Are IR Blasters and IR Sensors The Same? (ANSWERED!)

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Chances are, you are probably researching on IR blasters and just can’t help but wonder: “Are IR blasters and IR sensors the same?”

I was in the same boat as you too. I was looking for a suitable IR blaster for my home to “smartify” my dumb air-conditioner and ceiling fan. So I took some time to do some deep research on this topic and found a definite answer to this question.

Here’s what I found:

IR blasters and IR sensors are not the same. IR blasters emit infrared radiation, whereas IR sensors can both emit and receive IR radiation. IR blasters are used for emulating remote controls, whereas IR sensors are mostly in-built sensors in electrical appliances that receive IR signals to perform functions.

Now that you know the gist of the answer above, you’ll also need to know this more in detail so you won’t make the mistake of purchasing the wrong item for your needs!

Read on for more!

Differences Between IR Blaster and IR Sensor (FULL Details)

Now that you know the main differences between IR Blasters and IR sensors, there’s actually a lot of to unpack when we cover the details. Here’s a table I compiled on the 3 main differences between IR blasters and IR sensors:

IR BlastersIR Sensors
Working PrincipleEmits infrared radiation onlyEither emits or receive infrared radiation
UsageEmulates infrared remote controls to control TVs, DVD and VCD players, air conditioners, and entertainment systemsReceives infrared radiation from remote controls for entertainment devices and air conditioners

As seen in the table above, there are many fundamental differences between the two types of items!

Fundamentally, IR blasters send out infrared radiation, whereas IR sensors can either emit or detect infrared radiation.

The majority of IR sensors are those present in TV sets, air-conditioners to receive a IR radiation from a remote control. This means that they are mostly used for detection rather than to emit infrared radiation!

When we look at how IR blasters and IR sensors differ in their primary usage, there are also very different:

IR blasters are devices that are meant to emulate infrared remote controls to control your daily devices such as TVs, air-conditioners, heaters, and so on. This has applications in helping to make the smart! I will discuss its use cases for a smart home later on!

IR sensors are devices that are usually present in appliances that can work with infrared remote control, which can receive and execute a specific function. I will dive deeper into its practical usage later!

What Is Infrared (IR)?

Before we really dive deeper into the nitty-gritty details of what IR blasters and IR blasters truly are, I wanted to give you a quick bite-sized summary of what infrared radiation is.

Here it is:

Infrared also known as infrared light, is a type of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that has wavelengths that are longer than that of visible light. Infrared is not visible to the human. Infrared can also be reflected by mirrors.


If you’re still confused about what infrared is, let me show you where it is visually on the electromagnetic spectrum:

If you see that rainbow portion of the spectrum, that is the visible light that we everyday people see. The infrared range is to the right of that, as circled in red!

Infrared devices communicate in this range, where an infrared emitter sends a signal that tells a receiver to perform a specific function.

To put it simply, this is done by one component flashing an infrared light in a particular pattern which another component can pick up and translate into an instruction.

Here’s an example of how this can work in a real-life setting:

The Light Emitting Diode (LED) in a remote control for an air-conditioner can generate infrared light which flashes in a certain combination to set it to a certain temperature. This is capture and read by the photodiode in the of an air-conditioner.

What Are IR Blasters and IR Sensors?

IR Blasters

Now let’s dive into the specifics of what IR blasters and IR sensors are.

Visually, here’s what an IR blaster can look like:

It’s a tiny device about the size of typical car keys!

IR blasters are infrared devices that are typically small devices that attempt to emulate the action of remote control. They are sort of a universal remote control that can be made to control multiple appliances at once.

For example, an air-conditioner, a TV set, and a hi-fi set can be all controlled using the same IR blaster!

It can be interesting to know that IR blasters can come in all sizes, including those that can be attached to Android phones to act as a remote control to control your devices. Here’s a link to purchase one!

There have been people who have actually tried this out! Check out this video:

Throughout the years, there have been some smartphones that had in-built IR blasters, such as the Xiaomi MI 9. However, most manufacturers have excluded this feature from most smartphones these days.

Personally, I have an IR blaster that helps me control my air-conditioner through my voice by linking it up to a Google Assistant. This means I can essentially “make my dumb air-conditioner smart”.

Here’s an IR blaster that I personally use that’s also an RF blaster at the same time so it can control RF appliances too. Check it out here.

IR Sensors

On the other hand, IR sensors are infrared devices that mostly receive infrared from the devices that emit them! Most do not have any emitting function like in IR blasters, but rather, they focus on receiving.

Here’s what a typical IR sensor can look like:

IR sensors like you see above are present and inbuilt into a lot of daily household appliances! These IR sensors can receive IR radiation that is sent out from remote controls and IR blasters.

What Can You Use IR Blasters and IR Sensors For?

Now you might start to have this question pop into your mind: what are they actually used for?

Let me start with IR blasters first!

Usage of IR Blasters

IR blasters are used for emulating remote controls. How is this convenient and useful for everyday people like us? This is where it gets interesting.

Since IR blasters can control a multitude of different electrical products you would have around the house, they can be used to do away with the burdensome handful of remote controls you have lying around!

In fact, IR blasters are even present in some Redmi phones from Xiaomi!

Refer to this article to check if your phone has an IR blaster.

Therefore, IR blasters provide an all-in-one solution to control all the devices in a home, without the need to operate them using a remote control.

It’s then easy to use a smartphone or a voice assistant to control the IR devices!

IR blasters are smart and have Wi-Fi capability so they can be synced up to Google Home and controlled by a Google Assistant. The same goes for the Amazon Alexa service!

Essentially, it provides a huge convenience factor for those who are lazy (like me!)

Oh, if you want to learn how to make a DIY IR blaster for yourself, do check out this video below:

Or you can also check this website out for a full guide!

Usage of IR Sensors

IR sensors are typically used by those who wish to add IR receiving capability to an electrical appliance or product. For the most part, these are already pre-installed by electronic brands and do not need to be manually added.

IR sensors provide a huge convenience factor in wirelessly controlling devices that are hard to reach like air-conditioners, ceiling lights, and heaters!

If you’re wondering if your laptop has IR blasters, read this article to find out:

IR Blasters and IR Sensors: Which Should You Get?

If you googled the question of the difference between IR blasters and IR sensors, chances are, you’re looking into getting one for yourself. I myself had wondered about this when I was researching which IR blaster to get!

I summarized this in the table below:

IR BlastersIR Sensors
For an all-in-one solution to control multiple IR devices, possibly with a voice assistant (smart)For adding IR receiving capability to an electronic device

Is IR Blaster A Sensor?

IR Blasters are not sensors. IR blasters emit infrared light instead of receiving them like IR sensors. They are typically used to send commands to IR devices to perform a specific action.

What Is An IR Emitter?

IR emitters are small transmitters that are used for repeating infrared signals from a remote control to an electrical appliance that may be out of the line of sight. IR emitters have two variations: blink or blast-style, with blink IR emitters being more common out of the two.

Here’s what it looks like:

Here are the components of a typical IR emitter:

  • 1 Mono, 3.5mm jack
  • 1 Red-colored plastic-house transmitter
  • Connected via 10 ft cable

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the basic and in-depth differences between IR blasters and IR sensors, go ahead and purchase the one that would be suitable for your use!

For my personal recommendation, if you’re planning to get an IR blaster, you should get one with IR/RF capabilities that can be used to control both IR and RF-enabled devices.

That’s all, thanks for reading!

Keep on hacking your homes!

Justin Chia

Justin is the author of Justjooz and is a data analyst and AI expert. He is also a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) alumni, majoring in Biological Sciences.

He regularly posts AI and analytics content on LinkedIn, and writes a weekly newsletter, The Juicer, on AI, analytics, tech, and personal development.

To unwind, Justin enjoys gaming and reading.

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