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Hardwiring Motorized Shades

sionxct

Member
Trying to wrap my head around motorized shades, of which I have no prior experience. The point of this post is partly to post what I think I’ve figured-out, and also to ask for corrections and clarifications. Since the original version of this post, I've learned a few things so I've edited accordingly.
 
Manufactucters for shade motors that I've studied include Somfy, Lutron and Hunter-Douglas. There other manufucatures of course, but I think between the three I've covered the hardwired options. Recommendations on this board are to decide early what manufacturer's system you want to use. If instead you prefer to pre-wire, posts on this board suggest 16/2 & 22/4.
 
One of my major objectives is to avoid lock-in and attempt to future proof. I think there are two sides to future proofing: 1) what new technology may become available 2) what current technology may be depreciated and no longer available. My current thought is to wire 14/3 NMB (2 hots, neutral & gnd) and STP Cat5e (sheilded overall) to each window group. If 120VAC motors are not needed, you could instead use just Lutron 46L**. 
 
Lutron appears to be an RS485 based system. Recommended cabling is Lutron 46L, which is a combo cable with 12/2, 18/1 & 22/2 STP + drain. 12/2 is used for 24vac power, 18/1 for DC, 22/2 + drain for data. Online prices for 46L are about $1.25/ft. The other end of the cable is connected to a power supply (EDU) and a dry contact interface module (CIC) is available. Using 14/3 + Cat5 instead: 24vac over the black & white conductors, DC power over the red conductor, and data over a Cat5 pair.

Initially, I was told by the Hunter Douglas rep that they no longer support hardwired solutions, but they eventually provided me with details for hardwiring using a 14/2 for DC power and a 2 conductor + common control wire. This system uses dry contacts to control the motor, not RS485. I was told this system is being depreciated in favor of their wireless solution. Using 14/3 + Cat5: DC power over black and red, control signals over Cat5 pair
 
Somfy has two hardwire options, the WT (dry contact) and the SDN (RS485 Somfy Digital Network), along with 120vac and 24vdc motor options. The primary advantages of the AC motors are 1) no power supplies required 2) voltage drop is less of an issue 3) AC motors can be more powerful.
 
120vac powered WT requires 4 to 5 120vac conductors. I'm still not sure what the 5 conductor is for, but I don't think its necessary for most installations. Thus, a single 14/3 NMB can power and control the 4 conductor motors.
 
24vdc motors use 2 power conductors (reverse the polarity to reverse the motor.) Red and Black of the 14/3 would suffice.

For DC motors using SDN (RS485), Somfy has a low-voltage Motor Power and Data Cable similar to the Lutron 46L with Somfy cable consisting of 14/2 for DC power, 22/2 STP and 24/1 for data. Its missing the 18awg conductor of the 46L. Using 14/3 + Cat5 instead: 24vdc over the black & red conductors, and data over a Cat5 pair. Similar to Lutron, at the other end of the cable can be a SDN Power Panel to supply DC power and data. However, they do not appear to have a SDN dry contact interface *.
 
For AC motors using SDN, you would wire 14/2 NMB and Cat5 (the motor uses an RJ9 for data.)  Somfy recommends the Cat5 cable from the motor be run to their Data Hub. Officially, the Data Hub only supports cable lengths up to 30'. The Data Hub+, which supported longer runs, is no longer available.
 
* You can integrate RTS (somfy wireless) into the SDN system, and there is a RTS dry contact interface. The UAI+ device is a SDN to IP bridge with a JSon API. The ILT varation of SDN is depreciated.
** While the 46L should work with the Somfy SDN motors, but the motors have a RJ9 port for the data. I'm not sure if you can sucessfully terminate the 22 awg conductor into a RJ9 plug as the plubs I've seen are rated for smaller gauge. That said, the SDN cable also has 22 awg conductor for data so there most be a solution for it. 
 
Disclaimer: This is my understanding as of the last time I edited this post. Don't assume this is all correct.
 

carealtor

Member
Very disappointing that nobody responded to your original post as I have been trying to sort some of this out myself.  Thanks for the extensive writeup.
 

ano

Senior Member
I have approx. 20 Somfy blinds. All wireless, and they work great.  All are automated, but I love being able to pick up a remote by each and adjust them if I like. Another nice feature is Somfy sells these little puck-size things that stick to your window and let you close them automatically based in the sun. I use a few and they work well. I'm not really sure why you want wired. They are definitely going the way of type writers and vinyl records, at least in residential applications. All you need is 120V outlets by each drape.
 
I only know about Somfy, and they come in three general flavors, low voltage (12V), high voltage DC (24V) and AC.  The low voltage can run on batteries, solar, or transformers. They are fairly noisy, but not terrible, but they are the cheapest. The AC ones are the quietest, but also the most expensive, probably twice the price or more.  I use low-voltage ones with transformers, except for some blinds, which are AC.  I use RTS but Somfy makes modules for other wireless, like Zigbee. I use Zigbee in my house, but Zigbee costs more than RTS, and RTS works fine.
 
Like anything, it depends on your budget. Adding motors can double the blind cost or more. When they are AC, cost can double again.
 

carealtor

Member
When you say "I use RTS but Somfy makes modules, for other wireless, like Zigbee", what exactly does that mean?  Does it mean you have to purchase different motors depending on your choice of wireless protocol?  Or does it mean that there is a replaceable module in the motor and the motors are the same regardless of protocol?  Or maybe it means something else?
 

sionxct

Member
My walls are open, so I'd rather hardwire than gamble with wireless reception issues. If my walls weren't open, I'd take my chances with wireless. I didn't spend much time researching RTS, though its nice that it intgrates with the SDN network. If I go with SDN, I'll probably make provisions for some RTS mainly to use the wireless handheld controllers.
 
Hunter-Douglas uses a hub and numerous wall-wart RF repeaters plugged into recepticles. Won't pass the WAF, nor mine, especially since we have the wall open now.
 
Not sure if Lutron has a wireless option.
 

ano

Senior Member
carealtor said:
When you say "I use RTS but Somfy makes modules, for other wireless, like Zigbee", what exactly does that mean?  Does it mean you have to purchase different motors depending on your choice of wireless protocol?  Or does it mean that there is a replaceable module in the motor and the motors are the same regardless of protocol?  Or maybe it means something else?
Unfortunately, its a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Sometimes one common motor can use different wireless plugins which is the case with Glydea. Sometimes there is a "bridge" which does the conversion.  RTS is the Somfy proprietary wireless standard, and that is built into most.
 
If you could ask some specifics, I can provide a better answer, but there are so many types of Somfy drapes and blinds, and so many wireless protocols, its hard to provide any answer.  If you have no preferences,  stick to RTS, but note RTS in Europe is different than RTS in North America, so buy in the country you are in.
 
I know you said you favored wired, but really the trend is away from wired, unless your house is very big.
 

picta

Active Member
ano said:
I know you said you favored wired, but really the trend is away from wired, unless your house is very big.
 
If the walls are open, go wired. You can always convert wired to wireless, but not the other way. I have 4 types of somfy motors that were added over time in a big house; 17 RS485 DC, 3 RTS, 4 RS232 DC and 3 RS232 AC motors plus Glydea drape rods. We had more RS232 shades as they were installed 10 yrs ago, but recently have upgraded most to RS485. You can find the motors on ebay for half the price.
 
The RS485 motors are the best IMO, they can be ordered AC or DC depending on the size of the shade (DC works for most shades < 100 sqft). The motors themselves are very quiet. The noise is mostly from the quality of the mount. The best part about RS485 is it can report its current status, while RTS motors cannot. I only have RTS shades because of the lack of control wire in those windows, if I had the extra 2 wires I would upgrade those as well. They mostly work fine, but every now and then skip a command, and because of the lack of status, remain out of sync until someone adjust them manually.
 

sionxct

Member
Thank you all for the contributions so far. Like with most things in life, there's rarely a one size fits all solution.
 
@Picta - What wiring topography are you using for the RS485 motors?
 
Somfy recommends that each SDN motor be connected to a Data Hub, then the data hub be put on the data bus. The cable between the Data Hub and the motor has a limitiation of 30 feet. This makes it a bit more challeging to avoid being locked into Somfy SDN solutions. I'm thinking the data hub will go behind a cornice, ceiling tray, etc in each room. I beleive Lutron is home run to a centralized panel, as would any dry contact solutions (controlled by a centralized automation system). I think this is just a matter of grouping the windows, such that they could either be individually addresssable with SDN or Lutron, or be controlled as a group with dry contact solutions.
 
Also, do you have any idea if a generic RS485 hub will work with Somfy SDN (or is there something proprietary about the Somfy hub)?
 
Tangential question: what brands of shades are you using with your Somfy motors?
 

picta

Active Member
RS485 topography can be daisy chain or home-run. I don't have a "data hub". SDN network is older than RS485. All my somfy motors are connected to the somfy power distribution panel via home-run to a closet. Some motors are wired in sequence on cat5 and the end of the run goes to the panel. I have 2 10-motor panels, Somfy part 1870194, in 2 different locations. Each is powered by a 12A 24V transformer. The panels RS485 ports are connected via cat5 and a single cat5 cable connects the panels to my Omni Pro controller. I use Centralite keypads to control the shades, but you could wire the Somfy keypads on a daisy chain and connect the end to the power panel. I have no issues with the length on the RS485 runs and I am not using additional power to power the 485 channel. The panel has an option to provide an extra power if needed.
 

ano

Senior Member
picta said:
The best part about RS485 is it can report its current status, while RTS motors cannot.
I believe European RTS can report status, but North American RTS can't.
 
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