Block Out the Sun and Beat the Heat With Motorized Blinds

It's too hot to think. It's too hot to move. We're pretty sure we just saw a mirage in the dining room. We just want to lie under a spinning ceiling fan and drink iced coffee till autumn. So in that vein we've decided to install some motorized blinds. Why expend all that energy getting up, going from window to window turning that terribly tiny stick when you can push a button? Hey, if you're so inclined you can put them on a timer and then you don't even have to push the button. Or, you know, if you want to save money on energy costs and have them close themselves when you aren't home that's good too.

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Motorized blinds come in every style imaginable. Fancy your shade wooden or roman? Yep, they can be motorized. Costs vary by blind material, motor, control system and manufacturer.

Materials
As we mentioned above if you are inclined to use it as a shade you can find a manufacturer for it. Cost per blind go from $50 for cheap, faux-wood, pvc blinds to $300+ for black-out style, cellular blinds and real wood veneers. A trip to the local hardware store will usually give you good idea of what's out there as far as materials go.

Motor


  • Battery powered: These are nice because you don't have to have someone install wires for your blinds. Batteries generally have to be replaced every two to three years so don't worry if you're installing one of these in your 30-foot ceiling-ed great room, you'll only have to risk your life on that ladder when you need to dust.

  • AC/DC: You either have somebody install wiring, preferably someone licensed to play with wires, or some models allow you to plug them into existing outlets. This is ideal because it looks clean and doesn't ever have to be replaced, but sometimes it's not feasible.

  • Quiet style: Many companies offer a quieter version of the battery or ac/dc models but expect to pay a premium. This is one to test before you buy because the technology varies and "quiet" may mean near silent or it may mean "not as loud as a turbine engine."

Control System


  • IR (Infrared): These come in the wired and wireless variety. IR is used in most TV remotes and works well if you're in range, but as you might notice from trying to change the channel, can be blocked if enough material gets in the way.

  • Radio: These give you 100% wireless control and tend to work better than IR remotes in a much wider range.

  • Automation: There are all kinds of systems that blinds can be integrated into. If you've already got a system going adding blinds shouldn't be a problem. Many universal remotes can handle your blinds as well. We're looking forward to seeing what Android@Home can do in this department.

Manufacturer
There are a variety of companies out there manufacturing them on a large scale. Lutron, Mecho, Hunter Douglas, BTX and Somfy are the bigger names in the business; one of our team is currently in the processing of reviewing a new player, QMotion.

Some home automation companies also construct their own or have them specially made. If this is a house-wide project a local home automation firm could be the people to consult. But if the word soldering iron doesn't scare you there are tutorials on Instructables that give you directions in modifying existing blinds. The features run the gamut and quality really depends on your skill. Keep in mind you still have to worry about getting power to the blinds, be it battery or AC/DC. But if this is something you're considering it might be cool to use a solar panel on the blinds to power them. Just a thought.

So that's the skinny on motorized blinds. If you need us we'll be under the fan in the living room holding a big glass of iced coffee. Mmm, iced coffee and laziness. It's what summer is all about.

(Images: Flickr users TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ and aloshbennett under Creative Commons)