Powerline adapters can extend an internet network from a wireless router to any room – without laying new cables. Wireless routers provide internet access to wireless devices (e.g. laptops) but wireless networks are unreliable if the signal is broken up by house walls or the wireless networks of neighbors.
If a wireless signal does not reach (or is very weak in) certain rooms of your house, internet access there may be impossible or interrupted as the wireless signal keeps dropping. Likewise, there may be rooms in the house you cannot reach with ethernet cable or wireless, and you do not want to rip up floorboards or walls to lay a new ethernet cable.
Powerline adapters are a better solution – they are also called Homeplug adapters. These can extend an internet network from a wireless (or wired) router through the existing mains electrical wiring of your house to whichever room you want.
So instead of using wireless signals to transmit data, Powerline adapters use the mains electric power cables in your home. But don’t worry, there is no electrical work required – Powerline adapters are truly plug and play.
How To Use Powerline or Homeplug Adapters – You need at least 2 adapters to extend your existing internet to a new location so, when buying, do make sure you are buying 2 adapters, not just one. Adapters are often sold in ‘starting kits’ that contain 2 adapters.
Plug one adapter into a power socket near your router and connect it to the router via the supplied ethernet cable. Now plug the second adapter into a power socket in the room you want to extend internet access to and connect the adapter to your computer via the supplied ethernet cable.
That’s it! The internet signal is passed through the electric power lines transparently – just as if you plugged your computer directly into the router via an ethernet cable.
What About Wireless Access? You can also use Powerline to feed Wi-Fi around the house – if you don’t want to use ethernet cable to connect to the second adapter (perhaps you have a laptop and would like to move it around the room or want to create a new wireless network on a different floor in your house) there are 2 ways of using Powerline adapters to create a wireless network:
- When buying the Powerline adapters, buy 1 standard adapter and 1 wireless N access point/extender adapter. The access point adapter is like a standard one but has integrated wireless networking capability. Follow the instructions supplied with the Powerline access point to create your new wireless network.
- Or, use a cheap cable wireless N router. Just connect the second Powerline adapter via the supplied ethernet cable to the cable wireless router, then set up the cable wireless router to provide a new wireless network – you will be using the Powerline adapter instead of a cable modem to provide internet into the cable wireless router – see our article on setting up a cable wireless router.
What Speed Of Data Transfer To Expect? Powerline adapters usually come in several different speeds: the older 85Mbps or the newer 200Mbps. We do not recommend 85Mbps as it is too slow, out of date and barely cheaper than the 200Mbps.
500Mbps adapters are just starting to become available but are unnecessary unless you have a Gigabit (1000Mbps) network – they are also more expensive. We believe that 200Mbps adapters should be fine for internet use, sharing documents or streaming HD video. For comparison: a typical wireless G network will be 54Mbps and a wireless N network will be 150 to 300Mbps so Powerline adapters compare well on speed.
Can You Use More Than 2 Adapters? Yes. You need at least 2 (1 connected to your router and 1 at the other end) to provide a network and of course you can just move the second adapter to another socket if you want to transfer internet access into a different room. But if you want to add another socket/room you can buy more adapters to extend network coverage to more sockets/rooms.
E.g. if you bought 4 adapters in total you could supply 3 sockets/rooms with internet access instead of just 1.
Tip: buy the same make/model of adapters to ensure full compatibility – adapters of different speed/makes may not ‘talk’ to each other properly.
Practical Issues - Manufacturers recommend that adapters are plugged directly into a wall power socket (not an extension lead or surge protector) to prevent any interference from other attached devices. If you do not have a spare wall socket you can buy ‘pass through’ Powerline adapters (like the example pictured above) that have a power socket built into them – you can plug another electrical device into that.
Security Issues – There is a very small possibility that signals may travel through the power lines to outside of your home so, theoretically, they could be intercepted. For this reason, newer Powerline adapters have very strong security built in – similar security to the WPA2 password on a wireless network.
Some adapters come preset with this unique security password or you may need to press a button on each adapter to create unique security keys. It is straightforward and the instructions will tell you if you need to do anything.