I (and some neighbors) want to use Ethernet-over-powerline extenders to join computer networks in adjacent houses. This is never a 'supported' use case with this gear, and I doubt the power company will want to spend time looking things up for me. I don't really want to entertain that conversation with them.

My neighborhood has all buried utility service. There are large metal green boxes on cement pads between some houses with transformers in them, and smaller plastic boxes which are just junctions or conduit ends I think, between other houses. Approximately three houses for each pad mounted transformer.

My first thought was to try using my old x-10 gear between houses, but x-10 is such junk it didn't work on the same power strip...

I have an HP communications cable toner/tracer, but it's meant for 20-28 gauge copper. I imagine I could use a toner (relatively) safely on the neutral, but can I expect it to work at hundreds of feet distance on 2 ought aluminum worth a damn?

Is there a better trick to tell if we're on the same transformer before I buy the networking gear? I don't really want to run extension cords across the street.

What other equipment communicates over powerline that I'm just not thinking of that I could use to test?

  • 4
    a wifi bridge seems like the simpler answer, or running a new ethernet cable between the houses. – ratchet freak Jan 19 '16 at 9:39
  • Second the wifi suggestion, with cantennas to extend the range if needed. – keshlam Jan 19 '16 at 11:01
  • We are using wireless extenders at present. They are spotty at times. I've gone over my config with a CCIE and two 'Hams' and none could suggest any improvements. I want to avoid wireless, as it's too subject to weather and I can't put the antennas in a good location. I've considered running fiber through the city storm sewer that crosses under the street, but that's a bit dubious. I can't/don't want to run it over head. I want it to not be visible. – Billy C. Jan 19 '16 at 15:12
  • How long a distance are you trying to span? Directional antennas make up for a lot of rain-induced signal strength loss. – keshlam Jan 19 '16 at 15:40
  • 175 feet. The antennas are highly directional all ready. – Billy C. Jan 19 '16 at 16:13

The only way to tell for sure it to shut off the transformer and see who lost power. I obviously can't recommend that "solution".

Another problem is that even if you can tell you're on same transformer, it still won't be a good indication if it will work EOP.

The only reliable way is to plug in the adapter and try. You probably can do it for (almost) free: in most jurisdictions law allows consumers to return undamaged goods purchased remotely (eg online) for no reason. Check out if you're eligible. If it won't work, all you risk is 2-way shipping fee. Just make sure you're making the purchase as a consumer and not as a business entity.

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  • Great answer because even if you know for a fact the houses are on the same transformer, the Powerline adapters might not work, or might have very slow speeds. They are known to not work well when placed on different legs in the same house - I wouldn't even try house to house, personally. – JPhi1618 Jan 19 '16 at 14:38

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