Problem Solver: Powerline Networking

by Josh on January 12, 2010 · 4 comments

in Ideas

What’s a technology-loving old-house aficionado to do? The builders of my house 87 years ago just couldn’t anticipate the internet, digital media, or a resident houseblogger.  To meet my need for distributed digital resources, I could run cat-5 cable through the house or set up a wi-fi network, but I recently discovered another option: powerline networking.

powerline networking

The idea is simple: use the existing electrical wiring to transmit computer information between different parts of the house. And installation couldn’t be simpler.  Just plug a transmitter box into an outlet in each the rooms to be networked and connect your computer, modem, xbox, router or other networkable device using ethernet cable.  The networking devices automatically find each other with no configuration, and data encryption happens at the push of a button.

Powerline networking has some distinct advantages and limitations.  Compared to running networking cable through existing walls, powerline networking is fast and easy to install.  However, its performance is dependent on the quality of the house wiring used.  Compared to wi-fi, powerline networking offers the stability of a hardwired connection but at fixed location.

Here at Bungalow ’23, I am using powerline networking to connect my modem to the entertainment center and a wifi router.  Since I installed it, I have seen a significant improvement in the speed and stability of video streaming that I hadn’t achieved with a wi-fi signal from two plaster-walled rooms away. Others with older houses might find a powerline system a useful option for difficult-to-network homes.

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