Everything you need to know about Powerline and Powerline adapters

Whether e-mails, research or streaming – in most households a large part now runs via the Internet. If the WiFi doesn’t work properly, it can get on your nerves. And it was precisely for these cases that Powerline was developed: With a Powerline adapter, the home network is set up over the power lines. But how exactly does the Internet work from the socket? When and for whom does this technology make sense? And what should you look out for with the Powerline adapter? Here you will find all the important information about the somewhat different network.

  • What is a powerline?
  • How does Powerline work?
  • How to connect a powerline?
  • How do I get stable WiFi?
  • When does powerline make sense?
  • What can interfere with Powerline?
  • Which powerline adapters are the best?
  • Conclusion: The Internet is something different

Due to the high demand, we have updated this article and added the question “How do I get a stable WLAN?”.

What is a powerline?

There are numerous power lines in a house and while they are designed for lighting and power, they can be used for other purposes. Signals can also be transmitted with electrical cables without impairing the flow of electricity. And that is exactly what is meant by the term powerline: data transmission via the power line.
With Powerline products, the existing power lines can be used to set up or expand a local network and bring the Internet to all rooms without a repeater or laying new network cables. The technology behind it is also known as PowerLAN or Powerline Communication (PLC).

Note: Powerline is only used to create a local network. An Internet connection must therefore be available from which the Powerline adapter can obtain the Internet signals.

How does Powerline work?

A Powerline adapter seldom comes alone: ​​where there is a transmission, there must also be a receiver!


Have a hard time imagining how this is supposed to work? Simply plug the laptop power supply into the socket and YouTube is already powered? Then again, it’s not that simple. Of course, some technology is required to be able to establish the Internet connection through electrical wiring.
There are special adapters for this, the so-called Powerline adapters. These convert the data streams of the Internet connection into high-frequency signals. The signals then find a way through the power line to other powerline adapters.
The adapters convert the signals back into understandable data and, depending on the application, forward them to a PC, smart TV or another network device.

Powerline clearly explained

The Powerline principle can be easily symbolized with a little music. Imagine hiring a flute player who is particularly talented in improvisation to play at home. It is positioned centrally on the ground floor so that it can be heard in as many rooms as possible. Despite the loud sounds, the flutes can only be heard softly or not at all on the upper floors. Like a WLAN router, whose Internet signals can only be received weakly on the upper floors.
So that one can also enjoy his improvisations in rooms further away from the flute player, he has an assistant who notates his flute playing in notes. The sheet music is sent to the appropriate rooms in the building via a system of pipes. They have received thereby another flute player who can read music and faithfully reproduces the flute playing from the ground floor.
The powerline adapter next to the wireless router does not write the wireless signals on sheet music but converts them into other signals that can be transmitted through the power line. As soon as these signals are received by another Powerline adapter installed in the house, it understands the signals and converts them back accordingly, ultimately enabling a reliable Internet connection even in more distant areas.

Tip: If two adapters are not enough for you, you can easily expand your powerline network with several powerline adapters. If your garden shed has electricity, nothing stands in the way of internet access!

How to connect a powerline?

A powerline set always consists of at least two powerline adapters. One takes on the function of a transmitter and delivers the Internet, so to speak, in the powerline network. It is connected to a router with a LAN cable and plugged into a socket next to it. With most models, a powerline encryption button must be pressed briefly on the adapter connected to the router.
Within minutes, the other adapter, acting as a receiver, can be plugged into an outlet in any room in the house. Now the encryption button must be pressed here as well. As soon as the adapter indicates that a successful connection has been established, the powerline network is set up and data, photos, films and music will bring new momentum to your power line.
Tip: If you are not satisfied with the speed of your Powerline adapter, try different positions. Depending on the electrical circuit and electrical wiring, the performance of the adapter can change just by plugging it into an adjacent outlet.

How do I get stable WiFi?

Is the Wi-Fi reception poor in some rooms or does the connection break down frequently? There are some easy-to-implement measures to solve these annoying connection problems.
With a router, the quality of a WLAN connection depends, among other things, on the following factors:

  • location
  • frequency
  • Range

location of the router

The connection can be improved simply by positioning the router correctly. Be sure to place or hang the router centrally. Ideally, it should be slightly elevated and freestanding.
How good the signal strength of the router is can be measured with apps such as the FRITZ!App WLAN. When looking for the optimal location, keep in mind that walls, ceilings and furniture can interfere with the connection.

the frequency range of the router

Your router has always worked great and suddenly you are struggling with connection problems? Then it may be because other wireless routers have been installed in the area and are transmitting on the same frequency.
If your router can broadcast on a 5 GHz and a 2.4 GHz frequency, change the frequency range to 5 GHz in the settings. In this way, your router will no longer be disturbed by other WLAN routers in terms of frequency.
Note: The difference between the two frequency ranges is that the 5 GHz frequency can carry more data while the 2.4 GHz frequency has a longer range.

range of the router

If changing the position and frequency of the router does not help, its range may simply not be sufficient for all rooms and floors. There are two devices that can improve range: WiFi repeaters and powerline adapters.
While WiFi repeaters need a strong signal from the router to amplify it, a powerline adapter relays the WiFi signals over the power lines.

When does powerline make sense?

Powerline makes sense wherever the WLAN range is too short and no new network cables should be laid. Because the advantage of this network technology is that the necessary infrastructure is available in every room: power lines and sockets. Especially in old buildings, Powerline often offers an elegant solution to expand the WLAN network.

Which is better: powerline or repeater?

If the building is too big or the walls are too thick, both powerline adapters and WiFi repeaters offer a possible solution to extend the local network. Both have the advantage that the setup is easy for the user. No physical changes need to be made to the building and the devices are quickly connected to the home WiFi router.
The critical point when deciding on a powerline adapter or WLAN repeater lies in the environmental conditions. Because although both techniques depend heavily on the conditions in the environment, they do so in different ways.
Obstacles such as furniture, walls and ceilings can influence the way wireless repeaters work. Radio networks in the neighbourhood can also be a disruptive factor. While the power line goes through walls without any problems, the data rate that can be achieved depends primarily on the length and quality of the power line.
Which solution ultimately achieves the better results, therefore, depends heavily on the conditions in your own four walls and can best be determined by trial and error.
TipIt doesn’t matter whether it’s a WiFi repeater or a powerline adapter, a WiFi signal is generally distributed much better across the surface than up high. If you want to supply a house or apartment with WiFi over several floors, you should install a separate WiFi access point on each floor.

What can interfere with Powerline?

Since Powerline only uses the power lines, certain interference can also have a negative impact on data transmission. Wind and weather don’t really matter to Powerline, it’s the power line that counts. How fast the transmission with Powerline is depended primarily on the quality and type of power line.
In order for the fast gigabit power line to work, the circuit must meet the modern standard of the three wires neutral conductor, protective conductor and phase. This enables transmission rates that are around 60-80 per cent faster than in the circuits with just two wires that are often installed in old buildings.
In addition, the parts and components on the way from the transmitter adapter to the receiver adapter can also slow down the transmission. Overvoltage protection filters, electricity meters and residual current circuit breakers can ensure that too little bandwidth is left for data transmission and that the adapters can only exchange information poorly or not at all.
Other typical sources of interference are ballasts, power packs, dimmers, vacuum cleaners, drills and mailboxes. Even if the powerline adapters can correct errors, bandwidth is still lost.
Powerline via the power strip?
So that the data has a free path and high transmission rates can be guaranteed, the powerline adapter should be operated on individual sockets and not on multiple sockets or distributors. Another potential source of interference is separate circuits in a household. The electrician can solve this problem by installing a phase coupler.
Tip: The powerline software supplied by the manufacturer can be used to display the frequencies used for transmission between the powerline adapters. For example, if the vacuum cleaner is suspected of being a troublemaker, this can be confirmed by a drop in the displayed data rate while vacuuming.

Which powerline adapters are the best?

  • When looking for the best powerline adapter, there are a few things to consider that contribute to an optimal powerline network.
  • Integrated socket: If sockets are a rare commodity in your home, then an adapter with an integrated socket is recommended. You can operate your powerline adapter directly on a wall socket and the integrated socket is available for other devices.
  • LAN interfaces: The various adapter models differ in the number of LAN interfaces. While some only have one LAN interface, others have two or three interfaces. For example, if you want to supply printers, smart TVs and hair dryers with a powerline adapter, you should include this in the planning.
  • WLAN access point: Do you want to expand your WLAN? Then choose a powerline adapter with a ⦁ WLAN access point. This allows you to connect your devices to the adapter via WLAN and not via a LAN cable.
  • Speed ​​: Note that the manufacturer’s speed information is a theoretical value. In practice, this value is usually not reached and the speed in the local network depends heavily on factors such as the quality and length of the power lines used. Also, keep in mind that internet speed depends on your internet access. If your Internet connection is generally slow, your Powerline adapter cannot work miracles either.
  • Compatibility: If you want to expand your powerline network, make sure the devices are compatible. With older adapters, in particular, there is a risk that the latest standards are not supported or that the older adapter “thwarts” the new one.
  • Don’t be fooled by battery-powered models…
  • NoteIf you would like to use your powerline signal for more than the LAN interfaces provided on the adapter, you can expand it with a so-called switch. Plug the switch into your adapter and it will distribute the signal to your other devices through its ports.

Conclusion: The Internet is something different

Whether by antenna, telegram, carrier pigeon or radio – the exchange of information and data has always been possible in all possible ways. Data transmission via a power line may sound like a crazy idea at first, but it is a reliable technology that is uncomplicated for the user.
For those who do not want to lay new cables in their apartment or house, Powerline can offer a quick and elegant solution. After all, power lines and sockets are already available in all rooms, even in old buildings.
In order for the powerline network to ultimately meet expectations, it should above all be well planned. Depending on the type and number of devices to be connected, the desired number of LAN ports, the need for a WLAN function and the number of powerline adapters required can be determined.