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Automating Blinds | TiltMyBlinds RollerTrol eRod DIY

smart-blinds

Introduction

There are lots of ways to automate your blinds and stay within a budget. Calling a local automation PRO will cost you, and you should have a general understanding of what is available before writing a blank cheque. The major decision when deciding about blind automation is the type of blinds you want to automate. Automating Venetian blinds will be a lot less expensive than roller blinds (as there is a smaller motor required and a smaller battery and solar panel will be needed).

Notes: To automate your blinds you will need:

  1. A motor
  2. A power supply or solar panel with a battery
  3. A communication device to your automation system (Z-Wave, Zigbee, Bluetooth, Radio, IR) OR a built in board to control the timing of the operations.
  4. A wall controller is ideal as you’d want the ability to open and close blinds locally without a scene.

Your Options

The ones that we have considered are:

Venetian Solutions

  1. TiltMyBlinds
  2. Raspberry Pi
  3. Add-A-Motor
  4. Mini-Arduino

Roller Blind Solutions

  1. RollerTrol
  2. Add-A-Motor
  3. Somfy Shades with Control4

Drapes Solutions

  1. eRod
  2. eBay
  3. Add-A-Motor

Venetian Blinds

TiltmyBlinds


While Kickstarter made this product what it is today, it is more than one of the best all around solutions for the price if it stays the current price. For just $599 you can get 8 tilt blinds, 8 solar panels, 3 wall switches and two TV tilts.

Pros

  1. Good price per unit if you get the discount for all the blinds ($75/window for full automation with integration into your own hub is outstanding).
  2. Great usage of BLE as it’s low power allows the battery to stay small and prevent the need for hard wiring.
  3. Completely hidden in track
  4. Retrofits most units
  5. Will have Android and iOS

Cons

  1. Needs a BLE device to keep a connection to it
  2. Limited to Venetians

For more information visit here

Raspberry Pi


I personally wouldn’t go this route as I haven’t played with raspberry Pi’s enough to warrant the price difference between the other ‘TiltMyBlinds’ solution. He does give a very detailed summary of how to do it and also which parts to buy so if you are technically savvy and know to code you may want to save a few dollars and try this. The advantage with this route is that you have a RESTful API (sorta) to use and even a graphical interface. Watch the video to see how he does it.

Mini-Arduino


This was another solution that I saw recently and again, it’s REALLY cheap for a certain solution like having a very small venetian blind that you need to change upon getting dark/light outside (kitchen blinds?) Using something like the Bean for this might be an ideal application (Servo application).

Roller Blinds

1. RollerTrol Roller Blinds

With all RollerTrol products you can get a USB Transceiver ($159 USD) that can then be used to integrate with your own automation system.


Options Available:

  1. DIY Kits:
    • Basic Window Blind with Built-In Battery: $199+tax+ship: This is a great way to add control to your roller blinds and use a optional solar panel to avoid the installation of wiring. Always pay close attention to the pounds lift. This model does 10lb.
    • Basic Window Blind: You may also want a lightweight model for smaller windows. This can get the job done for most windows and is a decent deal. This doesn’t come with the built-in battery and is only a 6lb lift.
  2. Radio + Blind motor + Battery: This solution requires no wiring as it has everything you may want and you could start with this and add a solar panel when the funds come available. The battery lasts 4-6 months.

2. Add-A-Motor D80 + Z-Wave Power Supply


The video above shows the Model 2000 which is meant for very large openings and is usually around $500. The model D80 would be meant for smaller jobs and can do a lot.

Installation

This is probably the easiest installation possible. Run the cord through the blinds chain and then plug it in.

Z-Wave Motor for Automation

The reason we choose to include a Z-Wave Power Supply is you can then have scenes to control how long the motor needs to run to create the scene. With this option you’ll need to create a virtual device that knows what level the blinds are at. Having the power turned on for a certain amount of time and then shutting it off would produce a certain ‘level’ of blind opening or closing.

How it Works

The way this Add-A-Motor works is everytime you apply power and remove it it goes the other way. I would start with the full open and full close first and then cut the time in half for 50%.

Somfy with Control4


Control4 is a great system, it’s done by professionals but as with anything done by professionals, it’s expensive. You pay for a solution that you could do yourself fairly easily by watching a few youtube videos. This system uses a lot of hardware and custom programming to make it happen. I would stay away from something like this as other solutions above can be done for much less.

Drapes

eRod Motorized Drapes


This solution provides an easy installation method and you can use almost any type of drapes that you could want. This would be ideal for doors and big windows. The downside with this method is that I don’t see an option for z-wave or zigbee. You would need to find out the HEX codes and then program it into an app like Smart Remote (for android) on a mounted tablet and then use that as your controller instead of the provided remote. For more info on this method you can see here.

Check Add-A-Motor

Other Sources like eBay

There are lots of other places to check for other alternatives. Searching Ebay for motor drapes, motor blinds, blind motor can yeild cheap products which do the same thing.

Beware

A lot of the cheaper products use cheap motors that can break down. You could end up spending twice what a more expensive motor cost in the first place if you don’t pick the right product for your application. Ie. Lets say you have roller blinds that need 12lb pull for each action and you select a 12lb lift motor. It may lift it for a while but then it will break down as the motor is running at 100% torque. Cheap plastic parts can break easily. Check youtube and amazon for reviews of whatever you intend to purchase.

Conclusion

Venetians: While the TiltMyBlinds solution isn’t available yet, it yields the most promising solution that you dont have to DIY and yet doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Picking a solution that doesn’t need wiring is ideal and you will be thankful on your electricity bill.

Roller Blinds:We like the solution by RollerTrol as they have been around a while and have yielded good reviews.

Drapes: Besides eRod and eBay, Add-A-Motor can work for light jobs and is fairly inexpensive.

New Builds

If you’re starting from scratch with a window and are wondering what to do with a limited budget I would go with the TiltMyBlinds solution. While they don’t have a track record, the idea of it with the flexibility and solar solution makes this very attractive.

If you have other solutions please let us know in our forum

We want to know about them and how to automate it into an automation hub.