A pair of Powerline adapters allows you to use AC wiring for Ethernet communication. Powerline adapters behave like an extension for an Ethernet cable. You can create an Ethernet network by simply plugging a pair of Powerline adapters into your wall outlets. Powerline adapters can communicate over the same wires as you use for AC power transmission.
Powerline adapters can be an excellent solution for quickly extending your home network without having to drill any holes in your home.
However, perhaps you have a large house and want to make sure that you'll be able to communicate between your rooms using Powerline adapters. Or maybe you have an external structure to which you wish to extend your network via Powerline adapters.
This article will discuss how far Powerline adapters can reach and some considerations that impact their maximum distance.
The span between powerline adapters can reach a distance of up to 300 meters (984 feet) between adapters. Three hundred meters is quite a long way and is longer than many houses. The distance between Powerline adapters is generally not a problem. However, consider that this distance refers to the span of electrical wire in your home's walls, between adapters.
This distance can also be negatively affected by old wiring and interference from other devices and assumes that the Powerline adapters are on the same circuit.
Check out my Recommended Powerline Adapters below.
Powerline adapters require that each adapter be on the same circuit. They can be on one or more circuit breakers, but they need to be using the same wire from your power company's transformer.
Technically, you may be able to get Powerline adapters to communicate across multiple phases. However, the performance impact will be considerable. The connection may be intermittent if it works at all. Communication across phases is one cause of slower than expected speeds.
This requirement means that in some cases, you may only be able to use powerline adapters between particular rooms, depending on your home's wiring.
Many homes in the US have a split circuit panel with a 120-volt circuit down each side. A two-pole split circuit panel will effectively partition your rooms into two circuits. These circuits are sometimes referred to as having different or multiple phases.
More specifically, many homes in the US support higher-powered 240-volt outlets by combining two 120-volt hot leads in a two-pole breaker. Each of the 120-volt leads has a wire going to the power company's transformer. The 120-volt breakers that go to various rooms will alternate between the two poles in the electrical panel. For example, the odd-numbered breakers may connect to one pole, while the even-numbered breakers may connect to the other. Only rooms on the same pole will communicate at high speed via Powerline.
US homes without 240-volt outlets, such as apartments with a gas stove and no laundry appliances, might use a single-pole breaker. In this case, all rooms will be on the same circuit.
Powerline adapters will work for providing high-speed Internet to your gaming computer or console, but they are not your best option.
Powerline adapters have lower latency than Wi-Fi, which is good. However, they do not have the same reliability or speed compared to their alternatives.
Suppose you have coax cabling in your home. In that case, MoCA adapters are a better option, as they provide faster speeds and better reliability.
Ethernet cables (e.g., Cat 6a cable) will always provide the fastest, most reliable, and lowest latency solution.
|Ethernet Cable & Alternatives||Setup Complexity||Supported Speeds||Supported Distance||Latency||Reliability|
|Ethernet Cable - Ethernet over Twisted Pair (e.g., Cat 6a)||Excellent||Excellent||Good||Excellent||Excellent|
|Powerline - Ethernet over Powerline||Excellent||Fair||Good||Fair||Poor|
|MoCA - Ethernet over Coax||Good||Good||Good||Good||Good|
|Wi-Fi - Wireless||Good||Fair||Fair||Poor||Fair|
Learn more about MoCA adapters in my article, Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters.
- Use existing home wiring as a replacement for Ethernet cables.
- Extend wireless coverage.
- Backhaul for a Mesh Wi-Fi System (i.e., a wired backbone for the Wi-Fi satellites).
- Get Internet access into hard-to-reach places in your home.
- Use wired connections to avoid Wi-Fi interference from neighbors.
- Avoid the latency of Wi-Fi while playing games on consoles and computers.
- A secure alternative to Wi-Fi.
- Easy wiring using existing power outlets (connect an Ethernet cable)
- Low cost (compared to MoCA adapters)
- Encrypted (some products)
- Up to a 300-meter range
- Some models have built-in Wi-Fi
- Plug and play setup (no configuration required)
- Often a lower connection speed of around 150-350 Mbps compared to the advertised 1-2 Gbps
- Powerline devices need to be on the same electrical circuit
- May cause noticeable electromagnetic interference with some devices such as speakers (static sound)
- Power strip, GFCI outlets, and AFCI circuit breakers may degrade Powerline network signals
- Some models block an outlet when connecting directly into a wall outlet
Suppose you're looking for an alternative to Ethernet cables and Wi-Fi. In that case, we believe that MoCA (Ethernet over Coax) is the clear winner compared to Powerline due to the faster speeds and better signal quality. However, there are still some use cases where Powerline may be the best solution. Powerline is a little easier to set up than MoCA. MoCA adapters require coax cabling in your rooms, which may not exist in your case.
Learn more about MoCA adapters in my article, Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters.
Suppose your Internet speed is less than 200 Mbps or your devices on the network do not support gigabit Ethernet. In these cases, Powerline adapters may be the best of the two options for you, as they offer a lower price point.
On the other hand, MoCA adapters are a better option when you want to fully utilize a higher-speed Internet connection and have existing coax cabling between rooms.
You could also consider using both! For example, MoCA adapters might work great for connecting an upstairs and downstairs via coax. At the same time, Powerline adapters would be great for getting Internet to a garage that has no coax line available.
For even more alternatives, check out my article, The 6 Best Ethernet Cable Alternatives for Home Networks.
Recommended Powerline Adapter: NETGEAR PLP2000 Powerline 2000 Mbps Adapter
This model includes some great features:
- An extra passthrough Ethernet port
- An extra outlet (although the device will block part of a second wall outlet)
- 2 Gbps (theoretical) speeds
- Support for encryption
Check the latest price of the NETGEAR Powerline 2000 Mbps Adapter Kit on Amazon (affiliate link).
Additional accessories you may need:
Powerline adapters can be very simple to set up. Conceptually, you can think of a pair of Powerline adapters as an extension for an Ethernet cable. More than two Powerline adapters behave like an Ethernet hub combined with Ethernet cables.
Most Powerline adapters are configured similarly.
To set up Powerline adapters:
- Plug one Powerline adapter into a power outlet and connect it to your Internet router via an Ethernet cable.
- Plug one or more additional Powerline adapters into power outlets in rooms where you want Internet access. Connect them to computers or other network devices via Ethernet cables.
- Pair the Powerline adapters by holding down the button on each adapter for a few seconds.
That's it! Your devices should now be on the network and have Internet access.
A Powerline adapter will work with an Ethernet switch. Using an Ethernet switch, you can connect as many devices as you want to your home network.
Ethernet switches, also called network switches, connect multiple devices via Ethernet cables. Ethernet switches are different from routers. An Ethernet switch connects multiple devices within your local area network. In contrast, a router connects your local area network (LAN) to the internet's wide area network (WAN). Routers with multiple ports or Wi-Fi support are logically three separate devices: a router, a switch, and a Wi-Fi access point.
Suppose you use an Ethernet switch at least as fast as the Powerline adapter and the rest of your network adapter speeds. In that case, adding an Ethernet switch will not reduce the overall network speed. Using a 1 Gbps switch should be adequate for most use cases.
- The TL-SG108 is a well-known and reliable network switch.
- I own this exact switch model and have been using it without any problems for many years.
- It supports Ethernet speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
- Due to the fanless design, it is silent.
- It uses solid capacitors, which means that it should last a long time.
- It's an unmanaged switch, meaning that it's plug and play, and no configuration is required.
If you want to learn more about internet equipment, networking, wiring, or troubleshooting, check out these articles:
- Cat 5e vs. Cat 6a - Which to Buy? - This article compares the various categories of Ethernet cables.
- How to Connect Ethernet Cables - Network Switches & Couplers - This article explains how to use network switches and couplers for extending and distributing your network.
- How to Extend Your Ethernet Range Beyond 100 Meters - This article discusses long-distance Ethernet options.
- Ultimate Cable Internet Wiring & Optimization Guide - This guide shows you how to wire and optimize cable Internet for your home or office.
- Essential Equipment Guide for Cable Internet - This guide shows you the essential components required for setting up your cable Internet connection.
- Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters - This guide discusses how to use existing coax cabling for distributing Ethernet and Wi-Fi throughout your house.
- Ultimate Cable Internet Troubleshooting Guide - This guide shows you how to troubleshoot cable Internet problems.
- The Best MoCA Adapters to Buy - This article discusses our recommended MoCA adapters and which accessories are needed.
- Ethernet Over Power?! A Complete Guide to Powerline Adapters
- Are Powerline Adapters Good for Gaming?
- How to Set Up and Use Powerline Adapters
- MoCA vs. Powerline
- Powerline Adapters vs. Wi-Fi
- Powerline Adapters vs. Ethernet
- Do Powerline Adapters Need to Be on the Same Circuit?
- Do Powerline Adapters Work in Apartments?
- Will Powerline Adapters Work Between a House and Garage?
- Will a Powerline Adapter Work With an Ethernet Switch?
- How Many Powerline Adapters Can You Use?