Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How does a remote control work?

  1. Feb 22, 2014 #1
    I'm specifically interested in television remote controls, garage door opener remote controls, and car door remote controls.

    I know that the remote control must send a signal somehow to the television, garage door, or car door respectively. But what type of signal does each type of remote control signal? I mean, is it a radio wave or what?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2014 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

  4. Feb 28, 2014 #3
    Different ones use different techniques. TV remote controls are fairly fun and straight forward. They typically switch an infrared LED on and off at a 44kHz rate. A receiver in the TV picks up infrared and is tuned to 44kHz.
    The 44khz signal is called a carrier. Using it helps the TV distinguish the difference between steady sources of light, like sunlight, and the remote.
    To get message across, the carrier is turned of and on in a sequence that's unique to the TV brand and function.
    Garage doors and cars do the same thing with a radio signal (the carrier), but most of these remotes only use each code once and then move to another code in a very long list. The opener or car only uses each code once, and then rejects it from there on. This keeps thieves from using a receiver to steal the code and reuse it.

    Left over remotes are pretty common. I really encourage you to take one apart to look at. You'll find a little LED in the TV/VCR/Cable remotes, and a loop in car remotes that is used as an antenna.

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook