Can Powerline Adapters Interfere with Wi-Fi?

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Many people look to using powerline adapters alongside their existing Wi-Fi network, but this does raise the question as to whether the two interfere with each other and whether performance will be impacted.

Powerline adapters do not interfere with a Wi-Fi network. They can actually improve performance by freeing up capacity of the Wi-Fi network by establishing a wired connection with the device connected to it instead. Performance can be impacted by other appliances using the same power system, though.

In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why powerline adapters won’t interfere with a Wi-Fi network, how they can actually help extend an existing Wi-Fi network, and why you may even see better performance using them when compared with Wi-Fi.

Do powerline adapters interfere with Wi-Fi?

Powerline adapters do not interfere with an existing Wi-Fi network. They can actually work well together as connecting a device to a powerline adapter instead of a Wi-Fi network can free up capacity and improve performance for all devices connected to the entire network.

If you have a device that doesn’t consume a lot of bandwidth and doesn’t rely heavily on a network connection to work well, you may not notice a lot of difference when disconnecting it from your Wi-Fi network and connecting it to your powerline adapter instead. 

But if you were to move over something like your main PC that you use to game online or stream video content, you could well see an improvement in performance on not only the PC itself, but all of your other devices still connected to the Wi-Fi network as the PC is no longer there to use the bandwidth it has to offer.

In fact, many gamers have reported seeing a big increase in performance when gaming online after they discarded Wi-Fi and started using a powerline network instead.

Not only did their overall speeds increase, but they also noticed a large drop in lag, buffering and ping times.

Whilst I was performing various tests with my own powerline adapters, my partner continued to be watching Netflix on the TV which was connected over Wi-Fi quite happily.

This definitely reassured me that powerline adapters don’t interfere with Wi-Fi especially when you consider how often I was powering them on and off during my testing and how streaming online video is one of the most demanding tasks you can perform on your home network.

Can you use Powerline and Wi-Fi on the same network?

Powerline adapters can absolutely work alongside Wi-Fi on the same network as they operate using two very different methods.

Wi-Fi, of course, uses a wireless signal to establish a connection between all of your wireless devices and your router, whereas powerline adapters will generally use a wired connection.

The majority of powerline adapters will only provide the facility for you to connect a wired device to them using an ethernet cable, but there are some that can also provide Wi-Fi, either by acting as an extender allowing you to connect to the same SSID, or by creating their own mini Wi-Fi network.

Although just by looking at them, you would assume that powerline adapters work wirelessly, they actually make use of the existing electrical wiring found within the walls to provide the device connected to them with a wired ethernet connection.

Although it is not exactly the same, you could imagine that there is a very long ethernet cable that extends from one of the ethernet ports on your router to the device plugged in to the powerline adapter, but with a good majority of the cable being hidden behind the walls.

As a matter of fact, not only can powerline adapters work quite happily alongside a Wi-Fi network, but they can also even help extend the range of your existing wireless connection.

This is because you don’t have to worry about placing the powerline adapters within range of the existing router that is already supplying your W-Fi connection, whereas you would if you bypassed the powerline network and tried setting up a direct connection with a Wi-Fi repeater, for example.

Both the reliability and stability of the connection will of course heavily depend on the performance of the powerline network, though.

I would always recommend using a direct ethernet cable to connect your Wi-Fi extender or access point with your router instead of placing a powerline adapter in between wherever possible.

Performance on a powerline network can be a bit hit and miss as it does ultimately depend on the quality of your electrical wiring, whereas you won’t have this concern when using ethernet as it generally provides the best performance whilst being more reliable in terms of connection strength.

Going back to the original question on whether you can use powerline adapters alongside Wi-Fi on the same network; the answer is yes, you can, and you may even notice a boost in performance from doing so.

Are powerline adapters better than Wi-Fi?

Many people struggle with a Wi-Fi connection in their homes, and for this reason, will say that powerline adapters are better than Wi-Fi.

A Wi-Fi network is well known for only being able to have so many devices connected to it before the performance begins to suffer.

Adding just a few more devices to an existing Wi-Fi network can not only impact the performance on these newly added devices, but the ones that are already connected too.

Wi-Fi only has so much capacity, and it is easy for it to become bloated which can result in slower performance, buffering and lag, and regular connection drop outs.

To put powerline adapters to the test, I performed four speed tests, all of which used a different type of connection.

  • Connected directly to the router using an ethernet cable
  • Connected to the Wi-Fi network supplied by the router
  • Connected to the ethernet port of a powerline adapter
  • Connected to the dedicated Wi-Fi network provided by the powerline adapter

I was pleasantly surprised with the results which show that powerline adapters can in fact perform just as well as Wi-Fi or even ethernet, and in some cases, even better.

Connection TypeDownload SpeedsUpload SpeedsPing
Ethernet55.19 Mbps13.44 Mbps13 ms
Wi-Fi57.69 Mbps12.97 Mbps16 ms
Powerline Ethernet51.23 Mbps13.38 Mbps15 ms
Powerline Wi-Fi43.55 Mbps13.50 Mbps14 ms

So based on these results, I found that although when connected to a powerline adapter my download speeds weren’t quite as good, I actually received a lower ping and faster upload speeds.

The differences between the ping, download speeds and uploads were pretty marginal, so if anything, this shows that powerline adapters can be as good as regular Wi-Fi, or even better depending on how you look at it and what you are looking to optimize.

For example, someone who is gaming on online may feel that a wired ethernet connection is best as it provides the quickest ping response times, whereas someone else may favor using powerline adapters as they offer a solid balance between ping, download speed and upload speed.

Does anything impact the performance of a powerline network?

The quality of the electrical wiring found within the walls of your home will be the largest determining factor in how well your powerline network will perform, but they can also face interference from other appliances that use the same power system.

This is to be expected when you think about it as the powerline adapters ultimately connect back to the main power board when they are making use of the electrical wiring. 

For this reason, other devices and appliances that draw lots of power and are left powered on for long periods of time can have an impact on the performance of your powerline network.

An air conditioning unit is notorious for this as not only do they not only consume lots of power, but they are typically left on for many hours during the day, especially during the hotter months of the year.

To put this into perspective, your average central air conditioning unit will use between 3,000 and 5,000 watts of power when operating for around 9 hours a day in the hotter summer months.

This is a considerable amount of power, so you can see how the performance of a powerline network can suffer when the AC unit is using so much power at the same time.

Another common cause for powerline adapters to not perform as well as expected is them being plugged into extension cords. Some powerline adapters may not work at all, whereas others will, but just don’t expect the same kind of performance that you could achieve by plugging them directly into a wall power outlet.

Recommended Powerline Adapters

If you are looking for some powerline adapters for your own home network, here are some recommendations.

TP-Link TL-WPA4220 – The powerline adapters I personally use myself and have found great success with. Very quick and easy to get set up with speeds that will be perfect for most people. 

D-Link DHP-P701AV – These powerline adapters offer the best speeds and built-in noise filtering whilst remaining very easy to setup

TRENDnet TPL-407E2K – This is your budget option that includes two powerline adapters in a bundle and has useful features such as a power-saving mode