Everything You Need to Know About Smart Blinds

Everything You Need to Know About Smart Blinds

Everything You Need to Know about Smart Blinds
Reading Time: 6 minutes

So, they’re not cheap—but smart window treatments that can open and close on command, on a schedule, or even based on room occupancy are the ultimate finishing touch for any smart home. Like smart lighting, smart window treatments offer a host of benefits in terms of convenience, security, and energy conservation. And they really pack the “wow” factor, too. Here is everything you should know about smart blinds.

What Are Smart Blinds?

Smart blinds may be programmed in the same manner smart lighting. Instead of relying on manual adjustment, smart blinds use electric motors and sensors to allow the user to shut or open them on command or put them on a schedule. Because sensors and motors push smart blinds into a much higher price range, they are usually quite stylish as well, upgrading the appearance of your home in the process.

Like regular windows blinds, smart blinds vary in three key aspects:

  • Material. They are usually made of aluminum, (faux) wood, polymer, or textured vinyl.

  • Slat size. This can range from half an inch to two and a half inches.

  • Colour. The more neutral the colour, the better its ability to fit into any space, which is why people usually opt for grey, white, or brown. In many cases, the type of material will determine the colour of the blinds.

On top of these three elements, smart blinds add wireless operation, electric motors, and sensors. Be careful not to confuse blinds with shades. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are quite different. If you have to choose between electric blinds and roller shades, the former will prove to be a better choice in almost all cases. Here’s why:

Blinds are made out of harder material, allowing the user to fine-tune the horizontal slats’ angle to prevent sunlight from entering the space. From fully closed to partially drawn to completely open, blinds offer a more flexible solution, so most people prefer them.

In contrast, shades are a continuous panel made out of soft, fabric-like material. This makes them less flexible because there are no slats that can be partially tilted. Worse yet, blinds rarely block sunlight completely even when fully extended. You would have to opt for blackout fabric shades for such a specific purpose, but then you are stuck with them. Furthermore, shades are harder to clean than blinds. These major problems with shades are absent with much more versatile blinds.

How Do Smart Blinds Work?

As smart blinds represent luxurious automation, they have not yet penetrated the market to the extent of ready-to-go solutions. Only relatively recently have major retailers like Ikea begun to sell smart blinds. While companies like Somfy or Lutron offer expensive custom-built smart blinds, you will often find that the more common way to get smart blindsis to motorize manual blinds, turning them into smart ones.

If you choose the DIY approach to smart blinds, you will need the following components:

  • RF module

  • Blinds

  • DC motor

  • Android box

  • Power adapter

  • 3D printer or access to a 3D printing service

If that list sounds enticing and you are adventurous, it is possible to motorize and automate your blinds for just $10 per piece!

Otherwise, this DIY list tells you exactly how smart blinds work. A motor—usually battery-powered—is installed on the side of the blinds, just as the manual mechanism is. The motor is attached to the pulling cords, and the motor casing is also equipped with a light sensor and Wi-Fi connectivity, making it possible to use an app or a remote to set your lighting preferences.

Of course, the most popular smart blinds can be plugged into existing automation systems, such as Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, or Google Home. Most smart blinds are sold with a remote. The smart part comes in the total automation of the blinds, which are self-adjusting based on light intensity and/or time of day.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Smart Blinds

If you already have a smart fridge, lighting, or TV, why not expand the smart family to further the luxurious, futuristic feel of your home? Because it is easy to set smart blinds up on a schedule, you can even create the impression that you are home when you are not!

This alone goes a long way in preventing burglars from targeting your home as they stake out the neighbourhood. Likewise, you can use smart blinds’ automated schedule to help you gradually wake up. Instead of the soul-crushing alarm sound, let sunlight beckon you awake! Outside of schedules, the remote that accompanies smart blinds allows you to tweak them any time you need without getting off the couch or walking to the other side of the house or apartment.

As for the downsides of smart blinds, the initial cost and time to install them are more burdensome than simply installing typical window treatments. Moreover, as most are dependent on batteries, this too will require extra expenditures over the years. However, these drawbacks are negligible compared to the end result of extra comfort and making your real estate more valuable.

Features

Before selecting the main features, make sure you know how to make the best use of available options for each space. For example, blackout blinds are suitable for bedrooms or rooms with young children. Some blinds have a thermal coating, which makes them ideal for rooms facing north. For maximum versatility, pick slatted smart blinds so you can adjust them to regulate sunlight exposure.

Battery vs Hardwired

Needless to say, a hardwired motor casing—one that plugs directly into your electric grid—requires professional installation, which increases costs. But if you are just building your home, hardwired smart blinds are ideal. The blueprints can account for them just as for all other electric outlets and equipment.

Otherwise, solar or battery-powered blinds represent the most hassle-free solution. Solar ones should only be considered in sunny climates, but even then, it might not be a good idea to rely on the unpredictability of sun exposure. The drawback of batteries is that you have to change them, increasing your carbon footprint.

Remote Control

Just like with TVs and AC units, the remote control makes life easier. Almost all ready-to-go smart blinds come bundled with a remote control capable of operating multiple blinds.

Built-in Light Sensor

If your blinds come with a remote but don’t have a light sensor, they are not smart! Only those with a built-in light sensor will be capable of auto-adjusting depending on sunlight intensity. Otherwise, you have to rely on a timed schedule.

Ease of Installation

Generally, smart blinds that are NOT bespoke will be easier to install. However, because they have to fit the broadest range of needs, they will offer fewer options in terms of style and colour. If you want them hardwired, it might be best to kill two birds with one stone and hire a professional for custom-built smart blinds. If you can afford it, you’ll likely appreciate the complete service, from measuring the space to expertly fitting completed blinds.

How Much Do Smart Blinds Cost?

Predictably, smart shades will be much cheaper than blinds due to their aforementioned drawbacks. You can get ones from IKEA from C$164 to C$228 to—check out the Fyrtur and Kadrilj lineup. In the upper price range, above $500, you have Z-Wave-based smart blinds, which work with Amazon’s automation ecosystem. The cost of smart blinds will largely depend on the size of the windows they need to cover.

However, if you are looking for the most expedient and cheapest smart blinds, there is a unique solution on the market in the form of the Sunsa Wand. Just under CAD$106, this kit replaces your existing wand/tilt mechanism with a smart one. No installation is needed except for simple replacement. It can smart up vertical, horizontal, and mini blinds. Additionally, its behaviour can be programmed via a smartphone app.

Smart Home Compatibility, Integration, and Voice Control

With so many competing smart home systems in play, you should always check to make sure your blinds will work either with your existing system or your future one. Usually, hardwired variants like PowerShades require a locked-in home automation ecosystem—Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit, etc.

However, most wireless smart blinds will feature a bridge to connect to a home network. This is especially true for those products that run on Z-Wave interconnectivity. With them, a USB dongle is enough to connect to a wide range of smart blinds, like the Graber Virtual Cord lineup.

Fortunately, a blind’s compatibility is easy to spot. Every smart blind kit worthy of note will have a compatibility list with the most prevalent automation systems listed. At this point, HomeKit is the least supported, while Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the most common. If you already have one of their smart speakers, they will seamlessly integrate with your new smart blinds, reacting to your every command.

Conclusion and Recommendation

For minimal effort and cost, a smart wand like the previously mentioned Sunsa Wand is the fastest way to motorize and automate your blinds. In fact, it might be cheaper to get so-called “dumbwith the specific purpose of replacing its tilting mechanism with a motorized smart blind wand.

Likewise, Google and Amazon-compatible automation kits will take up little of your time for futurizing your home. For a wide selection of smart shade styles, you would be hard-pressed to find a better and cheaper option than Yoolax.

For a no-compromise, fully compatible solution, Graber Virtual Cord is available in Canada via ZebraBlinds. If you are serious about full customization and integration into your existing smart home, Graber stands out from the crowd.

Having big windows is aesthetically pleasing and lets in plenty of natural light, but privacy is a concern. Amert window blinds make having large windows in private spaces easier. All said and done, Smart window blinds combine beauty, safety and functionality in one smart package!

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