13 Ways To Turn On LED Lights Without a Remote: A Step-By-Step Guide

LED lights have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their energy efficiency, long lifespan, and vibrant colors. However, one common frustration many LED light owners face is figuring out how to turn them on when the remote goes missing or stops working.

Luckily, there are several methods you can try to turn on your LED lights without a remote. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the most effective troubleshooting techniques, DIY hacks, replacement options, and setup tweaks to restore control of your LED lighting.

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LED strips

Table of Contents

Why Your LED Lights Won’t Turn On

Before jumping into solutions, let's first understand some of the common reasons your LED strip lights or bulbs won't power on without a remote:

  • Missing or faulty remote - The remote is lost, broken, has dead batteries, or is out of sync with the lights. This is the most obvious cause, but also the easiest to remedy.
  • Loose or damaged connection - Issues with wiring connections between the LED lights, power supply, and controller can prevent the lights from responding to the remote.
  • Faulty power supply - Problems with the transformer, driver, or power cords can stop electricity from reaching the LEDs.
  • Blown fuse - Some LED power supplies have a fuse that may need to be replaced if blown.
  • Incorrect voltage - Using the wrong voltage rating for your particular LED lights can prevent them from turning on.
  • Faulty LED controller - The small control box that connects the LED lights to the power supply could have technical problems.
  • Incorrect wiring - Errors with how the LED lights are wired together can lead to remote and power issues.

Knowing the potential sources of the problem will help guide you to the right solution. Next, we'll cover the best ways to troubleshoot and fix non-responsive LED lights.

A flowchart infographic for troubleshooting LED lights when the remote is not working

Method 1: Buy a Replacement Remote

The quickest and often cheapest solution is to simply purchase a new remote control that is compatible with your LED lights.

Check with the manufacturer

If you still have the original packaging, instructions, or any branding on the lights themselves, check with the manufacturer to find out if they sell replacement remotes. Most companies keep accessories for their lighting products available for individual purchase.

For example, if you have Govee, Philips Hue, or other branded LED strips, you can typically find remotes on the company's website. This ensures the best compatibility.

Find a universal remote

led lights controller

If you don't know the brand of your lights or have generic, unbranded LED strips, look for a "universal LED remote" instead.

These are designed to work with multiple LED lighting kits across brands by copying common infrared (IR) frequencies and codes. However, results can vary depending on your lights' specs.

You can find many affordable universal remote options under $10 on Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, and other online retailers. Just search for "44 key LED remote" or "RGB LED remote."

Check local lighting stores

For a quick fix, hardware, home improvement, or lighting specialty stores may carry compatible universal remotes you can buy immediately rather than waiting for delivery. Bring your LED lights with you to test compatibility.

Replacing the remote is typically the fastest and easiest solution that avoids any wiring headaches.

Method 2: Directly Power On From The Wall Outlet

If your LED lights have a built-in power supply and controller rather than an external box, you may be able to turn them on simply by plugging them into an outlet.

However, this will only work for LED strip lights or kits specifically designed to be powered on/off from the wall. Many LED products require a remote and controller unit to function.

Check for built-in power supply

Examine your LED lights for any electrical casing or box along the cord. This contains the necessary power supply and controller to operate the lights independently without a remote.

If you only see a simple 2-prong plug at the end of the cord, then your lights likely need the remote and external control box to turn on.

Test with a wall outlet

Plug the built-in power supply into an outlet and see if the LED lights turn on automatically.

If they do, you have successfully bypassed the remote and can now simply use the wall switch to control your lights. Just remember to unplug the lights to turn them off.

However, this may be inconvenient if the outlet is hard to access. You also lose dimming and color controls. But in a pinch, it gets the lights on!

Method 3: Use a Smartphone App

Many newer LED light kits are designed for smartphone control through a companion app as part of smart home integration.

If your lights came with an app or are advertised as supporting app control, this is an excellent way to turn them on without the remote.

Connect lights to WiFi

Refer to the instruction manual for how to connect your LED lights to your home WiFi network. This usually involves pressing a WPS button on the control hub.

Once connected, the lights will communicate wirelessly rather than via an IR remote.

Download the app

Search for your LED light brand name in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store to download the companion app. Common options include Govee Home (download here for Android), LEDENET, LightShow (download here from the Apple store), LED Light Controller & Remote (download here from the Apple store), and more.

Log in and add devices

Open the app, create an account if needed, and follow the instructions to add your LED lights to the app interface. You can then turn them on/off, adjust brightness, change colors, create scenes, and set schedules.

App control provides many more smart features than a simple remote. However, your LED lights must be WiFi-compatible to leverage smartphone operation.

Method 4: Check for Remotes at the Store

If you purchased your LED light kit from a local retail store, you may have luck finding a replacement remote in stock.

Check at the original store

Return to the store where you originally bought your LED lights, whether a home improvement shop, department store, or specialty lighting showroom.

Explain your situation and ask if they stock remotes for the lights you purchased. Many retailers keep spare parts and accessories available for the products they carry.

Bring the lights and any codes

To make it easier for staff to identify the correct remote, bring the LED lights with you to test compatibility. Also have any model numbers, SKUs, or serial codes from the packaging.

Try universal remotes

If the store doesn't have your exact remote, they may still sell universal remotes that could work. Especially in lighting or hardware stores, ask about testing universal LED remotes for compatibility.

With some luck, you may find a suitable replacement remote right on the shelf rather than ordering one online.

Method 5: Replace The Battery In The Original Remote.

Before pursuing other options, rule out a dead battery as the cause of a non-responsive remote. Battery replacement is quick, and easy, and prevents unnecessary troubleshooting of your lights.

Locate battery compartment

LED remote designs vary, but the battery compartment is typically on the back or inside the remote. Look for a thin outline of a door that slides open.

Match battery type

Check the small text or diagrams inside the battery compartment to verify the correct battery type and size, usually CR2025, CR2032, or CR1632 coin cells.

Insert new battery

Slide the battery door open gently, pop out the old battery, match the positive and negative orientations, insert the new battery, and replace the cover (if needed)

Be very careful not to bend or force anything, as remotes contain fragile contact strips and components.

Test remote

Point the remote at the LED lights and press buttons to verify it works. The battery replacement should have restored functionality if the issue was just a depleted battery.

Method 6: Make Sure the Remote Is In the Range

Another simple check is to ensure you are within the operating range of the remote. Standard LED light remotes have a range of 15–25 feet, depending on the surroundings.

Move closer to the lights

Try standing right next to the LED lights and aiming the remote directly at them. Press the power or color buttons you want.

Reduce infrared interference

Make sure there are no walls, glass, cabinets, or other objects between the remote and LED lights that could block the infrared signal. Strong sunlight and some TVs also interfere with IR remotes (yes! This is possible)

Repositioning yourself within the ideal remote range eliminates distance or line-of-sight issues as possible causes and confirms if the remote is working properly.

Method 7: Check Remote and Light Sync

If replacing the battery and getting closer doesn't help, the issue could be sync problems between your remote and lights. Reconnecting fixes this.

Refer to manual

Check the user manual or online instructions for your LED lights to learn the proper re-syncing process. Methods vary across brands.

Common techniques include pressing and holding the power or color cycle button for 10+ seconds until the lights blink, unplugging and plugging back in the lights, or pressing a tiny reset pinhole on the control box.

Test different codes

Some LED remotes let you manually cycle through different frequency codes to sync with your lights. Slowly press and release a designated button to test codes until you find the one that operates your lights.

Reset to default

For LED lights with app control, use the app settings to reset your lights to their default factory condition. This re-establishes the original remote sync.

With a resynchronized connection, your remote should be able to turn the lights on again.

Method 8: Eliminate Faulty Power Supply

Problems with the transformer, cables, or control box can prevent electricity from making your LED lights illuminate and respond to commands.

Check connections

Examine the power supply brick and any connecting wires between it, the control module, and the lights themselves. Reseat any loose plugs and sockets.

Test voltage

Use a multimeter to test voltage at different points, like directly at the power supply and the LED light wires. The voltage should match the ratings. No voltage means faulty transformers or wiring.

Swap power supply

If available, connect a compatible power supply from another working LED kit to isolate issues with your original. The restore operation confirms the power supply was the problem.

Replace fuse

Some LED power supplies have integrated glass fuses you can access, pull out, and inspect. Replace any that appear damaged or burned out.

Contact electrician

For extensive electrical troubleshooting beyond the basic steps, consult a qualified electrician to trace faults and identify failures in the LED components.

An electrician can determine exactly which parts need replacement to restore power to unresponsive lights.

Method 9: Test/Replace Wires and Connectors

Faulty or incorrectly connected wires and contacts can disrupt the remote signal and power delivery to LED strip lights.

Inspect wires

Check that any cables connecting LED light strips or sections have no damage, punctures, fraying, melted insulation, or exposed wire. Damaged sections need replacement.

Verify connectors

Make sure connector joints between light strips are properly attached with no gaps, bends, pinched wires, or bent pins. Tighten or remake faulty connections.

Check splices

For DIY LED projects, examine any custom wire splicing for bad connections, poor taping, insufficient soldering, or short circuits leading to issues. Redo splices as needed.

Replace wire extensions

Test LED light strips with the connections minimized by directly attaching source wires. If the operation improves, replace any wire extensions that may be faulty.

Isolate sections

For long LED strips, disconnect sections to test individually and locate points of failure. Bypass defective wired sections that cause problems until they can be repaired or replaced.

Correct LED wiring is essential for proper voltage, data signal, and remote communication.

Method 10: Buy a New LED Light Kit

In some cases of older or highly problematic LED lights, it may end up being more cost-effective and time-effective to simply purchase a brand new LED light strip kit or bulbs.

Consider upgrade

View having to buy new LED lighting as an opportunity to upgrade to better quality, longer lasting, or more advanced options now available.

You can find great deals on LED strip kits under $30 (like this Philips Wiz Smart Light Strip Kit on Amazon), WiFi color-changing bulbs under $10 each, etc.

Shop sales

Watch for promotions and sales to get the best price on replacement LEDs. Home improvement stores, Amazon Prime Day, holiday sales, etc. often deeply discount lighting.

Recycle old lights

Responsibly recycle your old, non-functioning LED lights when replacing them to keep hazardous electronic waste out of landfills. Many stores have recycling programs.

While not always the ideal solution, starting fresh with new LED lights can make sense with especially difficult issues or a desire to upgrade anyway.

Method 11: Convert to Smart Lighting

Beyond just replacing your LED lights, consider upgrading to smart bulbs and strips that offer many more features through apps and voice control.

Choose smart LEDs

Shop for LED bulbs, panels, and strips specifically advertised as "smart", "WiFi-enabled", "app-controlled", etc. (like the Philips Hue Smart Lightstrip on Amazon). Look for compatibility with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, etc.

Install smart hub

For modular LED strip lights, connect a smart hub or controller. These add WiFi and smart integration to generic "dumb" RGB lights. Brands like Govee, MagicHome, and MiracleTube make smart LED hubs.

Connect and control

Follow the instructions to connect your new smart LEDs to your home WiFi and link them with a smart home app like Alexa or Google Home. You can then control lights via the app, voice assistant, schedules, automation routines, etc. without a physical remote. To learn more, you can read our article that talks about how to connect Philips Hue Smart Lights to Alexa.

Smart LEDs give you many more convenient hands-free lighting control options and advanced features like color changing, dimming, and scene programming.

Method 12: Use an External Dimmer or Timer

If you primarily want to control the brightness and on/off state of your LED lights, add a dimmer switch or programmable timer. This restores some functionality without the remote.

Install a dimmer

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Replace the wall switch powering your LED lights with a dimmer unit compatible with LED loads. Use the slider to manually adjust brightness when powered on. Popular brands like Lutron, Leviton, and others make LED dimmers.

Connect timer dial

Simple plug-in mechanical light timers can automatically turn on/off your LED power supply at set times each day. Rotate the dial to your desired schedule. Some digital options add more settings.

Use smart outlet

Connect the LED power supply to a smart WiFi outlet that can be controlled via app or voice. Brands like Kasa, Amazon Smart Plug, and TP-Link make outlet adapters with scheduling.

These give you easy dimming and timing control over LEDs without needing the remote or advanced app connectivity of smart bulbs.

Method 13: Install a Motion Sensor

Motion sensors automatically turn LED lights on when they detect movement in the room. This adds hands-free convenience without the remote control.

Choose sensor type

Sensors optimized for LED loads are available in convenient formats like battery-powered stick-ons, electrical box mounts, and plug-in adapters. Select the best form for your situation.

Learn detection range

LED motion sensors detect motion within a coverage radius ranging from 100 to 230 square feet. Consider the size and layout of your space when positioning the sensor.

Set up and test

Mount the sensor with strong adhesive or screws, link it to your LED power supply, and adjust settings like light duration after activation. Walk test the detection coverage and make adjustments if needed.

With motion sensors, your LED lights conveniently turn on whenever you enter the room. Pair them with smart bulbs for even more automation capabilities.

Quick Fixes and Preventative Measures

To wrap up, here are a few more quick troubleshooting tips and preventative steps you can take to ensure your LED lights turn on reliably:

  • Try unplugging and then replugging in the LED lights and power supply to reboot the system.
  • For LED strips, make sure contact pins on connection ports are straight, clean, and corrosion-free.
  • Check that the battery polarity is correct if using a battery pack instead of AC power.
  • Look for studs, beams, or objects that could block remote signals. Glass and metal also interfere.
  • Add labels or tape markings to power adapters and ports to prevent accidental unplugging.
  • Consider securing remotes in consistent spots with command strips or wall mounts when not in use.
  • Set up voice assistant routines to automatically turn on LED lights at certain times as a backup.
  • Keep your LED remote fresh and extended by removing the battery when not in use for long periods.

By following the troubleshooting steps and preventative measures outlined in this guide, you can confidently restore power and control to your LED lights even when the remote goes missing. Let us know in the comments which solutions worked best for getting your lights back on!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use any universal remote for LED lights?

No, universal remotes may not work reliably with all LED lights. Check voltage ratings and frequency/code compatibility first before purchasing a replacement remote.

How do I reset my LED lights?

Methods vary by brand but commonly involve switching power off/on rapidly, holding down color/mode buttons, using pinhole reset switches, or resetting through an app. Refer to the manual.

Why does my LED remote have a short range?

Poor LED remote range is typically caused by blocked signals, interference from other electronics, incorrect positioning, or a low battery powering the remote.

Can LED lights be controlled with Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.?

Yes, most smart LED bulbs and strips are compatible with major smart home platforms via a WiFi connection and syncing with the corresponding app (Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, SmartThings, etc.)

Do LED lights use a lot of electricity?

No, LED lighting is extremely energy efficient compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, using at least 75% less power. Quality LEDs have very low operational costs.

Can outdoor LED lights be controlled by a remote?

Yes, there are weatherproof LED lighting kits designed specifically for outdoor use. To learn more, refer to our article about upgrading your outdoors with smart bulbs.

Do I need a hub for smart LED lights?

Some smart LED bulbs and strips require a separate hub or bridge to connect to WiFi, while newer models have built-in WiFi, so no hub is needed. Check the requirements for your specific lights.

What happens if I lose the remote for my LED landscape lights?

You can either buy a replacement remote if available or install an external timer or photocell sensor to control turn ON/OFF times for outdoor LED lights.

Can Alexa change the color of RGB LED lights?

Yes, with compatible smart RGB LED bulbs and strips, Alexa can change the color, brightness, and modes through voice controls when linked to the Alexa app.

How do I turn on LED cabinet lights without a remote?

Hardwired cabinet LED strips may have an inline dimmer or ON/OFF switch on the cord. For plug-in models, use a smart outlet to power on/off. You can also replace the LEDs with battery-powered puck lights.

Why does only part of my LED strip light up?

If sections of the LED strip do not light, it usually indicates a bad connection or that power has been cut at some point. Check wires, connectors, and solder points for damage.

Can I use a car remote to control LED lights?

No, standard automotive remote key fobs operate at different wavelengths and lack programming for interior lighting. Use an aftermarket LED remote instead.

How do I turn on grow lights without a remote?

Grow lights can be plugged into digital timers or smart outlets to control on/off periods. Positioning photocells towards your grow area also allows for automatic sunlight-based operation.

Why does my LED remote only work when I’m close by?

Like any infrared remote, issues like low batteries, interference, or line-of-sight obstructions can limit the usable range. Make sure batteries are fresh, and reposition remotes and lights.

Further Reading

How To Easily Connect Philips Hue Smart Lights To Alexa

Smart Lighting 101: Upgrade Your Outdoor With Smart Bulbs

10 Of The Best Home Automation Systems In 2023

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