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Pump up your powerline: How to get the best performance from a HomePlug network

Yardena Arar | March 10, 2016
HomePlug powerline networks can sometimes reach places your Wi-Fi gear can’t. We’ll show you how to optimize your network’s performance and troubleshoot problems.

When Wi-Fi alone can’t manage your streaming-media needs, a network using your home’s electrical wiring can often help. HomePlug AV2 MIMO powerline networks—the latest and fastest version of the HomePlug standard—are fast and easy to set up: You simply plug one adapter into a free power outlet near your router (and connect it to your router with an ethernet cable), and then you plug other powerline adapters into power outlets near the devices you want to add to your network.

To truly shine, your HomePlug network might need some tweaks, which can be as simple as moving electronics and/or adapters to different outlets. We’ll go over some of the common issues that can slow down performance, and show you how you can fix them.

Skip surge protectors, power strips, and UPS’s

Powerline networks work by converting data into radio waves of different frequencies and amplitudes that are different from the waves that transmit power. The signals move together over your home’s electrical wiring, and a powerline adapter filters out and decode the ones carrying data.

Surge protectors and UPS’s (uninterruptible power supplies, which are designed to kick in with emergency battery power if there’s an outage) interpret the data signals as noise and will try to filter them out in order to deliver “clean” power. This can seriously degrade or completely wipe out a powerline network. To prevent this from happening, the documentation for most powerline network equipment typically urges you to plug HomePlug adapters directly into wall outlets.

Monster markets a line of surge suppressors that incorporate powerline-networking features; unfortunately, Monster uses a proprietary standard that’s not compatible with—and is much slower than—HomePlug. The best strategy: Plug your HomePlug adapters directly into the wall.

By the way, don’t worry about lack of surge protection for the HomePlug adapters themselves. Since they are designed for use on both our AC 110-120 circuits and the more powerful DC 220 circuits that are common overseas, it’s unlikely that a surge beyond 110-120 will cause damage.

Avoid sharing an outlet with a cell-phone charger

Any device that draws electric power can create noise that might make it tougher for a HomePlug adapter to filter out data signals. Plugging a phone charger (or anything else that’s constantly drawing power) into same receptacle that a HomePlug adapter is using can degrade network performance. The good news is that distance attenuates the impact of the noise; moving the charger to a receptacle that’s several feet away might improve performance. Fluorescent light fixtures also inject noise into powerlines and should be plugged in as far you’re your HomePlug adapters as possible. The same goes for electric appliances with motors, such as vacuum cleaners.

 

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