same monitor will be devastated by terrible interference, either from another monitor or any electronic device that you may have in your home that is on the same frequency. And any electronic device that’s in your neighbor’s home as well, because that extensive range could end up in their living room. Clarity is also impacted by range, as it deteriorates at greater distances.
Let’s talk a little bit more about these three factors: range, clarity, and interference, so as to help you make a better choice when purchasing a baby monitor.
Baby Monitor Range
It’s fairly typical for a manufacturer to state the range of their monitor, either in their marketing literature or directly on the packaging. However, some manufacturers don’t give you all of the necessary information. What they may provide you with is simply something called the “open field” range. This number or range is based on there being no obstructions between the transmitter unit in the baby’s nursery and the parental unit. And by obstructions, we mean things like floors, walls, and furniture — things that all of our houses or apartments have. So that number of 800 feet, or 1000 feet or whatever it is, is basically false because they are only talking about a straight, unobstructed line.
While still not perfect, what you want to look for is a monitor that states not only the “open field” number, but also the more realistic range where walls and floors are factored in. Having said that, even that number should be taken with a grain of salt. Every home is unique, with different walls, different wiring, and a host of other things that could be an impediment to a clear signal. So be prepared to do some testing when you bring a baby monitor home.
When we’re talking about clarity in reference to a baby monitor, we’re talking about how clear the sound is that comes from the unit in the baby’s room. And if it is an audio/video monitor, clarity will also refer to the quality of the video image as well.
While it’s not necessary to hear every sound that comes from your baby’s room in crystal, clear clarity, you still want to be able to hear it clearly. But you want that clarity without any background static or hiss. Or at least not very much of it. Because an excess of amount of static, or any other background noise will a) drive you crazy, and/or b) keep you awake all night.
As with the issue of range, be prepared to do some testing when it comes to clarity as well. And if you have an audio/video monitor, don’t forget to make sure of the quality of video images. You want to conduct these tests in both the daytime and night time. One test you can perform with the video monitor is to make sure that when the camera is well placed, the video feed is clear enough for you to be able to see if the baby’s eyes are opened or closed — and again you want to do this in both day and night time conditions. Clearly, if the video feed is so unclear that you can barely see the baby’s face, let alone its eyes, the monitor was not a good choice.
Baby Monitors and Interference
Picking up interference from a baby monitor is frighteningly common. But there are two separate kinds of interference that you need to be aware of. The first is due to the distance through which the signal has to travel, and how many walls it has to travel through as well. The longer the distance and the more walls, the more the signal will degrade. And while this is happening, much more background noise becomes apparent. Typically, the cheaper the baby monitor the worse this problem is — to the point where there is so much interference, it pretty much makes the monitor useless.
The other type of interference, and likely the most often talked about kind of interference, is from other devices that are running on the same radio frequency, often 2.4 GHz. This might be a cordless phone, another monitor of some sort, or any device in your home or your neighbor’s home. This often isn’t an issue with the higher end baby monitors and in some cases that is simply because the manufacturers have chosen to use a less common radio frequency, like the 1.9 GHz channel. Others just have the built-in ability to switch channels until you find one that’s clear.
Because there are so many variables when it comes to whether or not the baby monitor will work as advertised in your home, we do have some recommendations.
- Try to shop in a store that has a generous return policy
- Keep your receipt.
- When unpacking your new monitor do so carefully, in case you need to repackage it and return it
- Test it as soon as you get home, making sure to run your tests in both day and night time
- Be sure to test the receivers, or parental units, in every room in your home where you foresee using it
- While testing, the sure to turn on any devices that you have, including cordless phones, Wi-Fi networks, and any other devices that you would commonly use
- If your neighbors have an infant or young children as well, check to see if you get interference from their monitor (the best time to do this is that night, when they would likely be using their baby monitor as well)
- If you find that any of the above issues: range, clarity, or interference is a problem, return the monitor. It’s not something you can fix. You simply need a different monitor.