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What Is an IR Extension?

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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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An infrared (IR) extension is a device capable of effectively increasing the range of an infrared signal. The two main types of extenders use either radio frequency (RF) waves or a physical cable to increase range. A radio frequency IR extension consists of an IR receiver coupled with an RF transmitter and an RF receiver with an IR transmitter. Other IR extension devices consist of an IR transmitter connected to a receiver by a physical cable. In both cases, the IR extension functions by converting a pulsed light signal into a different form and then back again.

Infrared light is commonly used to send control signals to consumer electronics such as audio receivers and televisions. Due to the attenuation of the light signal, and interference from other IR sources, these controls typically have a limited range. They also require line of sight to operate, so under normal circumstances it is impossible to control a device from another room with an IR remote. To work around these problems, devices known as IR extensions, extenders and repeaters are used.

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One type of IR extension uses radio waves to improve the range of an infrared remote. This type of device is capable of receiving an IR signal, converting the information into a radio wave, and then sending it to a repeater box. The second box translates the information from the radio wave and then transmits an IR pulse identical to the original. These extension devices are limited in range as well, but sufficiently powerful transmitters can send a signal through walls, ceilings and floors into other rooms.

Another kind of IR repeater uses a physical connection to transmit a signal. Some of these devices have an IR receiver hardwired to an IR transmitter, though others use modular cables instead. In either case, the IR pulse from a remote is converted into an electric signal and sent over the wired connection. It is then translated back into an IR pulse and transmitted. This kind of IR extension will sometimes have a single receiver and multiple transmitters, each of which can be placed on a different device.

Some devices also have a jack that a type of IR extension can be plugged into. In most cases, this type of jack will make use of a tip ring sleeve (TRS) connection. The IR extension typically consists of a small IR receiver unit that is connected to a long wire and a TRS plug.

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bigjim
Post 6

@hamje32 - I mostly agree with you about wires defeating the purpose, but they can be the right solution for some problems.

For example, if your house has thick walls or otherwise does not allow radio waves or other signals to travel through it easily, you might need a wired extender to get from room to room. You could still run the cable so that it isn't seen and doesn't get tangled. It's less elegant then the wireless solution, but in some cases it may be the only way.

parkthekarma
Post 5

One negative of converting an IR signal to radio waves is that you lose security. The need for line of sight, short range, and the fact that the beam of light needs to be physically received makes for a pretty secure system.

Radio waves, on the other hand, can be picked up easily over a much larger distance. This isn't a problem with something like a remote control, but if you are using IR to send data or connect to a printer or other device, keep in mind that what you send could be seen by other people. I don't think this would pose much of a problem for most users, but it is a consideration.

BigManCar
Post 4

@David09 - I think that would be exactly what you need. You would just have to make sure that the extension was pointed at the downstairs box and was located in a place where nothing would block the IR signal from getting there.

We had exactly the same problem in our old house. I wish I would have know about this. It was a huge pain to go all the way upstairs to set things up every time you wanted to watch a movie or something.

hamje32
Post 3

@everetra - A friend of mine got one of these units for his cable television. He was able to practically eliminate his need for coaxial cable.

He used to have coaxial cable from one room to the next, making a big mess of things and forcing him to buy a lot of cable. With this unit, he was able to basically hide his cable box inside his entertainment center, add the IR extender, and receive the signal in the other room.

He did it all with no wires and no fuss.

I read in the article that you can get an extender that has wires, but I would avoid that. It defeats the purpose in my opinion.

everetra
Post 2

@David09 - Yeah, I think that’s the ticket. What I like is that the IR extender can convert the signal to radio waves. This is especially useful.

With radio waves, you no longer need line of sight to accurately control the unit. It can penetrate walls with ease. Radio waves are the concept behind Bluetooth technology, and that’s used everywhere nowadays.

David09
Post 1

I think that this may be the answer to my problem. I have a satellite receiver with two television sets, one upstairs and one downstairs.

Both of the television sets come with satellite remote controls. The downstairs set is the only unit with the actual box. So I have direct line of sight when using the remote with the downstairs television.

However, the upstairs remote has no direct line of sight to the box. It works, but only by pointing it at odd directions, in an attempt to locate either the dish itself or the box. I haven’t figured that out, really.

But I would think that the IR extension unit would solve my problem. It could receive the signal from my remote upstairs, and forward it on to the box downstairs, if I understand the article correctly.

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