What the Heck is a Powerline Adapter?


Okay, you’ve probably seen it popping up in Tech magazines and facebook, or maybe you were even blessed with a friend who actually owns one. Whatever your means of finding out, you now find yourself posed with a question: “what the heck is a powerline adapter and why do I care?’ At first, powerline networking seems like another form of wi-fi, and you might think you don’t need to care because you’ve already got a router and it works fine. Powerline networking is actually a relatively new way of connecting your devices to the internet, but lately, it has been gathering a huge following among members of the tech community, and for good reason.

What is Powerline Networking?

Powerline networking is actually a wired network that connects all your devices in your home to the internet through wires in your walls. Now, of course, you start imagining the price and hassle of paying someone to come in and put new wires throughout your home. It seems insane that something requiring wires running through your walls would be a new and useful technology, isn’t that what we used to have?

The thing about powerline networking, the point that makes it not only useful but unique, is that you already have the wires in your walls. You’ve probably always had them. Powerline networks use the electrical wiring already in your walls to connect your devices to your router, no installation necessary.

Of course, you cant just start plugging ethernet cables into your electrical outlets. You’d be better off using a metal butter knife at that point. Luckily, all you need to make your home powerline-network-ready is a pair of Powerline network adapters and a router.

What is the Adapter For?

Powerline networks run through the electrical wiring in your home. Unfortunately, most devices aren’t equipped to send data through their power cords, let alone the vast amounts of information sent back and forth over an internet connection. The adapters, devices which are roughly the size of an automatic air freshener, plug directly into your outlets and send packets of data back and forth through your electrical wiring.

All you have to do is connect your router to the adapter with an ethernet cable, then connect your device to another adapter in a nearby outlet, and you’ve got a fully functioning internet connection. The technology of powerline networking is not a new concept either. The first popular powerline adapter was introduced in the early 2000’s, and back then they only sported a network speed of about 14Mbps. The technique didn’t catch on for a time due to the higher speeds, utility, and often cheaper price of wi-fi. These days, powerline networks can easily surpass wireless connections in terms of speed. It’s not uncommon for a powerline connection to more than double, even triple, the speed of a wifi connection. These adapters are now fairly inexpensive, with some reliable models even as low as $50. But before you rush off and buy the first adapter some sales clerk on commission offers you, read a few reviews of the best adapters out there from a knowledgeable source that can be trusted.

Does This Replace My Wi-Fi?

Powerline networks run faster than wireless networks, but to say that they should replace wifi misses the point. Yes, powerline networks are faster, provide more reliable and consistent connections, and are easy to install; however, they can’t boast the same ease of use, convenience, or range of wifi. The real potential of powerline lies in its ability to easily and effectively work alongside wifi in your home or office. You see, powerline can only connect to one or two devices at a time, while wi-fi can connect to several easily. However, both require a router. You don’t even need to buy a new router for powerline compatibility, they’re designed to connect to just about any on the market today, and that includes wireless routers.

A popular set up for a home involves a wireless router for phones and other personal devices to connect to the internet, but a powerline adapter for a smart TV or gaming system. The wifi provides plenty of speed for any phone apps, social media, music, and games, while the wired connection keeps your video streaming and high-data gaming up to speed. 

Who Should Start Powerline Networking?

Powerline Networking is a great opportunity for anyone looking to increase or bolster the speed of their internet connection. If you’re just looking for a better connection to Netflix at home, there are plenty of inexpensive and reliable adapters that offer mind-boggling speeds, as compared to wifi, and come in a simple pair. Just plug them in, connect the ethernet cables, and you’re done.
If you’re a business owner, you can buy a pair as well for your high data-use devices. Do you run a business that requires a fast connection for multiple, maybe even vast quantities, of computers or devices? Don’t worry, you can snag some great deals on your price per adapter by buying them in bulk. After a few minutes of set up, you can have your whole office running connections faster than ever. Plus, you won’t need tech support helping you maintain your internet connection because you don’t have to worry about wireless connectivity.

The reliability of a wired connection is something many seem to be forgetting in this golden age of wifi, but its benefits are not to be overlooked. Now that there is an infrastructure for developing and manufacturing powerline network products, they’re affordable enough to buy for your home and effective enough to hold their own against wifi.