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Blind recommendations for wireless home automation

eddy

Member
We're getting ready to order new window coverings and I'd like to make sure we're getting something that can be motorized/automated down the road. (Ideally a wireless solution, since I don't have luxury of running power/control wires to the already existing windows.)
 
We're mostly leaning towards "roller shade" style blinds (similar to Hunter-Douglas Silhouettes).
 
I've been looking at the RTS system from Somfy, and am wondering if any particular brand/model of roller shade works better than another for retrofitting motorized control.
 
In particular, I've seen cordless roller shades that you can just lift up / pull down instead of having the traditional cord interface. Does upgrading to motorized assume a particular type of opening mechanism?
 
Thanks for any insight, suggestions, links, etc.
 

ano

Senior Member
I'm doing the same. I would stick to Hunter Douglas or Bali, and read their documents to see which support "remote" operation. Remote means a Sofy motor.  It will add about $200 per window, so I can see why you might want to add it later, but its easiest to get it when you buy it.
 
I'm going with RTS, but they usually have options for Zigbee and Z-Wave as well. The good thing about RTS for me is the remotes or wall switches that support that.  With Zigbee or Z-Wave, you would have to have the home controller control them.  
 
I think I'm going to use drapes in the bedroom, and maybe cellular shades otherwise. We still deciding on the colors, etc.
 

LarrylLix

Senior Member
Lots of batteries and a handy ladder if you don't want to run and cords from larger, less accessible windows.
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
Most shade systems are done as built to order, not as retrofits.  That and it's one thing to have simple up/down, but another to introduce tilt.  Venetians & Silhouette style have to have that.  Also consider sync issues with multiple shades in the same group.  Some systems are better/worse than others at keeping all of the shades moving together and start/stopping at the same places.  Which becomes a big hassle when you're talking about needing up/down controls for multiple units in the same room.  
 
This seemed like an interesting project on Kickstarter: http://www.mysmartblinds.com/  Looks like their target 2/2015 date is approaching, wonder how it's going?
 
I have deliberately postponed doing our shades for the past year to better get to know how we'd want to use them.  Turns out that quite a few of them really do not need any kind of automation.  Sure, I could do them all, but when the price is more than double, it's worth giving pause...  As a result we'll very likely NOT automate several and use bottom-up style 'cordless' ones instead.  These are the kind that you operate with a clear plastic handle on the shade (that's cordless as in 'no strings' not anything to do with batteries or motors).  Which would be wretchedly expensive to obtain in automated fashion anyway.  But there a couple of rooms that definitely would benefit from automation due to sun movement. 
 
Lastly, don't overlook the possible hassles of guests not understanding how to operate them.  Nothing more problematic than a guest wrecking a several hundred dollar shade because they couldn't figure out how to open/close it.  To that end we won't be automating the ones in the guest room or off the kids rec room at all.
 

ano

Senior Member
Yeah, this does take some planning. Unless you have more money then you know how to spend, it makes sense to just automate the blinds you need automated. We are going to do about half.
 
A bigger problem for us is determining the type of blinds we want. We had wood blinds previously, but they were dust collectors, they always let some light in, they are heavy, and even when open you had to look through the bars. I'm leaning toward a cellular blind this time that rolls up.
 
For the master, to keep out more light, I'm thinking about curtains with maybe a shear panel behind it, like you see in hotels.  Our bedroom window is 12' wide, so this is not for the faint of heart or pocketbook, but I think these will look best. The rod alone will be about $900, and who knows on the curtains, but i do think this is the best solution for us.  I have Zigbee in my house, but the RTS solution looks best because you can use remotes to open and close the blinds.
 
wkearney99 said:
This seemed like an interesting project on Kickstarter: http://www.mysmartblinds.com/  Looks like their target 2/2015 date is approaching, wonder how it's going?
 
This looks interesting, but I do see some problems. First it fits IN the blinds. In my last home this part was metal. How will the Bluetooth signal get in? Second, the batteries go in there as well. Doesn't look very easy to change them. Then the biggest problem. This is yet another "home automation" product controlled by your phone. O.K. but that seems like a pain to find your phone to close a blind. And what about if you want your home automation system to control them? 
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
You'd really do well to find a local designer for window treatments and speak with them for a bit.  There's a ton of little things that can go into planning stuff like this.  It's often well worth dealing with a pro.  If just to avoid the problems you encountered with the wood blinds.
 
We had some Hunter Douglass double-roll shades in our old house and they were great,  One roll was for privacy (sort of grass cloth/reed looking) and the other for night time blackout.  Really great, but a hassle to deal with opening/closing three sets of them.  Automating something like that isn't possible in our current house (nor in the old one) as there's no way to get motors in such a setup (without going to valances or in-ceiling... and a LOT more money).
 
We also had some Silhouette shades.  Those were a hassle with the cat we had at the time.  The edges had real problems with fraying when the cat would squeeze in next to them.  Automating these would likewise be tricky as there's a number of 'stops' involved with how the roll down effect turns into a venetian-like slat.  More $$$ and then you still have to deal with the potential for uneven alignment if there's more than one unit in your field of view.  
 
Dealing with both blackout and daytime privacy is tricky.  It's often best solved by using blackout drapes and light-passing shades or sheers.  In-frame shades (roller, cellular, whatever) are really never going to give you total blackout coverage.  The gaps necessary around the edges of the shade (to avoid wear to both shade and frames) won't provide total blackout.  I may end up going with both automated cellular shades AND automated drapes in the master bedroom due to this.
 
As for metal enclosures, it's not like they're Faraday cages.  Sure, there's going to be some reduction in RF coverage but I doubt it'd be total.  How much remains to be determined.  I'm interested to see what develops from them.
 
Do not limit yourself to just one sort of automation system.  You'd do better to focus on actual daily use and requirements and then look at what can be done to integrate them.  Because not all vendors have the sorts of designs you and your wife might like.  
 
And yes, be prepared for sticker shock.  This is one market where it's so custom that it's difficult for economies-of-scale reductions in prices.
 

ano

Senior Member
I think the situation has gotten better in the last few years where many blind places DO understand "remote control" blinds. When you start getting into ones controlled by a home automation controller, you will get many blank stares, and i happen to live in an area where there are many $5-$15M homes, so its not like this isn't around here.
 
In my last home, and in my earlier years, I always tried to get the latest technology and most flexible solutions. I later learned that this often just gets you expensive "toys" which you never end up using. In this house, its about simplicity.
 
In terms of blinds, what they carry today is mind boggling. They can open at the top, and bottom, tilt move, and offer different levels of blackout, shear, etc. You name it. I've never seen the double-roller shades, but they sound pretty nifty and fall into this class. 
 
This time around we are going to look at each room and decide why we are putting shades on the window, and pick the best solution for that window.  I don't really see the need for full blackout shades on any window except our bedroom.  For the most part, blinds will stay open unless we have a reason to close them. For some, the automation really is just to give the "lived in" look when we are away. Having your blinds just all open or all closed when you are away is a dead giveaway your gone. 
 

wkearney99

Senior Member
+1 on the simplicity over gizmos perspective.  Now that I can afford to automate just about everything I've found most things wouldn't actually get used that way. 
 
I cannot stress the importance of considering how guests, kids or cleaning folks are going to interact with ANY automation stuff.  This alone is good enough reason to avoid automating some stuff.  If only because of the expense/stress of dealing with them breaking it.   Not to mention the adventure of the house going into an epileptic fit when the cleaning lady wipes down the keypads....  I have a timed event set up to 'clean up' any lighting adventures left after cleaning days...
 

eddy

Member
Thanks for the replies thus far.
 
Is anyone familiar with the motorization system used by MyBlinds (a lower-cost subsidiary of Hunter-Douglas that is sold through Home Depot)?
 
Take a look at the "Remote Lift Motorization" video for the "Sheer Shadings" (equivalent to the Hunter-Douglas Silhouette): http://myblindsnow.com/controls/
 
I haven't been able to find out what system they use. I'd like to order the blinds with the motorization from the factory, but I want to be able to automate it (via an OmniPro II system, using something similar to a Somfy Universal RTS II interface.)
 
Any information appreciated!
 

ano

Senior Member
From the video it looks like these are being controlled with the Somfy remote, so it should work.
 

Deane Johnson

Active Member
Judging from one of the videos on the site that shows the hand held remote, it appears they may be using the standard HunterDouglas PowerRise system.
 
If so, interfacing with it is all but impossible with anything other than HunterDouglas PowerRise components.  The RF communication would be impossible to memorize, and the IR requires the RF to wake the shade up, even when you raise or lower it with the IR section of the remote.
 
HD has some various interface components, but I have no way of knowing if they are compatible with what I am seeing on the Home Depot site.  I would guess they might be.
 
Still other photos show the Somfy remote as ano points out, so one would need to find out which system the shades to be selected actual use.
 

ano

Senior Member
Honestly, unless you REALLY fall in love with another blind, just stick with Bali.  With few exceptions, all the major companies have similar offerings. Most every blind company sells Bali, as does Home Depot, and you can get most motorized with Somfy motors.  Once you do this, you have to decide if you want Zigbee, Z-Wave, or RTS wireless. I'd go with RTS for maximum flexibility, but if you already have Zigbee or Z-Wave, you may want to consider those.
 
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