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I know this is a bad idea, but that does't mean I don't want to try it.

Powerline networking is a thing. It could well be they do this in the way I'm considering, but I'd imagine they probably transmit data by superimposing it onto the live waveform and then using filters to filter out the AC on the receiving end. That just seems more responsible.

That being said, is there any electrical reason why I couldn't design a transmitter and receiver that communicated over my house's neutral wire? Assuming it used a low voltage for transmission, say 5-10V, that wouldn't change the potential between live and neutral by any more than standard grid fluctuations would, so I don't think this would present a problem to other devices connected?

If it's relevant, I'm in the UK so we use a 230V@50Hz ring main in our houses.


To be clear. I know this is a bad idea, I probably won't actually do it. So please don't answer with don't do it.

I'm looking for answers as to why it wouldn't work, or why it would potentially damage other devices plugged into my house wiring.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Safety issues aside. If you use live/phase as the return wire, it'll just be the same as normal powerline networking except opposite polarity (if that even matters). If you use earth as the return, it'll trip your RCD. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oskar Skog
    Oct 18, 2022 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't suppose TP-Link uses a known protocol for their powerline adapters? Would be cool if I could just hook into my existing network... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18, 2022 at 17:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can't really communicate on one line alone. No matter which wire you use to send data as voltage or current, there is always another wire used for the common or return path. So yeah, neutral is already used. Also, aren't household powerline comms standardized? Why would one manufacturer make their custom method if standard chipsets can be bought. \$\endgroup\$
    – Justme
    Oct 18, 2022 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Justme - I was thinking neutral->earth... Although if you could tell me what protocol tp link powerline adapters use, then I won't need to try and create my own solution... Would be even cooler if I could make my device just use my existing powerline network \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18, 2022 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, PLC for residential high-speed networking is standardized through IEEE Std 1901-2010 and successors \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18, 2022 at 18:11

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Neutral is usually tied to earth at the panel. I would think this would tend to shunt any RF that would go between branches of neutral to ground.

Plus, what’s your return for the driver? Answer: HomePlug and others use both hot and neutral, through a transformer, so there is a complete loop.

More here: How do these powerline networking adapters work?

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