Can you use a powerline adapter on a smart TV?

The better question is, “should you?” Powerline networking kits like this one from Tech Choice will help you get a network connection where none exists. Wired networking is necessary when your Wi-Fi doesn’t reach, or in the case of smart TVs which don’t always work well with Wi-Fi. DIRECTV-Ready TVs won’t work over Wi-Fi… they’re designed not to let you connect wirelessly because most home wireless signals can’t give the smooth transport that DIRECTV requires.

So, one choice for wiring the living room is a powerline adapter. It’s not a bad choice, because you can theoretically get 300Mbps transfers which is about 20 times faster than you’ll need for HD streaming. It’s also very easy to set up… just plug one end into your router and a wall outlet, plug another end into an outlet in another room and you’re all set.

Powerline isn’t necessarily the best choice for streaming video, though, and it’s not the best choice for DIRECTV. The best choice for streaming is a wired ethernet connection, and the best choice for DIRECTV is coaxial cable. As great as powerline networking is, remember that your home’s electrical system just isn’t designed to carry high-speed data. Powerline networks take advantage of the fact that data signals travel on the outside of the copper wires in your home and aren’t affected by the voltage within the wires. However, your home’s copper wires may be affected by a lot of interference along the way, and a 300Mbps signal could be really degraded by the time it gets from point to point.

How can you know if powerline networking is right for you? It’s actually better in older homes than newer, because in older homes electrical wires run through flex conduit which shields them, and in many cases older electrical systems are using thicker wires. Newer homes with Romex wiring may have thinner wires which can be more sensitive to interference, or they may have supplementary junction boxes which mean that there isn’t a direct connection from room to room.

The good news is that powerline adapters don’t cost a lot to buy. It’s a small investment and certainly less expensive than having the home wired for ethernet. That can be really costly, so the best thing may simply to be to try powerline first and see if it works for you before buying everything you need to add hard wires or hiring a contractor. That can get expensive, quick.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.