September 13, 2006

TV Remote Control Problem Solved

Fluorescent lamps can interfere with TV remote controls.

My parents recently had an intermittent problem with their television's remote control. For several months the remote only worked sometimes. The TV is a Sony Trinitron. The remote control is a Magnavox universal remote. I changed the remote's batteries, cleaned the infrared sensor on the front of the TV, and tested the remote on a VCR and on another TV. The remote worked fine with other devices, but the Sony TV only responded to it infrequently. I deduced that the problem was with the TV -- a bad infrared sensor, a loose connection, or a failed internal circuit.

I researched remote control problems using Google. I read several technical sites that talked about using voltmeters, oscilloscopes, or other instruments to troubleshoot ir sensor problems. After going through several pages of search results I came to a bulletin board post from 1996 that said to turn off any fluorescent lights in the room because sometimes they interfere with remotes.

I turned off my mother's fluorescent reading lamp and the remote worked perfectly. The lamp is a Balanced Spectrum Floor Lamp that my father bought a few months ago. The lamp has two settings; high and low. The high setting interferes with the remote even when the lamp is turned away from the TV. Apparently the reflected light waves are enough to cause a problem. The low setting does not interfere with the remote. Interestingly, the lamp does not affect the same remote's control of the RCA Home Theatre VCR, which is beneath the TV on the same stand.

Since I had to read so many Internet pages about remote control problems before I found the 1996 tip about fluorescent lamps, I thought posting the information here might be helpful.


OpenID collect89 said...

I just bought an RCA 46" flat panel TV. Our remote used to control our Comcast DVR stopped working & would only operate if held a few inches from the DVR. We found that the problem would go away when we placed an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper at one location in front of the 46" screen. The TV is apparently radiating light energy from that portion of the screen which is interferring with the Remote's operation. I will return the TV to the store today. Please send comments to

January 29, 2008 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Jon Maloney said...

Thanks for posting your experience collect89. I'm sure it will help someone else who is having remote-control trouble.

January 29, 2008 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger O. said...

it saved me from throwing away the TV :) thanks.

August 3, 2009 at 5:37 AM  
Blogger Jon Maloney said...

Great! Thanks for posting your comment.

August 3, 2009 at 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Hujiona said...

Users should also check & ensure the infrared is emiting from the remote control. Though we cant see this infrared beam with bare eyes, there is a trick to do so in Most of the problems is weakened infrared beam. Replace the batteries when needed. When the infrared beam is strong, it wont easily be interfered by fluorescent lamps. Hope this fix remote control problem.

January 24, 2010 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger M.J.S. said...

I placed a small peice aluminum foil next to ir receiver to reflect florescent light from sensor. Works great and didnt have to move anything.

September 21, 2015 at 5:17 AM  
Blogger Jon Maloney said...

Great! Maybe the aluminum foil trick will help someone who has the same problem.

September 21, 2015 at 9:28 AM  

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