A powerline network is a great solution to patchy Wi-Fi coverage in your home. It also helps you get a wired, Ethernet connection to a computer or games console without running long lengths of cable around your house.
But if your powerline adapter is slow compared to what you expected—and slower than your Wi-Fi—there are some things you can do to fix it. Let’s take a look at how to improve your powerline speed.
What Is a Powerline Network?
Powerline adapters are an easy and effective way of extending your home network.
They use the existing electrical cabling in your home to carry data. This enables you to extend your network coverage into every part of your house without having to install large lengths of Ethernet cables or deal with the problems that cause slow Wi-Fi.
Powerline networks are simple to set up, very affordable, and can work well. But they’re also susceptible to interference from environmental factors that can leave you with a network that’s slower than you’d like or expect, and slower than your existing Wi-Fi setup. You can do an internet speed test to confirm there’s a problem.
Fortunately, it is often possible to improve your powerline adapter speed by making a few changes to how you’ve set it up.
1. Set Up a Powerline Network: Get the Basics Right
First things first, you need to make sure you’ve got the basics right when setting up your powerline network. There are two big rules to follow:
- Powerline adapters need to be plugged directly into the wall. Don’t use surge protectors or power strips, as both can block the frequencies that powerlines use.
- Ideally, you should also put the adapters on the same mains circuit. Powerline signals can cross from one circuit to another, but they lose strength each time they do.
House wiring can be pretty complicated, so if you don’t have access to an electrical wiring map for your home, experiment by using your plugs in different outlets—and even different rooms—to find the best performance.
2. Remember That Powerline Networks Have Limited Range
Range is a factor you have to consider on any network. The further a signal has to travel, the weaker it becomes. If you use Ethernet or Wi-Fi you are typically limited to 328 feet (about 100m) or 150 feet (45m) respectively.
For most powerline adapters, the theoretical range is 984 feet (about 300 meters). In practice, you should try to keep it below 650 feet (around 200m).
But remember, we aren’t talking about the straight line distance from point A to point B. We’re talking about the total length of the wire the signal needs to travel across. There might be a lot more of this hidden behind your walls and floors than you realize.
3. Beware Circuit Breakers and Power Cables
Tests by the website SmallNetBuilder have shown that certain types of circuit breakers—specifically, a few brands of AFCI circuit breakers—can block powerline adapters. Since you won’t want to change the circuit breaker itself, all you can do is ensure you don’t plug your adapter into an outlet protected by one of them.
It’s also worth noting that the performance of a powerline network can be affected by the quality of the copper lines in your home. If you live in an old building with old wiring, then your powerline speeds may always be slow, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
4. Filter Out Noise
A lot of mains-powered devices can produce electrical noise that interferes with the performance of powerline networks. In particular, this includes devices that use switch-mode power supplies such as computers, mobile phone or tablet chargers, or other products that need a stable and efficient power supply.
Noise can both slow down and reduce the effective range of your network. It has a greater impact at the receiving end of the network than at the transmitting end, so try to reduce it near the receiving end whenever possible. Still, reducing noise across the board wouldn’t hurt either.
The effect of noise is local. Don’t plug your powerline adapter into a twin socket outlet with another device plugged in alongside it, or have another device plugged in within a few feet of the adapter.
Powerline manufacturer TP-Link recommends plugging devices with electromotors into surge protectors to reduce interference. You can also create a makeshift noise filter of your own by attaching other devices to a long extension lead that’s six feet long or more.
But the best solution for dealing with noise is to use powerline adapters with built-in filtered outlets, like the TP-Link AV2000. These feature pass-through sockets that enable you to use the power outlet for other devices without any effect on performance.
5. Upgrade to a Faster Network
If you’ve optimized the environmental factors of your powerline network and you’re still not happy with the Ethernet speed, consider upgrading your hardware. It’s important to know that the headline speed quoted by a manufacturer for one of its products is not the actual speed you will achieve.
For starters, the speeds often show the upload and download speeds combined, meaning that a 1200Mbps adapter is potentially providing 600Mbps upload and download at best. And when you factor in noise, distance, cable quality, and so on you can expect to get half, or even just a third, of what it says on the box.
With this in mind, upgrading to faster devices should always be beneficial. This is especially true if you have specific needs. G.hn adapters are the fastest for gaming, for example, although the AV2 standard remains the most popular and easiest to find.
However, another limiting factor exists. No matter how fast your powerline adapters are, your actual internet speed determines how fast you can connect to the web. Local area network speeds will be fast—such as when transferring files between two computers at home—but browsing won’t be as fast.
By doing speed tests through a site like fast.com on both your powerline and Wi-Fi networks and comparing the results, you’ll be able to see whether the problem is with your network or with the internet connection itself.
6. Don’t Mix and Match Adapter Types
When choosing your gear, you should always look to standardize on a single system. Don’t mix and match standards or speeds.
There is some level of compatibility between certain standards, but it won’t produce anything close to optimal performance. And if you have mismatched speeds, you will always be restricted to the speed of the slowest one.
If you need more than one adapter, it’s a good idea to buy a pack of two to ensure they’ll work well together. To find out which are the right products to buy, take a look at our guide to the best powerline adapters.
How to Make a Powerline Adapter Faster
The convenience of a powerline network makes it an ideal choice for any home, especially if you have areas where your Wi-Fi signal won’t reach.
In most cases, powerline adapters will work right out of the box, and with just a little tweaking, it’s possible to speed them up even more. The main thing is to experiment with where you plug in your adapters. Different outlets and different rooms can produce vastly different levels of performance, so spend some time to find what works best for you.
And do keep in mind other ways to improve the internet coverage around your home. Powerline adapters are a good choice, but things like Wi-Fi extenders can also deliver great results for some users, depending on your needs.
Read the full article here