Remote Light Switches – How They Work

Remote light switches – switches which allow you to turn lights (or other appliances) off or on without having to manually toggle the switch – are getting pretty commonplace these days. From internet searches to infomercials to the shelves of your local home improvement stores, these devices are everywhere.

Wireless television remotes were first developed in the 1950’s. By today’s standard these mechanical devices were primitive. When you pushed a button it would hit a metal bar with an audible “click” (hence the term “clicker”). The television circuits would respond to the resultant frequency and the television would turn on, turn off, change channels, etc. Unfortunately, anything that resulted in the same frequency would have the same result as my family found out when we discovered we could manipulate the television while eating simply by the sounds of our knives and forks hitting each other or the plate (my brother was especially adept at this).

Technology improved and the number of practical applications for remote controls increased. Remote light switches typically send signals to receivers either wired to the device to be controlled itself or receivers which have been plugged into an outlet with the device then plugged into the receiver. The receiver is programmed to respond to certain remote control transmitters. When you push a button on the remote, the device responds to the transmitters as programmed. This technology is sometimes employed during remodeling of rooms and in the construction of log homes, when accessing the electrical wiring to the house directly can be difficult.

When was the last time you were in the basement and absent-mindedly turned off one light before you turned on another and you were literally feeling your way along the walls to turn on a light so you could see? Or the last time you hit your shin on something in the living room stumbling around in the dark? How about the last time you stayed out later than you planned and came home to a dark house?