Standalone IR Repeater Review

Submission by Nigel Garwood – Since having my little girl I decided that it would be a good idea to put our Video (Hitachi), DVD (Dansai), Freeview Box (Thompson) and Amplifier(Philips) in a cupboard under the stairs.

This was to prevent them being “played with”. To make this a practical solution we needed to be able to control these items from three separate locations; living room, kitchen and bedroom. Our house is wired with CAT5 throughout.

Looking around the available systems they were either much too expensive or would not completely do the job. Through the UKHA_D group I discovered the FirM system. This was originally intended to act as an extension to the Homevision system but Frank McAlinden, who designed FirM, advised me that it could be used as an infrared repeater system.

I ordered one and eagerly awaited its arrival from Australia. The kit arrived quickly and well packaged and included…

  • FirM Controller
  • 3 Zone Rx Units
  • 3 Four way Zone Splitters
  • Home Vision / FirM male to male lead
  • 3 Sample Homebrew stick-on emitters
  • 2 Spare fuses
  • 1 Dummy IR Led

The only extra I needed to have was a 12v regulated supply but I already had one of these.

I downloaded the install document from the website and whilst it is primarily aimed at installation with Homevision it was easy enough to work out what I needed to do. The install process went as follows:

I sited the controller under the stairs next to the AV kit. I attached the emitters to the front of each of the bits of kit and plugged them into one of the 4 way IR splitters. This in turn plugs into the Main Controller. The emitters must not be plugged directly into the controller as the splitter has current limiting resistors.

I connected the receivers in each of the three rooms back to the controller via CAT 5 which I plugged directly into the first three zones on the FirM Controller.

The only bit of information I lacked was the fact that I needed to connect the IR out port directly back to the IR IN port. These ports would normally connect to HomeVision. I then powered it up and tested it.

I noticed that when a signal was received from a zone receiver the FirM Controller zone receiver led (green led) for that zone came on and at the same time The Tx (red) led’s flashed. The Zone Rx Units have 2 led’s: a yellow one to indicate the unit is receiving IR and a red one to indicate that FirM is busy and not to send any IR….This is handy when a person is sending IR in one zone and someone is in another zone , they will see the busy led (red) come on and will wait till it goes out before sending any IR. The busy signal is common to all zones so even the zone that is sending IR has its busy led come on.

All went well and I was able to control the Video AMP and DVD player, however when it came to the Thompson Freeview box I had problems. I found that it would not work at all and after investigation found that it uses 33khz which is outside the range of FirM. This came as a bit of a blow as this was one of the main uses I had for FirM.

Another problem I had was that I found that every so often FirM would seem to completely lock up. After some investigation I traced this to a “Low Energy” lamp in my lounge. It would appear that it was send out IR which was interfering with FirM, once I replaced the bulb I had no more problems.

I am happy with the kit overall it achieves what I set out to do. The only disappointment was that it won’t control the Freeview Box, however I am going to look to see if I can change this to one that will work with it in the future. It was very easy to install and the instructions were clear.

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