This is a common question people using powerline adapters across a home network want to know – is there a limit to the number of adapters you can chain together?
As with so many questions in home networking, the answer depends on different factors, since different powerline brands and models have different capabilities.
Here is a summary answer:
Depending on the brand and model, you can add anything between 8 to 64 adapters in total to a single powerline network. You can however also create multiple separate powerline networks within the same wiring, so you can effectively have as many access points as you like.
This means that even at the low end of 8 maximum, most users are going to be able to have more than enough access points for their home network needs. Most modern models allow between 16-32 “nodes” or access points, so almost all domestic users are going to be fine.
Let’s look in more detail at different ways of adding more adapters to expand a powerline network
Jargon busting note – The word “node” in this article just means an access point in a network, in this case, a powerline adapter. So if you have 3 powerline adapters connected together on their own networks, then you have 3 nodes on that network.
Method #1 – Adding More Powerline Adapters to a Single Network
The most simple way to expand a powerline network is simply to keep adding more adapters to a single network, connecting them all together to create multiple access points around a home.
This involves simply installing a new adapter and pairing it up with one of the other adapters currently on the network.
All modern powerline adapters have a “pair” button to allow you to do this. Here are the general steps:
- Assume you have two powerline adapters on a network and you want to add a third to join the network. You do this by using the pair button as follows:
- Plug in the third adapter and hold the “pair” button on it for around a few seconds.
- Within 2 minutes find and press the pair button on one of the other two adapters on the network for a few seconds.
- The lights will start flashing on each adapter to indicate they are searching for each other. Wait around 60 seconds for the process to complete. Once paired all lights will stop blinking and go solid to indicate a connection.
- You have now securely added the third adapter to the other two. All three adapters are now on the same powerline network
- Follow exactly the same process to add additional adapters to the same powerline network.
Powerline adapters have a pair button and a pair light that tells you when they are connected to a network
In this way you can create powerline networks with anything from 8 to 64 access points in them, depending on brand and model.
Another clever way to add more access points around the home is to get powerline adapter models that have multiple ethernet ports at the receiving end. This allows you to connect up multiple devices wherever you install each adapter.
Here are two models with multiple ports (Amazon links):
- TP Link TL-PA 3030 P-Kit – 3 ethernet ports at the receiving end.
- TP Link TL-WPA 8630 P-Kit – 3 ethernet ports plus Wi-Fi at the receiving end.
These models are more expensive than other models, but can be a good
way to expand connectivity when you have a lot of devices grouped
together which need strong connections.
This is great as it allows you to expand home networks as bandwidth needs increase. Note though that with all powerline networks throughput or data transfer is shared by the whole network, whether it is a single network or multiple networks.
You may in fact that speeds and performance starts to fall after adding a certain number of adapters. This my be due to you hitting the capability limits of your internet package, but it may also be a good idea to split your adapters into separate powerline networks.
Let’s cover this option now.
Method #2 – Creating Separate Powerline Networks Within the Same Home
This can be useful if a) You want to test whether using separate networks instead of one large powerline network improves performance; or b) For security or privacy reasons, you want some powerline adapters on their own, separate, private network not accessible to the other adapters.
This is easy to do and just requires a little tweak in how you configure the adapters. You just need to pair only the adapters you want to be on the network and not the other ones. It is best to plug them in close together and pair them up first before moving them to where you need them in the house.
- If you already have adapters A B and C on their own network, leave them alone and don’t press any pair buttons on them
- Plug adapters D and E, the new ones you want to be on a separate network, into a pair of wall sockets close together.
- Press the pair button on one for a few seconds, then within 2 minutes press and hold the pair button on the other.
- When the adapters are connected the lights will stop flashing and turn solid.
- Your D and E adapters are now on their own secure separate powerline network, separate from A, B and C. You can move them to wherever you need them in the house.
- To add more adapters to this specific network follow the normal pairing process again described in Method 1.
Some Node Limits For Different TP Link Powerline Models
Let’s also gather together some information available elsewhere, to let users know of the specific node limits, in other words, how many adapters you can add to a single network when using that model.
Be aware also that if you are using two models that fit into different categories, then you will most likely be limited to the lowest number (eg. if one adapter has a limit of 8, and the other 16, then your limit is probably going to be 8). Powerline networks tend to be limited by their weakest link.
TP Link have the most readily available information on this, so let’s summarize it here:
These TP Link Models support up to 6 adapters per network:
- TLPA210/ TL-PA210KIT
- TL-PA250 / TL-PA250KIT
(These are really old models and almost no one will be using them anymore).
These TP Link Models support up to 8 adapters per network:
- TL-PA200Triple TL-PA210_v3
- TL-PA211 / TL-PA211KIT
- TL-PA251 / TL-PA251KIT
- TL-PA411 / TL-PA411KIT
- TL-PA2010 / TL-PA2010KIT
- TL-PA2010P / TL-PA2010PKIT
- TL-PA2030/ TL-PA2030KIT
- TL-WPA271 / TL-WPA271KIT
- TL-WPA281 / TL-WPA281KIT
- TL-WPA2220 / TL-WPA2220KIT
Again, some of these are older models which are not massively used these days.
These TP Link Models support up to 16 adapters per network:
- TL-PA111 TL-PA411_v2 / TL-PA411KIT_v2
- TL-PA4010 / TL-PA4010KIT
- TL-PA4010P / TL-PA4010PKIT / TL-PA4010PT KIT
- TL-PA4030/ TL-PA4030KIT
- TL-WPA4220 / TL-WPA4220KIT / TL-WPA4220T KIT
- TL-WPA4221 KIT
- TL-WPA4226T KIT
- TL-PA4020/TL-PA4020 KIT
- TL-PA7010 KIT，TL-PA7010P KIT
- TL-WPA7510/TL-WPA7510 KIT
- TL-WPA9610 KIT
- TL-PA9020P/ TL-PA9020PKIT
These TP Link models support up to 24 adapters per network:
- TL-PA8010/TL-PA8010 KIT/TL-PA8010P/TL-PA8010P KIT
- TL-PA8030P/TL-PA8030P KIT
- TL-WPA8630/TL-WPA8630KIT/TL-WPA8630P/TL-WPA8630P KIT
These are some of the top end, multi-port and Wi-Fi enabled powerline adapters, again available on our TP Link pages.
See this page for models which support 64 nodes; most users are covered by what’s already listed.
Netgear advise you to check the FAQ section of their site for whatever model you are using for an exact node limit. Realistically, it’s going to be at least 8 and up to 64 adapters per network.
Here are some major Netgear adapter node limits:
- HDX101, HDXB101, HDXB111 – 15 nodes
- XE102, XE102G, WGX102, WGXB102, XEPSB1001, XE103, XE103G, XET1001, XETB1001, XE104, XEB1004 – 16 nodes
- XAV101, XAVB101, XAV1004, XAVB1004 – 64 nodes
All major modern brands support at least 8 nodes per network.
The Performance of Powerline Adapters Across Circuits
This is another issue to be aware whenever you are expanding powerline networks by adding multiple adapters across a home. It is highly likely that as you add more adapters, you will start bridging across into different phases/legs/rings/loops of the house circuitry. Will this affect performance?
Again, there isn’t a definitive answer on this, since every circuit differs.
Here are the main points to consider here:
- Powerline adapters will not work between separate residences and apartments within the same building that are on separate feeds. See our article which covers this.
- Powerline adapters may or may not work across different circuit phases/rings within the same house. Most of the time they will, but there are exceptions.
- When they do work across phases, there can sometimes be a drop in speeds each time they cross over to a new phase.
- They will not work when trying to connect two places supplied by separate meters/feeds.
- See our full article on using powerline across different circuits for a very detailed breakdown of this issue.
The bottom line is that you can often expand powerline networks within a single home fed by a single meter, and many people successfully do. However, some people do run into problems trying to get adapters to properly connect across house circuitry.
There is unfortunately no one-size-fits-all answer on this, because experiences will differ drastically between residences. It is probably fair to say that most people in most modern or semi modern houses can get acceptable or very good performance out of powerline adapters, but some people may struggle.
See the linked article above for more on this, plus a detailed troubleshooting guide for solving any problems you do have with powerline adapters.
Mixing Different Brands & Models of Powerline Adapter
This is another question users looking to expand powerline networks may have. They may have different makes and models of powerline adapter lying around, and want to try and mix and match different adapters to expand their home network. Is this possible?
With modern adapters, this is definitely possible a lot of the time. In fact, any powerline adapters that are certified to the HomePlug AV standards should work together, since inter-compatibility is a requirement to be certified to that standard.
All the modern TP Link models, for example (both standard and wireless adapters), are all inter-compatible with each other, as are modern versions of other brands. You should also be able to mix different brands together, as long as they are reasonably modern and both HomePlug AV certified.
The only problems you may run into here are using really old models you may have lying around from the early or mid 2000s, that may not work with more modern adapters.
Another thing to note as well is that when mixing different models of powerline adapter, the performance or speed is limited to the slowest adapter. So if you have an AV500 adapter and an AV200 adapter, your theoretical speed is going to be limited to 200Mbps, the speed of the slowest adapter.
See our full article on mixing powerline adapters for more on this.
The bottom line on this is that almost all domestic users are going to be fine even with having a maximum limit of 8 powerline adapters on their network, and most modern brands/models support 16 or more nodes or adapters on a network.
If you ever get close to reaching these limits, you can also start to split your adapters into separate networks as we covered above. Powerline networks are effectively only limited by the quality of house wiring and available bandwidth, not really the maximum number of permitted nodes.
This may be more of a concern for businesses that use larger powerline networks where a lot of bandwidth is available and a lot of access points are needed. In these cases, more management may be needed, but home users pretty much don’t have to worry about this.