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Haunted Christmas tree problem or...

11/24/2004 2:42 PM
Regis Haunted Christmas tree problem or...
Ghost of Christmas Electric.  
I have a co worker who has an artificial Christmas tree that has a remote turn on/turn off device, probably infrared. This year when he put the tree up it seems to want to turn on by itself. He hasn't seen it directly, he turns the tree off and when he comes back the damn thing is lit up again. His girlfriend sez she has seen it light up when she was in the room.  
I don't know much about infrared stuff, do these things use electronic relays? Maybe the receiver section has gone bad. I told him to take the transmitter out of the room and see if it still occurs to see if it is the transmitter or reciever, dunno what else to do.  
It's probably not repairable, but it's still a curious incident.  
thanks, regis

It may run on IR, but it also may run on RF or even ultrasonics. If the tree is not responding to something like a TV remote, it is conceivable it is responding to some light source. If it runs on RF, there could be any number of interfering fields. Same with ultrasonics - think "the clapper." Even static electricity could be involved.  
It is also a possibility there is an intermittant connection inside that is toggling the system. Does it default to ON? if so, power interruptions would turn it on. That includes worn outlets or extension cords.  
Try isolating the receiver. The experiment might include different materials to block out light, or sound, or RF.
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11/25/2004 6:25 AM
He sez it doesn't have an led on the front of the controller, so I'm thinking its RF, like a car key lock.  
He took the controller into the bedroom last night and the tree didn't turn on. I told him to change the batteries to see what that did.
11/27/2004 12:00 AM

If the controller itself is involved, that is a huge clue. SOme thoughts.  
ANy chace a drink spilled on it? Moisture inside can short contacts together. My wireless doorbell went nuts recently in a downpour.  
My cat occasionally turns the TV on/off, changes channels, etc by walking on the remote.  
The switch under the button may be collapsing - either a microswitch or the rubber membrane kind.  
And if the neighbors garage door controller is the key, the night the controller left the room could be the night their car stayed home.
12/11/2004 11:45 PM
Dr. Photon

I once had a set of electronically controlled chasing christmas lights. You know those lights where there's a dial or button on the controller that sets the pattern of the flashing? These had an RF remote controll for the same purpose. These were very cheaply made, and the remote didn't send out a code, it was either a dead carrier or a simple tone AM modulated (more like switching on and off of the transmiter). No crystalls anywhere, just simple LC tuned circuits. No filtering on the transmitter output or the reciever input (and let's not even begin to talk about "fancy" radio circuitry like hetrodyne....not in these!). I think I had a raio controlled electronic whoopie cushion that worked the same way. These are essentially just like those $9.99 radio controlled cars where the remote only has one button and they either go forward or backwards in a circle, except without a crystal in the transmitter and at a different frequency (I think 200-something Mhz).  
basically, it could either be picking up interference, or someone has a garage door opener or something on the same freq.
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