Instead of running new Ethernet cables to connect your devices to your home network why not use your existing electrical power cables?
That is the idea behind Powerline or Homeplug Ethernet networks.
Note: HomePlug is the family name for power line specifications for networking over existing home electrical wiring.
HomePlug network adapters are typically used to connect non Wi-Fi equipped devices to a home network, and to extend the range of existing Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks.
You normally buy homeplug adapters in pairs, and in this case all you need to do is plug them in, and they work.
However replacing faulty devices or extending an existing powerline network requires a basic understanding of how powerline adapters work.
What you will Learn
In this guide we will look at powerline networking using homeplug Ethernet adapters, how it works, and how you set up a home network using them. You will learn:
- How powerline networking works.
- How It integrates into your existing home network.
- How to create a powerline Ethernet network using homeplug adapters
- How to add and remove adapters from a network
- How various standards interoperate.
- What tools you can use.
Powerline Networking Overview
Powerline networking utilizes your existing mains electrical cable to connect devices together.
Devices like computers plug into a powerline adapter using an Ethernet cable with a UTP connector, just like they would plug into an Ethernet hub or switch.
The power line adapter then plugs into the mains, and uses the mains wiring to transmit the data.
Another power line adapter is required somewhere on the same mains cable system to extract the signal.
- No additional wiring required
- Wiring is usually hidden
- Can use Powerline adapter to power the device e.g. with pass through devices.
- Fast speeds of 500Mbps and greater are possible with new models
- Long range and not affected by thick walls and other obstacles like Wi-Fi.
- Can extend both Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks.
Common Powerline Uses
They are often used:
- To connect devices to a home network that are out of range of the wireless router.
- To connect a device to the network that requires a high speed and reliable connection e.g. games consoles.
- To provide wireless range extension using a powerline Wi-Fi booster.
Powerline standards have evolved since the initial homeplug 1.0. It is important to be aware of the different standards because of potential inter operability issues.
The standards are:
- Homeplug 1.0 Speeds 14Mbs
- Homeplug 1.0 with Turbo Speeds 85Mbs
- Homeplug AV speeds 200Mbs speeds of 500Mbps are now available and marketed normally as AV500.
- Homeplug AV2 (latest) Maximum speed currently 1200Mbps
- HomePlug Green PHY -low power version and low speed.
See Wiki- for more detail.
You will probably face inter operability issues when you need to add another adapter to an existing network or replace a faulty adapter.
Generally homeplug 1.0 devices will only work with other homeplug 1.0 devices, and Homeplug AV,AV2 and HomePlug Green PHY will all work together, but will not work with Homeplug 1.0 devices.
- Homeplug 1.0 works with HomePlug 1.0 Turbo (85 Mbps).
- HomePlug AV can coexist on same cable with Homeplug 1.0 adapters, but will not work with homeplug 1.0.
- HomePlug AV 200 works with homeplug AV 500M but at the lower speed.
- AV, AV2 and HomePlug Green PHY are fully interoperable but at the speed of the lowest speed adapter.
How Powerline Adapters Work
Having a basic understanding of how the powerline network works is crucial to troubleshooting problems, and for building,repairing and upgrading them.
Powerline adapters share the same physical media (the mains cable).
This means that in a neighbourhood of houses that all use powerline adapters there is a potential security risk.
To overcome this powerline adapters form logical networks based on a security key or password called a NMK (Network Management Key).
This key is used to encrypt the data on the network using 128 bit AES (AV2 standard) or 56 bit DES (AV1 standard).
Creating Powerline Networks
To build a powerline network you need at least two homeplug adapters.
Normally you buy adapters in pairs, and the manufacturer will normally ship each pair with a common NMK.
This means that when you plug them into your mains socket they will establish a connection between themselves, and form a logical network.
If they don’t automatically establish a connection then you will need to intervene and manually initiate pairing.
The basic idea is that you put one of the adapters in a receptive mode where it listens for another adapter trying to establish a connection.
You then do the same with the other adapter. The two adapters should locate each other and agree a shared key.
Note: the adapters will remember this key even if they are unplugged from the mains.
Note: On Older adapters (AV1) don’t have a share/security button to initiate the paring process you may need to program each adapter with the same key using the software utility that comes with the adapter.
Some manufactures will ship adapters with a common NMK.
This means that adding adapters to an existing network is easy as the new adapters have the same NMK as the ones already on the network.
However this is a security risk and you should change the NMK from the default.
Powerline Networking Scenarios
- Creating a new powerline network.
- Replacing a broken adapter.
- Adding new adapters to an existing powerline network.
- Leaving a Network.
Creating a New Powerline Network
This assumes that you have purchased the adapters as a pair. In which case just plug them into the mains socket preferably close to each other and they should pair.
Once paired you can move them to the required location.
If they don’t pair then use the pairing procedure below, but you may also want to consult the documentation that came with the adapters.
- Press the security or NMK button on adapter A for less than 3 seconds and the power LED should flash
- Within one minute Press the security or NMK button on adapter B for less than 3 seconds and the power LED should flash.
- Both power LEDs should stop flashing and stay illuminated for a successful connection.
If pairing is unsuccessful then see troubleshooting section.
Replacing a Broken Adapter
If one of you adapters goes faulty then you can replace it. However you should be aware of the following.
- Homeplug 1.0 works with HomePlug 1.0 Turbo (85 Mbps) but not with Homeplug AV1 or AV2 adapters. Therefore if you have the older adaptors then consider replacing both adapters with new ones.
- If you Have Homeplug AV1 adapters then try to replace the broken one with one of the same speed, and from the same manufacturer when possible. However it is not crucial as devices from different manufactures should work together.
- A Homeplug AV1 200Mbps adapter paired with a Homeplug AV1 500Mbps adapter will run at the lower speed.
To pair the new adapter to the existing one use the same pairing procedure as covered above, If pairing is unsuccessful then see troubleshooting section.
Adding new Adapters to an Existing Powerline Network
Adapters must be added one at a time and the pairing process carried out each time.
For example to add two new adapters C and D to an existing network with adapters A and B then proceed as follows:
- Pair adapter C with either Adapter A or B but not both.
- Pair adapter D with either Adapter A or B or C.
- The Logical network now consists of adapters A,B,C,D
Note: pairing procedure covered above:
Leaving a Network.
To remove an adapter from an existing network then press the security/NMK button for 10 seconds while still plugged it.
The adapter will generate a new random password which places it outside the existing logical network.
Things to try
- If they don’t pair you can try resetting both devices by pressing the security/NMK button for 10 seconds and then try again.
- You can also use the the utility that came with your adapters to set the key on the adapters. See using the Powerline utility.
Using Powerline Adapters to Extend Wi-Fi Coverage
Homeplug powerline adapters can also come with built in wireless access points which allows you to easily and quickly provide Wi-Fi coverage in other locations.
Pass Through Adapters
These are powerline adapters that provide a socket so that you don’t lose the power outlet.
Using The Powerline Software Utility
You should receive a DVD with your adapter containing software that you can use to mange your powerline adapters.
If not you should be able to download the software online.
I use TP-link adaptrrs and there are two utilities available.
The tpPLC.exe utility shows a nice powerlink map whereas the powerline scan.exe utility is for configuring individual adapters.
The tpPLC.exe utility lets you add devices,set device names,turn off leds,set new security password all through a nice GUI.
However the best feature is the network map which shows you all of the discovered adapters and the line speeds.An example is shown below.
Just like WiFi there are published speeds for each powerline standard. These speeds are theoretical maximum speeds and you will no get them in practise.
The line speed you get is determined by the cabling in your home/office and the distance between adapters.
In addition because all powerline adapters share the same medium (mains cable) the number of devices that are connected also affects the throughput speed.
If you look at my diagram taken form my network you can see that the maximum line speed is much less than the theoretical speed and that distance also plays a role.
A good rule of thumb is to half the theoretical line speed so for a 600Mbps adapter expect around 300Mbps.
There is an interesting table on this forum page showing live test results for adapters under different load conditions.
However generally the speed for even the low speed av200 adapters is much quicker than the Internet connection speeds (15-100Mbps).
Line Speeds and Throughput Speeds
The line speed is the actual bit rate on the line. However because this line is shared by other devices the speed of each device (throughput) is less than the line speed.
So as a crude example if two device were sending on a 300Mbit/s line then each device would have a throughput speed of 150Mbps.
Measuring Throughput Speeds
These are very difficult to measure as they work by transferring data between two computers at either end of the connection.
A lot of people try to measure using an Internet speed checker but that measures your overall connection speed which is limited by the slowest link in the chain which is normally the Internet connection itself.
The Iperf3 utility is my preferred tool as it runs on Windows,Linux and Android. See Understanding Home Networking Speeds
Buying Powerline Adapters Quick Notes
When purchasing high speed adapters e.g AV 500 and above check the speed of the Ethernet port as many older adapters used 100Mbps Ethernet.
So even though the line speed was 300Mbps the actual speed was limited by the Ethernet port.
Newer devices usually use 1Gbps Ethernet but check.
Real World Example
Question- Hi Steve, I have just moved into an old house in a rural location. Because of very poor WIFI over the land line and poor router signal coverage in the house (thick walls etc), the previous owner installed an EE SIMM based router linked by CAT5 to a ceiling mounted EnGenius EAP150. Apparently this has improved things (download speeds of 15 MBPS and 3.3 MBPS for uploads when close to the EAP), but the the signal does not go very far and dropped connections and lack of connection are a frequent pain. Using Netflix and a couple of mobile phones seems to cause loss of signal very easily, I guess this is a capacity issue? Can you make any suggestions on how to address these problems please? E.G Can I use signal boosters around the house to strengthen the EAP signal? Do I need a better WAP/EAP device? Are there other alternatives?
Answer – I would try using homeplug powerline Ethernet adapters. You can get them with Wi-FI access points. Get a pair and put one next to your router and move the other wi-fi homeplug around the rooms to make sure it works as there could potentially be wiring problems. If that works ok you can always add additional adapters.
Reply – Many thanks for your suggestion. I bought some TP-Link power-line adapters and they work really well.
Powerline/Homeplug network adapters are a very good way of extending your home network without running cables, and for connecting devices that need a fast and reliable connection.
Speeds are usually much better than Wi-Fi and much more reliable.
PLC Power Line Communication
NMK Network Membership Key
AVLN – Logical network of AV adaptors
TP link Setup Video – The procedure is used for all makes of adaptor
- Build a Home Network
- See How to Wire your Home Network
- How to Setup and Configure your Home Router
- VLANs on Home Networks
Resources and references:
- solorwise manual
- Homeplug AV White paper
- Netgear support-adding an adapter
- TP Link- how to pair adapters
I’m new to this area of tech and am currently using 200Mpbs HomePlug kit. Although I’ve seen some references to folk using them in the shed at the bottom of the garden, etc., I’ve only come across ONE example of any direct (or even ‘rule of thumb’) guidance as to the physical RANGE (ie in metres) of this technology.
That one example is a claim by Maxx Digital that their product is good for “…up to 200 metres operational range”. I’m aware that transfer speed decreases with distance – so is 200 metres a fair/reasonable claim?
Probably will work but under ideal circumstances so I wouldn’t depend on it. I’ve used them in my shed but that is only 30m away.
You might find this useful
Be careful that they aren’t talking about homeplug over twisted pair
I’m afraid the only real test is to try it.
Can I connect a WiFi Access Point to my HomePlug? I want to extend my WiFi range but I have an AP already.
Yes It is just like any other Ethernet access point
Great article. Quick question, should it be possible to mix powerline units from different manufacturers? eg BT and Netgear ?
I have some BT ones I use just to connect the network to powered speakers vie Apple Airport Expresses, but with FTTH coming I would like to add Netgear PLP 1000 powerline units to boost my WiFi speed ( using Ubiquity Instant). Would the old BT home spots co exist ok and work alongside do you think ?
Yes you should be able to but I confess I haven’t done it. you may find this useful
great site, I am a little perplexed with all the optoins right now.
Could you possible help?
New property has a Man Cave bottom of the garden. A I work from home I am turning this into an office.
The building has electrics and runs of the House Circuit.
Would powerline adapters allow me to plug My VOIP phine into the LAN socket underneath these devices in my office and Will it talk to the router that will remain in the house?
If this concept works whats the best Powerline adapter to get ?
This will save me a hell of a lot of work runing a cable through the house (Terraced Property) to the property to the back garden is 70 ft from the house.
Appreciate your thoughts
It should work but there aren’t any guarantees as It depends on your mains wiring.You plug one it the house by the router and connect it to the router and the other in your office. The one in the office should probably be a wi-fi one and then you will also have wi-fi in the office.
I use TP-link ones and am happy with them. If you can get hold of a pair just to test then I would recommend that before you buy them.
Can you clarify how routing works in the following scenario? I currently have 4 homeplugs but want to increase Internet speed by putting in an ethernet cable around the house from the router to a new ethernet switch that will also be connected to a homeplug. This will give me 2 homeplugs connected directly to the router.
Does the homeplug programming determine which is quickest route to the router? Specifically l want the traffic from me homeplug in my office to pick up the route to my router via the homeplug that is connected to the new switch that I am putting in that is itself directly connected to my router via the new cable around the outside of my house as opposed to following the path which makes greater use of my mains circuit which will be slower. Visa versa applies as well from my router to my office.
Homeplug adapters don’t do routing.
When you connect homeplug adapters together they can be considered as effectively connected by a single Ethernet cable.
You cannot prioritise the traffic between them.
Homplug adapters need a partner i.e they need to be paired this forms a logical connection and the data link level between them.
If you join into this connection with other homeplugs they all then share the same logical connection.
However you could pair two homeplugs (1 and 2) and then pair the other two homeplugs (3 and 4) and this would give you two logical connections.
In this configuration a deive connected to homeplug 3 or 4 could not communicate with a device connected to homeplug 1 or 2.
To make it possible you would need to connect one of the homeplugs in each pair to a switch.
Does that help?
I wasn’t aware that I could create 2 separate networks with 4 Homeplugs. So if they are all on the same logical network how do I switch 2 of them to a separate network? Do I just press and hold the network join button on one of the plugs and then press the button on the other plug that will be connected to the new switch?
According to my TP-link instructions press the pair button for 8 seconds to leave an existing network and 15 seconds to reset.
You will need to reset one and with the other leave the network and then pair it again with the other.
I would do this on a extension cable far away from the existing network as possible.
However not sure what you will gain as they still share the same virtual connection as far as I understand it it is just that they are encrypted using different keys which is why they can’t exchange data.
But you don’t know unless you try it.
very useful article
Previously I used Powerline to extend Wifi to a room on the otherside of a thick stone wall, it worked well except that our devices saw the Wifi from the router and that from the Powerline adapter as separate networks, so if you moved rooms you needed to swap networks
I’m think of doing something similar and buying new hardware, is there any way of avoiding this, so that the network appears as one (we have a wifi extender provided by sky which does this)??
Some extenders let you do that but the client my not like it see https://kb.netgear.com/24942/How-to-set-up-my-Wireless-Extender-to-use-the-same-SSID-as-my-router
You could look at wireless mesh networks which are designed to overcome that problem.
http://www.steves-internet-guide.com/wi-fi-mesh-networks/ but again their are exceptions.
You might find this article interesting it cover wi-fi roaming in more detail
I have a BT mesh network and just need to know if I can plug a power line adapter into one of the extenders , I can plug it in by the router as the house has a three different ring mains so the powrline adapters won’t be able to connect to each other.. I hope that makes sense!
I assume the BT extender connects via ethernet to the router. You should be able to use the powerline adapters for the ethernet connection.
I believe you will experience problems if you are on a different phase (unusal).
Thanks for the reply, I have come to the conclusion it is a house wiring issue , I will probably need to get another mesh extender or two! the house is quite big, we have five different fuse boards covering 35 rooms! Just can’t get WIFI into the kitchen!
Excellent web site by the way, appreciate your quick response.
Glad you have found the problem I didn’t realise the size involved. You might want to look at running a cable or cables to various locations in the house.Good luck.
I knew homeplugs worked best in main’s sockets and not on extension cables but BBC iplayer on my TV worked fine so I got a firestick to stream from my satellite box. Although iplayer on the firestick worked fine the streaming was terrible. Sure enough attaching them to main’s sockets cured the problem. However I do not have enough main’s sockets. Will Wall Adaptor Sockets (like a plug-in double or triple plug) work any better?
Sorry but you need to try it. I have several homeplugs on short extensions and they work ok. I guess it depends on how far apart they already are and the state of the home wiring.
Thank you for the article, I do have a question though, do the plug in extenders need to be on the same mains circuit or will the signal go through the fuse box allowing signal on a different ring? My ground floor mains ring is on a different fuse to upstairs.
According to what I have red then yes providing they are on the same phase. See this forum discussion
It would be a good idea to put the ‘feed’ unit as close as possible to the fuse-box, then it can effectively feed all circuits served by that fuse-box. Even lighting circuits!!!
I have a shed at the bottom of the garden, about 100′ from the house. My feeder unit is the downstairs 13A loop, close to the box, and all services receive an ok signal. The feeder is only 2m from the box, by the shortest path on the ring
Thanks for your article.
I need to extend the broadband network to our new garden office – we have power down there and i have tried these BT powerline adaptors https://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/computing-accessories/networking/powerline/bt-broadband-extender-flex-600-powerline-adapter-kit-twin-pack-10142651-pdt.html
Unfortunately the connection was intermittent at best and when it was connected the speeds were unusable ie. very slow. Would upgrading the adaptors to something like these ones that advertise a faster speed …. https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/computing-accessories/networking/powerline/tp-link-tl-wpa8630p-v2-wifi-powerline-adapter-kit-av1300-twin-pack-10166934-pdt.html
make a difference?
How far is the office from the house? I would suspect it is your main connection to the office.
Try using a long extension cable to the office and see if you get a better connection using that and that should tell you if it is the wiring to the office.
These forum posts might also be helpful
Let me know how you get on
Will the homeplug work over an RCD. I’ve a garage which has it’s own RCD which is feed from my home RCD.
I haven’t tried it but it appears it does. Take a look at this forum discussion
Hi Steve. Thank you for your very helpfiul article. I am a total amateur, looking to extend my wifi in to a particular room where it currently doesn’t reach in a stone walled house. I have read lots of reviews on Amazon with the intention of buying a power line adaptor but am very confused which to buy. Do I need to check any speed or anything with my current router and should I be looking at one that says extender? Will a basic starter kit do the job or if I pay more what exactly am I paying for? Thank you for any advice you can give.
A standard starter kit should be fine.
however if you want to use a tablet or smart phone in the other part of the house you should use an wi-fi powerline extender like this one.
TP-Link TL-WPA4220KIT 2-Port Powerline Adapter WiFi Starter Kit, Range Extender, Broadband/WiFi Extender, WiFi Booster/Hotspot, No Configuration Required, UK Plug
You tend to pay more for the latest high speed ones which you almost certainly don’t need. Also if you want pass through adaptors they cost more. (they let you plug in other things and don’t take up the socket).
Thank you for your help – I’ve just purchased and installed the device you suggested. Works a treat and it was really simple to install . Very pleased.
Glad to have helped
Hi Steve, thanks for this information. Will running an AV2 network on the same powerlines as a Homeplug 1.0 Turbo network impact the speed of the network? Will the Homeplug 1.0 Turbo adapters slow down the AV2 adapters?
As far as I understand it no it shouldb’t.
Thanks for this Steve. I have my router connected to a powerline adaptor, and then four other adaptors spread around my thick-stone-walled house to give ethernet and wifi connections. Generally speaking it all works, but I have random drop-outs and devices struggle randomly to ‘see’ each other, for example when trying to control the TV from my phone or remotely access the family computer. Printing is also a nightmare – it sometimes works, but often you have to move your laptop near to the main router to get a connection which works.
I have followed the manufacturers instructions as best I can to make sure they are all using the same key and share a network name, but am I doing something wrong, or is this all just an inherent weakness of these solutions?
Is it the Wi_fi that is the main problem or the powerline adaptors? Moving the laptop nearer the router implies it is wi-fi?
Do you use Wi-Fi extenders?
As you have thick stone walls I assume it is an older property. If the wiring is very old then it may be causing problems with the adaptors. I’ve seen this mentioned on forums.
If you suspect the adaptors then as a quick workaround I would get a very long Ethernet cable and use that is place of 2 of the adaptors and see if it resolves the problem.
You can do it to each of the adaptors in turn until you find the link that is the problem then you may need to replace that link with a wired connection.
I have a Powerline Adaptor in my room connect up to my pc. Because I also have LG DVD player that needs a Internet connect I have brough a splitter with two ethernet connects at the end fitted to one PLA. My pc got on line but no my DVD.What am I doing wrong? Thanks.
I looked at those splitters myself a little while ago.
It seems that they don’t give you two outputs but one and you can choose which output is live. It is effectively one or the other not both.
I co[ied this from a descriptipn of a switcher on Amazon
Note: This item is eligible for click and collect. Details
1 new from £5.99
RJ45 Ethernet Network Splitter could help to split one network cable to 2 port output, that’s convenient to take turns to use different computers. (Please note that cannot support using two cables at the same time)
You need to get a small switch. The smallest is 4 port.
Steve, thank you for a very informative article. It has helped me understand Powerline networking in our home setting. In particular, how the adapters connect by way of NMK. Thank you.
Glad to have helped
If you would like to use your HomePlug to “move” your router, is that possible?
ISP—–CPE—-Homeplug—–Electrical net—–Homeplug—-Router/Wifi—–HomePlug—-Electrical net—-Homeplug—-OutdoorWAP
I’ve never done this but provided that the router connects to the CPE using Ethernet then I would say yes. However you have 4 homeplugs and they should be configured in pairs as two networks not as a single network.
The homeplugs between the router and CPE one network and the homeplugs between the router and WAP the second network.
Will a brand specific configuration utility work with multi-brand AV2 networks?
I don’t think so,but if you find out different I would be interested in knowing the detail.
In fact, the Logitech Powerline Utility (http://powerline-network-utilities.software.informer.com/) can map other brands’ Powerline AV adapters (identifying them by their MAC numbers) and monitor transfer speed among them. I have not yet tried to establish security among them using the utility.
Tks for that let me know how you get on with configuring them.
Very usefull article, thanks you.
Wou’d you have an advice for a generic powerline utility compatible with homeplug av2 and modern 64bits windows os (or linux)
I’ve looked for one but haven’t found anything yet. There don’t seem to be any tools/utilites for powerline networking.
If you come across any then grateful you let me know