How Motorized Blinds Work in Home Automation

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You’re considering getting home automation, but you’re just not sure how it all works and who you should trust. As a window fashion expert, I have a solid understanding of how motorized blinds work (and by default, how motorization works in home automation). Every motorized shade (or appliance) needs A) a power source, B) a motor of some sort and C) some way to control everything. If you understand these three components, home automation is a breeze. In this article, I’ll focus on window blinds, but the principle is the same for anything you want to automate. 

Power

Every motor needs a power source and basically, there are three ways to provide power to a motor: 

  1. Batteries – Most companies offer a reloadable battery tube that allows the end user to purchase and replace batteries themselves, which saves time and money.  The shade’s size and weight, along with the frequency of use, will have an impact on battery life. The heavier and more often they are used, the faster the batteries will drain. 
  2. Plug-n-play – Here you’ve got two types of current - AC (alternating current), and DC (direct current).  AC motors plug directly into a standard electrical outlet in the wall. DC motors convert AC to DC via a transformer, which also plugs into a standard electrical outlet in the wall. You really don’t need to worry about whether you have AC or DC, your window treatment specialist will be able to guide you through the proper option based on your design. 
  3. Wired (AC or DC) –  Also known as hard-wired, this type of installation may require an electrician. The motor is wired directly to a junction box or regulated transformer/power supply.  Because the wires are snaked behind the wall, this application is best done during construction or renovation.  If added after the walls are sealed, you’ll need to have them patched and repainted.   

Motors

In window blinds, each function (raising and lowering, opening and closing) requires a different type of motor. This information is interesting, but as a consumer, it doesn’t really enter into your design decision. You select the window blinds and then the experts determine which motor to use. But if you really want to know about motors, here you go: to raise and lower a shade or blind, or to open and close vanes in a privacy sheer like the Hunter Douglas Silhouette, a tubular motor is used.  Shaft drive motors facilitate the opening and closing (or tilt) of slats in wood and metal blinds.  Draperies can be drawn open or closed using either a direct drive motor with a belt or a cord driven motor that pulls a cord through a series of drive wheels.  Exciting stuff, right?

Controls

Here is where you can have some fun as there are a number of ways to control your window fashions.  You can use infrared (IR) or radio communication.  I prefer radio frequency for a number of reasons.  First of all, with IR, you need a line of sight so you can’t put a valance or top treatment over the IR eye.  You can’t go through walls with IR so you can’t program an entire floor of window coverings either.  I always specify radio frequency when I can.  

You can get a hand-held remote, a wall-mount remote, or both.  Again, I like having both, because it’s nice to be able to walk into a room and push a button to control the shades but it’s also nice to sit in your chair and lower them when you want to watch a show.

You can use timers (including solar) to control your motorized blinds and set scenes for different times of the day.  You can also program shades as a group so they all raise and lower at the same time or individually.  And your window fashions can be integrated into your home automation.  For example, you can hit a button to lower your room darkening shades and theater screen while dimming the lights and lighting the fireplace.

Summary

Not only does window covering motorization offer comfort, convenience and control, it also provides solutions to everyday problems like:

  • adjusting hard-to-reach window coverings
  • managing glare 
  • protecting furnishings 
  • creating privacy 
  • reducing energy costs 
  • increasing security

Call today to find out how motorization can create a cozy home for your family.