Can You Use A Powerline Adapter In An Apartment?

Powerline adapters can be great home networking solutions to provide different internet access points around the home. But they’re normally thought of as being used in houses. Can they also be used in apartments as well?

You can normally use powerline adapters within newer individual apartments especially, although performance is dependent on the quality of the wiring and interference and is not guaranteed. With some very rare exceptions, you cannot usually connect powerline adapters between different apartments in the same building.

In other words, there should not be anything stopping you using powerline adapters within any single modern and semi modern apartment just as you would in a house. Getting powerline adapters to work between different apartments, even if they’re in the same building, is a whole other matter and you almost always won’t be able to do this.

Let’s break down the issue to cover each of these scenarios in more detail.

Using A Powerline Adapter Within A Single Apartment

In most cases, there really should not be any difference between using a pair or set of powerline adapters in a house and using them within a single apartment. As long as all the rooms in any one apartment you use them in are all contained within the same internal circuit, they should connect and work fine.

Installing powerline adapters within a single apartment is easy. Here’s the general process:

  1. Plug one adapter into a wall socket and connect to your router with a LAN cable.
  2. Plug the other adapter into a wall socket and connect to a device with a LAN cable.
  3. Press and hold the pair button on one adapter until it starts blinking, and then within 2 minutes press and hold the pair button on the other adapter.
  4. Wait up to 2 minutes for the adapters to pair and the LEDs turn solid green on both.
  5. Your adapters are now paired and ready to use.
  6. You can add more adapters to the network by pairing them to an existing one using using the same process.

If you like, you can plug the adapters in right next to each other in adjacent sockets to pair them up to make it easier. Then, once paired, you can move them around to where you need them.

Pairing Powerline Adapters (Quick Demo)


I’ve lived in multi-room apartments before and can confirm I’ve used powerline adapters to send internet connections to different rooms there fine just as I have in a house. As long as the apartment is wired normally, the adapters should be able to communicate between different rooms within a single apartment fine.

There may be rare cases in older or poorly wired apartments where the wiring doesn’t allow the adapters to communicate. It’s hard to tell this beforehand without trying them unfortunately, but there shouldn’t be any issue in most halfway modern and properly constructed apartments.

Can You Use Them Between Different Apartments In The Same Building?

This is where it can get a little more tricky. There might be scenarios where you might want to try and connect powerline adapters between different apartments within the same building.

For example, you might be temporarily using someone else’s internet in an adjacent apartment, and want a strong wired connection sent to your own apartment for gaming, streaming etc. Would this be possible?

The answer would mostly be no, especially in modern apartments. All powerline adapters need to be connected on the same internal circuit in order to communicate with each other.

Whilst adjacent apartments in the same building could be argued to be “connected” in some way in terms of circuitry, there are too many breakers/switches/panels/protective devices within the wiring between apartments to allow a signal to be sent between apartments.

I’ve kept getting different answers on this – some people saying they can work between apartments and others saying no. My understand of this has always been no, but I decided to get an expert opinion and ask on an electrical forum whether they will work between apartments.

Here’s the answer I got from someone knowledgeable on the topic:

“The performance you get will be based on the distance the signal needs to travel through mains wiring. Devices on the same circuit will do best, but also bear in mind there could be other interference. On the same circuit the signal will probably not pass through any protective devices, or put it another way it keeps that to a minimum.

The problem you have between apartments is very likely you are will be on a completely different phase. There is no way this would work in that case, even if you were lucky to be on the same phase, the signal would need to pass through a lot of devices (MCBs etc) and through the main switch gear for the apartments. So technically this might work however the performance might be very bad if not unusable.

PS Electrics – forum

In other words, in almost all cases, trying to get powerline adapters to communicate between different apartments in the same building isn’t going to work. And in the rare cases it does work, you’ll get a very weak or inconsistent signal that will probably be basically unusable.

You can probably assume in most cases that the circuity in separate apartments in the same building is sufficiently “walled off” from each other by MCBs and other devices, that adapters in different residences won’t communicate.

Securing Your Powerline Network In Apartment Buildings

Regardless of the reality that connecting adapters between apartments is NOT usually possible, some users might still be security conscious with so many apartments clustered together in buildings.

In the very rare cases that adapters may be able to connect/communicate between apartments, it is theoretically possible for someone to “hack” or join your powerline network from a nearby apartment and use your internet connection.

Although to put this in perspective, the odds of this happening AND the person being able to get a usable internet signal are very very low.

Nevertheless, if you want to make sure any powerline adapters you connect together are secured in their own network not accessible by anyone else, be sure to formally pair them using the button as described in the steps above. This then “locks” those adapters into their own secure network.

However, if you want to be even more thorough about it, you can use the app/utility CD included with many powerline adapter kits to create an even more secure network with encryption keys that are required to access the network.

Here are the general steps to do this:

  • Install and pair the powerline adapters as described above.
  • Run the CD Utility Program that came with the adapters on any PC/Laptop.
  • With this Utility, you can find all the adapters connected on a powerline network, and set a password to protect that network.
  • You can also manually add more adapters to the network.
  • The MAC address and password of each individual adapter is on the actual adapter itself.
  • This is really just a manual, computerized way of doing what we have already described above.
  • If by any chance another adapter has gained unauthorized access to a powerline network (very unlikely anyway), you can also kick it off and set a password to protect the network from then on.

The general process will be the similar for most brands; consult the packaging and Utility CDs you got with your adapters, or look online for utility guides for your brand of adapter.

Variability In Performance

Because powerline adapters rely on house circuitry in order to work, performance of them unfortunately cannot be guaranteed in all cases, including within apartments where they technically should work.

There are lots of things which can affect the performance of powerline adapters and lead to deliver either a weaker signal or none at all, including:

  • The distance the signal has to travel along the wiring.
  • The quality, age and structure of the wiring.
  • Whether the wiring in the apartment is broken into different legs/loops/rings (may get reduced speeds).
  • Any interference on the circuitry (avoid placing them near high power use devices).
  • The combination of adapters. You can sometimes mix different adapters but same brand and model is best.

See my post on when powerline adapters won’t work, plus the troubleshooting guide on trying to resolve any performance issues you get using them.

Again, in most normally wired apartments, there shouldn’t be an issue, but there’s no guarantee they’ll work in every case.

Alternative Home Networking Solutions For Apartments

If you’re not really wanting to risk powerline adapters, or are having problems getting them to work in an apartment, here are a couple of alternative solutions for spreading internet coverage across an apartment.

1. Wi-Fi Extenders – Single plug adapters which you install in a wall socket, but which capture and amplify the wireless signal from your router instead. Don’t rely on electrical wiring to send signals, and can be ideal for improving wireless coverage in smaller apartments (powerline vs Extender comparison here).

2. Mesh Wi-Fi – More expensive kits which work on the same principle as extenders, but with more advanced technology and usually better performance. You place 2 or more nodes around the apartment to spread Wi-Fi over a larger area (powerline vs Mesh comparison here).

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