Step By Step: How to Install an IR Repeater

Many people hide their A/V gear behind cabinet doors or put the system off in a closet somewhere. But how do you control everything when you can't point the remote at any of it? The oh-so-simple solution is to install an infrared (IR) repeating system, which carries signals from your remote to wherever your gear may live. These work equally well if you have a house-wide system you want to control from remote rooms. About one of the easiest do-it-yourself projects out there, an IR system will cost you less than $250 and will perform magic that would make David Blaine jealous!

IR systems are widely available from manufacturers that specialize in custom installation, including Niles, SpeakerCraft, Elan, Sonance, Xantech, and Russound. An IR system is made up of a target, a power supply, emitters, and a connecting block. Sometimes you can find these items packaged in a kit, but more likely you'll buy them à la carte.

An IR target can be blinded by anything that emits infrared light. Besides your remote - whose commands you want to get through - other sources of IR include plasma and LCD TVs, sunlight, and fluorescent lights. Most manufacturers make targets (often called "Plasma Friendly") designed to work in hostile environments. Sometimes these targets need filters that are physically installed or engaged via IR codes. While filters keep the unwanted IR out, they also cut down the target's effective range.

Many targets already have a wire attached to them. If the wire is long enough to reach the connecting block, you're golden. If not, Cat-5 cable makes an excellent patch cord, which can be used to extend the wire hundreds of feet. A target requires at least three wires, for +12-volt DC, signal, and ground. If you want status feedback (see Step 5), you'll need a fourth wire.

The hub, or connecting block, is the nexus of your IR system. Screw or clip the wiring from the target into slots labeled for power, ground, signal, and status. Most blocks let you connect at least four emitters. The last connection is the 12-volt power supply.

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