How to Operate AC without Remote

Have you lost your air conditioner remote? Not sure how to operate the AC without a remote? It’s okay, but you might be sorely disappointed with what you find. Some air conditioners are incapable of being operated without the remote while others can. It really depends on your make and model.

Operating an air conditioner without a remote isn’t rocket science. However, even with ACs with control panels can be a bit confusing. Some ACs have their buttons labeled while others resort to using symbols, and they’re not always good at conveying the button’s purpose.

Air conditioners with a control panel

Air conditioners that have a control panel can have every setting adjusted without the remote. However, the purpose of each button isn’t always known if they aren’t labeled. Let’s take a look at what each button does.

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This is typically shown on a digital display. The thermostat does not read the room, but rather the AC. By lowering the number on the thermostat, you lower the temperature the AC puts out. In other words, the lower the number, the colder it gets.

Check Filter

“Check Filter” doesn’t refer to a button, but rather the air conditioner’s filter. There’s a removable filter that gets dirty over time. Removing it for cleaning will shut the “Check Filter” light off.

Fan Speed

Alongside the AC’s ability to cool down a room, altering the fan speed can spread the cool air much faster. Depending on the AC model you own, there’s only “Low” and “High,” but other models could have four. Most of the time “Low” is just fine.


For those of you who are energy conscious, you’ll find this button useful. By using the Timer button, you can set a time for the AC. After the set amount of time has passed, the AC will shut down.

Air conditioners without a control panel

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s air conditioners that don’t have a control panel at all. What gives? Can you not control the air conditioner? Unfortunately, no. Aside from turning the AC on or off, models that forego a control panel can’t have the temperature altered, no fan options, and so on.

In the interest of saving money, some brands have AC models that exclude a control panel. Most of the AC options are instead added to the remote, aside from the power button. Every setting is controlled by the AC remote itself. Since the main AC unit doesn’t have a control panel, the cost of manufacturing goes down.

If you are unfortunate to have an AC model without a control panel, the most you can do is turn the AC unit on and off. However, hope is not all lost. There are a few options available that you might find useful.

Are There Other Options?

This mostly applies to individuals with air conditioners missing a control panel, but others, in certain situations, may find it useful as well.

Let’s say your AC doesn’t have a control panel. You can’t alter settings without the remote, correct? Well, you could replace the remote or, alternatively, buy a universal AC remote—one that not only works for your current AC unit, but others you might purchase down the road.

Universal remotes aren’t just unique to televisions and DVD players. Air conditioners with remotes typically use an IR sensor to communicate the button presses, and it just so happens other electronics use the same technology. Ergo universal AC remotes were born.

You could buy a new remote

Yes, buying a new more surely does solve your problem, but it’s never as simple as that. In fact, if you walk to the nearest electronic store and pick out any random AC remote, you are going to be sorely disappointed when you realize it doesn’t work.

Devices that use IR sensors use specific codes to communicate. It’s why, when you’re programming a TV remote, you have to test different codes until the correct one is found. Each brand and model has a specific code. Your air conditioner does, too.

To buy the correct AC remote, you would need your AC’s model number. Finding the model number is pretty straightforward. Look on the sides, underneath, the top or in the back of the AC. It’s almost always a sticker and the model number is a series of numbers and letters. Once you have the model number, it’s just a matter of plugging it into your preferred search engine and buying a remote that matches.

And then another wrench comes to foil your plans. There’s a possibility, based on the age of your AC, the AC remote for that particular air conditioner may not be in circulation anymore. Or maybe you looked for the model number and found that it was removed at some point by you or perhaps the previous owners if you bought it used. But that’s where universal remotes come into play.

You could buy a universal AC remote

Contrary to their name, universal remotes aren’t as “universal” as they appear. Picking one up doesn’t guarantee that it will work anyways, but the chances are certainly higher. Instead, universal AC remotes carry thousands of unique codes that span different AC makes and models.

If you find yourself in a situation where the AC remote is no longer manufactured or you’re without a model number, turn to universal AC remotes for an answer. Not every single universal remote will work but each brand and model is very upfront with what they can and can’t operate. It’s just a matter of shopping around and examining lists for a universal AC remote that does work.

Three of the Best Universal AC Remotes

Every universal AC remote comes with a prepackaged set of unique codes, however, not every remote is created equally. One remote could have the right code for your AC while another does not. Before you pick a remote, you need to check its list of codes to determine if it works for yours.

Here’s five of the best universal AC remotes you can get your hands on. Consider each before you make a decision.

1. Richgv Universal AC Remote Control

Richgv’s universal AC remote control (View on Amazon) takes the spot for advertising 99 percent companitily with air conditioners. Aside from having an exhausting list of compatible codes, there’s several models that those with motor functions might find useful such as the Big Button model (View on Amazon).

2. Meide KT-N828 Universal AC Remote Control

Meide’s KT-N828 universal AC remote (View on Amazon) can work with up to 2000 different air conditioners from a plethora of different brands such as Sanyo, Samsung, Toshiba, and LG. And that’s just naming a few.

3. Coyaho Universal AC Remote Control

Coyaho’s universal AC remote (View on Amazon) is a bit more compact than Medie’s KT-N828, nor does it cover as many codes—only 1,000 compared to the KT-N828’s 2,000—but it still covers many popular brands such as Hitachi, Daikin, LG, Shap, Midea, and Whirlpool, just to name a few.

Bottom Line

Operating your AC without a remote is pretty straightforward, provided your AC has buttons on the front panel. But if you are dealing with an AC that can’t be altered without an AC remote, you’ll have to buy a new one to replace it or buy a universal remote. Each remote has their own weaknesses. If you had to choose, a universal remote is far superior.