November 19, 2007 by EH Staff
Whether you’re looking for a handheld remote that operates your home entertainment system or a whole-house lighting or control system, the two most important things are that it’s simple to use and that it works.
Simplicity can be the hardest part. With the myriad features and functions of today’s electronics, a control system can have hundreds of buttons to confuse you and make something that is intended to make your life easier a royal pain in the sofa cushions—which happens to be where many controllers end up.
Wireless is the big thing among all control and lighting systems today, meaning no more additional wiring is required between a lighting switch and a lamp or system controller. Instead, radio frequency signals are sent to the switches or other devices. Beyond that, wireless “mesh” networks, which can use multiple pathways to send signals to other devices, are finding their way into home control and lighting systems, even handheld universal remote controls. These technologies, among them low-power ZigBee and Z-Wave, are capable of two-way communication, so the controller receives a signal about whether its command was received.
Universal Remote Controls
If you want to remove living room clutter, replace those five or more remote controls with one universal remote. Many come with thousands of control codes for virtually every piece of electronics, and some can receive control codes from the Internet by connecting to a computer. Universal remote controls range from under $100 to over $1,000, so know what you’re looking for.
Remote controls come in two basic flavors: IR (for infrared) and RF (for radio frequency). IR remotes are cheaper, but they require you to point the remote directly at whatever you are controlling. RF remotes don’t require line of sight, so you can store your equipment in a nearby closet or cabinet and control your components without pointing the remote at them. Two-way RF sends a confirmation signal back to the remote. Some of these remotes use ZigBee or Z-Wave technology and may require a base station to relay the signal back to the remote.
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