Powerline Adapters | All You Need To Know

March 24, 2019
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Powerline Connections – All You Need To Know

 

If you want to send a reliable internet signal around your home and do not want the both of having to run new data cables, Powerline networking may be the way to go. With Powerline Adapters you can send a fast internet connection from one room of your property to another where you WIFI may not reach with no need for extra Ethernet cabling. In this blog I talk about how Powerline connectors work with tips and advice for getting the best performance out of them.

 

How Do Powerline Adapaters Work?

I’m sure that if I gave you three guesses you would get it, due to the name being a bit of a giveaway. Powerline technology works by sending an internet or data signal down existing mains cabling. It requires at least two adapters to work. One is installed near your router or broadband hub and connected to the Ethernet ports using a Ethernet cable. This then plugs into a mains point. A second Powerline adapter is then installed in a second room where you require the internet connection and plugged into a mains point. From here you can connect a second Ethernet cable which can plug into whatever device you need it connected to. This could be a PC or it could be a Smart TV which may or may not being WIFI compatible. Powerline connections are very commonly installed for BT Vision & TalkTalk TV boxes which are not WIFI compatible as this removes the need to plug in a long data cable.

 

Powerline (Home Plug) Connectors Must Be Fitted On The Same Electrical Circuit

For Powerline Adapters to work it is essential that these are installed onto the same electrical circuit to each other, if they are not they will not connect to each other. It is becoming more and more common with today's electrical demands that multiple circuits are fitted in a single property. It is not uncommon on relatively small houses to have an upstairs ring main and a downstairs ring main. On large properties there may be even more. In situations Powerline adapter may still be of some use to you. You could use them to provide a connection between the front and the back of the house and if you only needed to get a connection to the room above you could install a wireless access point or install a new Ethernet cable between the rooms.

 

How Many Powerline Adapters Do Can I Have?

If you have several rooms where you want a quick and easy internet connection to, you can use more Powerline connections. It’s important that when fitting additional Powerline adapters that these are from the same manufacturer and using the same modulation as you could get connectivity issues if they are not or they may not work altogether. Again these must be on the same electrical circuit to one and another. It depends on the type that you’re installing but you may need to pair these together when using more than two or they may just be ready to work out of the box.

 

Can I Use Powerline Connections To Boost My WIFI?

Yes you can use Powerline networking to improve your WIFI performance & coverage. Technically speaking this won’t be boosting your WIFI but you can use Powerline connections to provide WIFI coverage to rooms in your house that are struggling with a connection. Many Powerline adapter kits on the market are WIFI compatible meaning that once you have them plugged in you will be able to connect your wireless devices like Smart phones and tablets to them. I recently used these to connect a customers Now TV Stick to the internet as their existing WIFI couldn’t reach where the TV was and it wasn’t possible to connect a Ethernet cable to it.

 

When you buy WIFI Home Plug adapters these will provide you with different WIFI login details to your broadband router, so a different SSID and password. These are usually found on a sticker on the Powerline adapter itself. These can be changed to something memorable by logging into the device once it is connected to your local area network (LAN). You will need a computer to do this and a little bit of technical knowledge, there are usually instructions included in the manufacturer literature but these may be confusing if you have never done anything like this before. You could change the Powerline WIFI to the same as your broadband router but I advise giving it a separate name as it could be confusing and your devices may get confused switching from one to the other. Again you could use more than one Powerline WIFI adapter to improve wireless internet performance in more than one room of your house.

 

You could also instead of using WIFI compatible Powerline adapters,just use normal ones and then connect a separate WIFI access point to improve your WIFI system. I have in the past recommended the Ubiquiti Unifi range so you may want to use Powerline technology as the backbone of the system so that you don’t have to run cables all other the place. I do recommend however using dedicated Ethernet data cables instead of Powerline connectors to best performance.

 

How Fast Are Powerline Adapters?

There are a few things which affect the internet/ data speed and rate that the Powerline adapters can achieve. These are the type of model that you have installed, some work much faster than others and the connection between the Powerline adapters in your home. The earliest models on the market and the original Home plug 1.0 standard (IEE 1901) could only achieve a connection of 14 Mbps. Whilst this isn’t unsuitable if you wanted to stream high definition video content from the internet you would most likely struggle as in practice these would only typically connect at around 5 Mbps. Over the years this has improved to 85 Mbps, then to 200 Mbps. At this stage Home Plug AV was brought in as it was suggested that these were more than capable of providing a reliable connection for streaming video & audio. This has continued to improve to 600 Mbps like used for the TP-Link AV600 range and some of the most recent models are compatible with Gigabit Ethernet and beyond. The fastest advertised speed connection I have seen is 1200 Mbps which is very fast indeed. Of course this is only an advertised speed, the actual speed will be a fraction of this as you’re are limited by how fast your internet is, how many people are using it and how reliable the connection is between Powerline adapters.

 

The other thing that will effect the performance is the length and condition of the mains electrical cabling that is being used to send the data signals down. If this is a very long length or if it is in poor condition you should expect a slower connection, which could cause buffering or slow loading times when trying to stream audio and video. It’s also important to know that although your electrical cabling is capable of providing a fast internet connection via Powerline technology, that it itself is not a good carrier or digital information as electrical cabling has not been installed with this in mind. The electrical cables are designed to carry low frequency low power electrical signals and not high frequency data digital signals. Also the cabling has no screen on it so electrical cable when used for applications such as this is prone to picking up interference which could impair and impede your Powerline signals.

 

Can I Get Powerline Adapters & Not lose The Mains Electrical Point?

The answer to this in yes. Whilst it is not a very good idea to plug your Home Plug adapters into an electrical extension cable or electrical strip which allows multiple items to plug into a single mains point.You can get Powerline adapters that have a single 13 amp socket on top them.This means that you can plug your Powerline connection into the mains point and then plug something else on top of this.

 

There are continually more and more Powerline networking and Homeplug technology products on the market. There are even Powerline compatible mains sockets which can be fitted instead of traditional electrical sockets which can provide you a direct Powerline connection. No need for plug in adapters. These are perfect for when you do not want things sticking out of your electrical sockets or for when space is very tight. For example behind a wall mounted TV.

 

Powerline Technology Installlation Tips

I have provided some tips and advice for successful Powerline deployment in your own property. If you follow these you should receive a fast, reliable Ethernet connection over your mains electrical cables.

 

Powerline Best Practices:

- Always Install Powerline adapter kits on the same electrical circuit

- Avoid plugging Powerline plugs into trailing electrical sockets, plug them direct into the mains socket.

- Get a good quality pair of adapters with a fast connection speed. Ideally above 600 Mbps.

- Only use Powerline adapters over short lengths & cable distances.

 

Also most good quality Powerline kits will provide you with a connection status. This is usually an LED indicator on the Powerline itself.

 

Powerline Adapter With Network Switch

If you need or want to connect multiple pieces of equipment to a Powerline connector which isn’t uncommon with all the Smart TV’s, set top boxes, games consoles etc with all perform best with a wired connection. There are a few ways that this can be done but by the easiest way of doing this would be to purchase a Powerline adapter that has multiple Ethernet connections. You can then physically connect multiple devices into the Powerline adapter.

 

Another option would just be to come out of the Powerline connector and into a traditional network switch. Obviously you would need separate pieces of equipment to be do it this way but this would perhaps be the better choice if you had more than 4 pieces of equipment that you wanted to connect to a single Powerline as most do not have this many input/ outputs.

 

Best Powerline Adapter Kit

I have tried and tested many different makes and models and I have to say that in my opinion the best quality are the TP-Link models in terms of performance and cost. Of all I recommend the TP-Link AV1000 model the most. I’m not going to go into great detail here as I intend to put multiple different kits on test and create a new blog post with the results. For now I’m hoping that my personal recommendation will suffice.

Powerline Networking Questions

If you have any question arising from this blog or any Powerline related networking questions. Please post them in the blog comment section below. Please, please, please do not ring our telephone lines. These are reserved for customers only and there is no one who will be able to answer your questions. Please also do not post your questions via e-mail or on our website contact forms as you will either not receive a response or the response you receive will ask you to post your question in the blog comment section of the blog. I appreciate your patience when you do post your question as I personally answer all of these individually and I don't always have the time to get back quickly. By posting the question in the blog comment section also everyone reading the comment will get the benefit of the question asked and the answer given.

Until next time,

Tom

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