How to Use SmartThings with a Device with an IR Remote

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These days it's quite common to find IOT devices from lamps to air-conditioners that have IR (infrared, not RF) remotes. So the question is how can you control those from SmartThings? SmartThings itself does not have an IR transmitter.

There are a number of different ways of doing this, both simple and complicated. However, the simple ways tend to be much more expensive. So this could be somewhat frustrating process. But you can almost certainly accomplish it.

First, though, if what are you are looking for is integration with a 433 MHz RF device, that can be done, but is usually more technically complex than for an IR device. See the following Community discussion thread on 433 MHz integration.

The remainder of this page will discuss options for IR integration.

Air Conditioners

First, before we talk about anything else, if you have an air conditioner, go to the air-conditioner FAQ. There are some devices made specifically for air-conditioners and you're going to want to look at those:

Community FAQ

If you just want a quick recommendation, the Cielo Breeze Eco is a WiFi thermostat which will work with air conditioners that have an IR remote. There is a manufacturer-provided integration available in the SmartThings app. Available at Amazon in many countries. List at $99, sometimes on sale for $79. This device looks just like a thermostat in the SmartThings app.

Amazon listing for Cielo Breeze

Everything Else

Now let's take a look at the IR control options for everything else. I'm going to list these in order of easiest to use, with the easiest first. That also means the most expensive choices are going to be first. I'm not suggesting you go that way, different things work for different people, but if you just want easy solutions you may not want to read through all the other discussions

1. Very simple, quite expensive: Simple Control (formerly Roomie Remote) with their version of global cache. IOS Only. $229 to start, $50/year thereafter. US only

Global Cache makes an excellent Wi-Fi to IR device intended for makers and professional installers. The device itself will run around $115. But then you need software to operate it.

The simplest software for this purpose, The one that doesn't require you to be a programmer, is from Simple Control, A tablet or phone-based app (IOS only) which can control all kinds of devices, and even has an official (on their side) SmartThings integration. So far so good. Their support is excellent, and the system is flexible and pretty easy to use. Setup is similar to setting up any home theater equipment.

However, you have to pay both an upfront app fee of $9.99 and an annual subscription in order to use it. ($50/year) and there are additional add on fees depending on the exact features you choose. They list a start up cost on their site of $229. You're paying strictly for convenience – – everything this setup does can be done in other ways for less money, but requiring a lot more work on your part.

Generally people either love simple Control or think it's overpriced. But if you just want a fast and easy method with a strong support system available, give them a look. Remember, you are going to have to also buy their version of global cache ($100) to go with it. So $229 to get started and then $50 every year and it's only available for iOS. But at least nobody will expect you to be a programmer just to get it set up . 😉

Simple Control official site

2. Bond Home US or U.K. $99, no subscription. Supports up to 6 devices.

Originally just for ceiling fans, this now works with many IR devices. Has an official manufacturer – provided integration that is cloud to cloud or there is a community – created edge driver that runs locally. This has added many more features over the years, so make sure any reviews you read are current. typically costs just under $100.

Bond at Amazon

community-created Edge Driver

3. SwitchBot Hub Plus. $49 WiFi to IR Bridge. No subscription. No set maximum. Simple setup. Multiple Countries, including the US, UK, and Japan

Switchbot is another WiFi to IR device, designed to be the hub for their own line of Wi-Fi devices, including a button pusher actuator. it has integrations with SmartThings, IFTTT, Alexa, and Google Home and allows control down to the individual button level, so you can do quite a bit with it. It essentially mimics your existing remote, but allows to you to get to it wirelessly. No subscription fees. Make sure the model you are ordering has the IR feature, not all models do. Setup is very easy but you do have to use both the SwitchBot app and the smartthings app to get it to work. There is an official integration which works pretty well.

Official Site

2019 Community Review Thread

Manufacturer’s integration instructions

4. Remotec Zwave to IR Bridge. ZXT310. $90 purchase, no license fee. One time set up can be tedious, but otherwise about the same as adding most device type handlers if it's just an on/off device. US or U.K.

2022 update: not sure if this will continue to work after the platform change in December 2022, so you might want to hold off on this one.

Remotec makes a device specifically for controlling air-conditioners. That's not this one. They also make one, the ZXT310, that can control any IR device, but you have to load the IR codes into your device type handler manually, and it's a pain to get set up. Once you get it set up, it should work fine with SmartThings. The device typically costs around $90, but you won't need anything else to make it work besides SmartThings. No license fees. It is available on both the US and EU Zwave frequencies.


If you have more than one IR device, set up with the remotec may even be easier than set up with the harmony because you don't have all that nonsense about activities. I definitely think this option is worth considering.

Amazon listing

5. Use a Tasmota-compatible device

There are many inexpensive WiFi IR blasters that can be flashed with Tasmota software and then used with a community-created Edge Driver. This does require some technical skill but is popular with those looking for a budget solution that runs locally.

“Flashing” means you will overwrite the manufacturer-provided firmware that comes installed on your IR blaster with Tasmota Software. To do that, you will download the Tasmota software to a computer, connect the IR blaster to your computer, and then transfer the Tasmota Software to it. Be aware that this is not usually reversible and it will void the warranty on the IR blaster. But a lot of technically-skilled people do it in order to get better integration options with inexpensive devices.

community discussion including link to Edge Driver thread

6. Broadlink RM Pro. IR and 433 MHz Bridge device. $40. Requires an additional android device to act as a server, which makes set up more complicated and may add cost. US or UK.

Broadlink has been around for awhile as a cheap alternative to a universal TV remote. It can also bridge devices that use a 433 MHz remote, such as some fans. I think it's a little easier to set up the IR codes themselves than zmote, but there are a number of different pieces that have to be set up, including an android device to act as the go-between for SmartThings.

There are a number of community members using this, so you could ask in that thread if you have more questions. I think it's a good solution for some people Who have a strong technical background, or who want the additional protocols. The remote itself is only $40, but then you also need the android device.

https://www.amazon.com/Broadlink-Automation-Universal-Compatible-Smartphones/dp/B01GIXZDKO

And here is a long and somewhat confusing thread about how different people have got it set up to work with SmartThings.

Community discussion thread


7. For Makers: ESP8266 Board-Controllable IR Blaster

For people who are comfortable programming Arduinos and similar maker projects, one community member has a project report on integrating an ESP 8266 board controllable IR blaster with SmartThings. This will have to be mains powered, because the Wi-Fi option runs through batteries too quickly. For details, see the [Make a Dumb Fan Smart Project Report

Summary

The method most like using other devices with SmartThings is to get the Z wave to IR bridge from remotec but we’re still waiting to hear if that will work with the new architecture. And loading the codes in can be tedious.

The easiest method with the most support is probably to use Simple Control, but it's only available for iOS devices, and you will have to buy their $100 IR Bridge and pay a $50/year ongoing license fee as well as some additional start up costs.

The other methods are all worth considering if you have a preference for one of the other bridge devices and/or a limited budget and are comfortable with the degree of technical skill required to make it work. Both Bond and SwitchBot have been popular in the community.