Shades have been the hardest piece of the smarthome equation for a long time. Fortunately options are growing..
- Retrofit – Usually a small motor that attaches to your loop chain and pulls your shades for you.
- Wireless – Custom made all-in-one shades you (or a pro) install into the top of your window casing.
- Wired – Professionally installed shades wired for power and control.
DIY, Your Techy Friend,
- Benefits: Low cost, easy to install, and Soma’s option even solves the battery issue with a small solar panel that tacks onto your window. Many options integrate with Alexa and HomeKit.
- Challenges: While you can hide the accompanying solar panel you can’t hide the motor, or the wire that runs between them. Motors run noticeably slow, and offer limited programming and grouping control.
- Conclusion: This is the shade equivalent to a Philips Hue light bulb. It’s a cool trick and a workable option for a single window solution. Occasional troubleshooting is required.
Pro Tip 1: Certain fabrics offer a level of transparency that lets you see outside, lets a fair amount of light in, but doesn’t let the outside look in. Our clients tend to prefer these “solar” shades in common areas, and full “blackout” shades in the bedroom.
DIY, Your Techy Friend,Professional
- Benefits: Solid options start around $300 per window, and installation doesn’t require opening up your walls. Also, batteries can last years.
- Challenges: While multiple windows can be linked, the ability to control them separately requires keeping a separate remote for each shade. Also, these systems are not designed for layered or heavier window treatments. Finally, some emit a buzzing sound when running (like Somfy.)
- Conclusion: A good option for smaller home owners looking to spend as little as possible on a full-blown smart shade system. Integration with platforms like HomeKit is solid, and troubleshooting is rare (As long as your wireless network’s strength and reliability are stellar.)
Pro Tip 2: Some shades can only be installed by professionals. For DIY shades, make sure you measure in three different places both horizontally and vertically. If a window opening is slightly bowed and you end up even 1/8″ off, the shade can bind.
DIY, Your Techy Friend, Professional
- Benefits: Unparalleled reliability and the ability to hide everything but the shades themselves. Increased power allows for heavier fabrics and drapery, and wiring unlocks superior control options.
- Challenges: Installation, and therefore cost – Requires building a custom pocket to hide rollers, wiring for both power and control, stacking multiple rollers for multiple shades out of sight but still accessible for service.
- Conclusion: The most reliable option for shade control as they run independent from a wireless network. Best suited for new construction or major renovations as the process takes six weeks and you cannot order based on design (the actual window needs to be finished and measured to account for imperfections.)
Pro Tip 3: Roller shades, romans, honeycomb and louvers all work relatively the same way. Drapery tracks are a different beast both in weight limit (which decreases if the track is curved) and in gather. Remember, open drapes tend to gather to 1/3rd the width of the window if pulled to one side, or 1/6th the width on both sides if split in the middle.
There are two types of wired shades: Motorized and Smart.
- Motorized shades automate the movement, but do not know the exact position of the shade.
- Smart shades receive feedback on their exact position, which unlocks all kinds of programming and scene saving. For example, you can base default positions on the position of the sun via astronomical clock which saves energy and protects furnishings from sun damage.
Pro Tip 4: The most intuitive way to control shades is by keypad. It’s always where you left it (on the wall), and only requires a single ‘Shades’ button (press once to raise, again to pause, and again to lower.) With the right system you can place this button in the same face plate as your lighting controls.