How Does a TV Remote Work

In the past, television remotes went through a lot of changes. The first TV remote was a wired device that contained a few buttons. From there, remote controls went from using visible light to ultrasonic tones to infra-red light. The best TVs today use infra-red light in their remotes and can work from a significant distance. However, the technology behind remote controls may not be as simple as it seems. So, how does a TV remote work?


  • Most remote controls use infra-red light to operate a device.
  • Remote controls must be within line of sight of the devices they are operating.
  • Some TVs can be controlled using applications on smart devices.

The Components of a Remote Control

There are several parts placed in remote controls. As a result, current. These parts include the light on the end of the remote, the transmitter, the different buttons, and the battery. The battery provides power to the rest of the remote and helps to create the infra-red light that controls the TV. If the battery becomes low, the remote does not work as well or at all. It is also important that you find out how high you should mount your TV to ensure your tv remote works well.

LED Light

Many remotes transmit signals in the form of infra-red light. This light is not visible to the human eye but is usually sent using a light-emitting diode (LED) bulb positioned on the end of the remote. This light may bounce off mirrors or other reflective surfaces, just as visible light does. The wavelength of this light may vary from device to device.

TV remotes are programmed in such a way that each button associates with a code. Current remotes have a large number of buttons compared to the initial models. This code typically consists of binary code. To transmit the code, the light pulses in a pattern that is received by the television. Because the light emits the pattern, the receiver must have a clear line of sight to the remote. The receiver on the TV then translates the signal using a digital computer.

Remote Control Protocols

Manufacturers use different protocols to transmit their commands. These protocols control the patterns of the remote and the frequency of the wavelength. Some manufacturers use the same wavelength for their TVs, which can cause one remote to control multiple TVs. However, the TVs must be in the range of the remote and within a similar line of sight for this to work.

Universal Remotes for TVs

Universal remotes work similarly to standard TV remotes. However, universal ones work on multiple different appliances. This ability stems from the remote sending the signals at the wavelength of each device. This variation is also how a cable or satellite television remote can control multiple different types of televisions.

Smart Device Remotes for TVs

The average television watcher will spend more than two weeks looking for lost remote controls during their lifetime. However, there are a couple of options to use a smart device instead of your TV remote. Specific smart devices may control the television using an application and infra-red technology. Although some phones and tablets don’t have a light, others can utilize the LED bulb on the end of the device to create the pulses that a remote would use. This method allows the device to control the TV, but it usually requires a remote control application. You should also find out how 3D TV’s work and if you can use a remote application in your 3D TV.

Some TVs that can connect to the internet can be controlled using other devices on the network. The TV is controlled by an application that can be downloaded onto specific devices. These devices include smartphones and tablets. When you go into the application, you will see buttons similar to those found on your remote. To navigate to places that don’t have dedicated buttons, you use the arrow buttons. To click on something, press the “Okay” or “Enter” button.


What to do when the TV does not respond to the infrared remote control?

When the TV does not respond to your remote, try making sure that the space between them is clear of any obstacles. Additionally, you can try changing the batteries inside the remote, as well as walking up to the TV and controlling it manually.

How does a remote control work?

A remote control works by sending out pulses of infra-red light received by the receiver in the television.

Can I switch on my neighbor’s TV set?

You cannot switch on your neighbor’s TV set in most cases because remotes only work at short distances. However, if you live in an apartment building and have a smart TV, you may find that someone can control your TV. This occurrence is rare and usually only happens in places with multiple of the same TV brand within a small distance.

STAT: The average television watcher will spend more than two weeks looking for lost remote controls during their lifetime. (source)

Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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