How Does an IR Repeater Work?

Owners of home theater systems know very well the issues with remote controls. For aesthetic reasons, you often need to hide equipment away.

Most of the remote control systems for home theater equipment use infrared (IR) signals. To receive an IR signal, the receiver must have a clear line of sight with the transmitter.

This is a problem for remote control since you will cover the signal receivers by hiding the equipment away. To tackle this problem, you can use an IR repeater.

How Does an IR Repeater Work 2

This system is an IR receiver that takes the signal from a remote control. Then, it converts it into an electrical signal.

It’s easy to distribute an electric signal via copper wiring. So, it doesn’t matter where you install your home theater equipment.

You’ll always be able to control it remotely using an IR repeater. Moreover, this system has vast applications in home theater systems that extend over several rooms.

Components of an IR Repeater

From the description above, one can identify the different components of an IR repeater system:

  • IR Receiver. This is a sensor that demodulates the signal from your remote control.

The output of the IR receiver is an electrical signal that can be distributed via copper wires. The IR receiver is connected to the connection block using the said copper wires.

  • Connection Block. This is the board that interconnects the IR receiver with the different IR emitters of the system.

How Does an IR Repeater Work

Not all the IR repeater systems have a connection block. In simpler systems, the IR receiver is connected directly to an IR emitter.
  • IR Emitters. These devices get the electrical signals from the connection block and reconvert them into IR signals.

They are located close to the device that you want to control. With a proper line of sight, the IR emitter relays the signals from the remote control.

IR emitters are also known as IR bugs, blasters, and other names.

Components of an IR Repeater

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Now, it is clear when an IR repeater can help you. If your equipment is not in the line of sight with the remote control, then you need an IR repeater.

It all depends on the configuration that you prefer for your equipment.

For example, you may want to put all the electronics behind a wall and connect the screen using wireless HDMI. Then, you need an IR repeater to be able to control the electronic devices behind the wall.

There are some details to take into account when you install an IR repeater for your home theater. If you want to control remotely one device only, the solution is straightforward.

A problem arises when you have several devices that you want to control. In the worst case, you will have to install an IR repeater for each device.

Fortunately, there is a solution to the problem above.

Some IR repeater systems allow you to put a single IR receiver. Through a connection block, the received signal is sent to the corresponding IR emitter. This is a practical solution.

However, you still have several cables from the connection block to the IR emitters.

One possibility is using a smart hub capable of cloning the different remote control signals. This way, there would be possible to locate a single IR emitter near the devices to control.

Hub for the different signals

Problems that an IR Repeater May Have

The principle of operation of an IR repeater is very simple. A device should not “notice” any difference between the IR signal from the remote control and the signal from the IR emitter. However, this is not so simple to achieve.

Several problems may affect the functionality of the remote control. Let’s take a detailed look at each of those potential problems.

Power Supply

Both the IR receiver and IR emitter need electric power to operate. The number of IR emitters is a factor to consider.

The IR receiver and IR emitter

The more IR emitters, the more power you need.

Another issue is the length of the distribution wires.

They can hamper the supply power, thereby reducing the emitted power of the IR signal. Power supplies for these systems are generally small to avoid bulky devices.

In any case, considering that your home theater is available 24/7, you must find a reliable power supply. Get the power supply with a sufficient output current for the number of IR emitters you have.

The Directionality of IR Signals

IR signals are electromagnetic waves. They travel in straight paths and, therefore, need a clear line of sight between transmitter and receiver.

How Does an IR Repeater Work

These signals are also attenuated with distance. All these factors can diminish the intensity with which a signal reaches an IR sensor or receiver.

To make things worse, IR signals are prone to suffer from interference. Multiple sources of electromagnetic radiation and light can interfere with your IR signals.

Sunlight, for example, is a source of electromagnetic radiation in different wavelengths, including infrared. Hence, all IR receivers must be located in places where less interference can occur. Otherwise, you may notice some malfunctions.

IR Code Conflicts

Although not common, two manufacturers may use the same IR codes for different devices.

The result would be two different devices operating when you intend only one of them to respond to a remote command.

For security, manufacturers don’t share the codes they use in their remote controls. Unfortunately, this lack of collaboration may cause issues like this one.

Too Sensitive Equipment

Some IR emitters can transmit higher power than the device’s IR sensor can handle. In such a case, the device will not respond to the command.

For such cases, there are IR emitters with adjustable output power.

In this case, you have to adjust the power of each IR emitter before you start using your IR repeater system.

Conclusion

An IR repeater system is ideal for a home theater system in which the electronics will be hidden away. The IR repeater system overcomes the problem of non-line of sight between transmitter and receiver.

While such a system helps to simplify the distribution of the control signals, it doesn’t solve the need for many remote controls. However, in many cases, it is a very useful addition to your home entertainment devices.

How Does an IR Repeater Work?

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