No matter how big or small, or the style or the application, there are a few key features that every type of motorized shade should possess. Here are the top nine:
1. Simple to Use
The tech world is realizing that if you make something easier, people will use it. That’s what automation and motorized window shades are all about! So it’s vitally important that these systems (or individual shades) be simple to operate. Thankfully, most motorized shading systems are available with handheld remotes, keypads and timers, or sensors, with more advanced systems offering their own mobile apps for smartphones, tablets, and even smart watches.
2. Works Well with Others
If your home already has advanced technologies like a lighting, climate, security, or full home control system, your biggest concern should probably be that your new shades, drapes, or blinds be fully compatible with your current systems. For instance, if you have a Lutron Homeworks QS lighting system, you can add Lutron shades and control them from the same smartphone app. This way you can schedule the lights and shades to work together, making adjustments easier. Likewise, if you have a home control system, you’ll want to choose supported motorized shades for full functionality.
3. Quiet Operation
As the motorized shade market matures, competition is pushing manufacturers to improve every aspect of their products. One of the most noticeable changes for the user has been the introduction of whisper-quiet motors from industry veterans like Somfy, QMotion, Lutron, Hunter Douglas, and Crestron. This might seem like nitpicking, but the first time you’re on the phone or watching a movie and the blinds start moving on their own, you’ll be thankful that you picked a motor that’s quiet.
4. Syncing & Grouping Capabilities
Nearly all modern shading systems have some form of grouping feature that will allow you to control four or more shades from a single remote, which is vitally important because adjusting blinds individually doesn’t really save you much effort. Tie a wall or a room to a single remote and you can watch all the shades move in unison at your command.
5. Installation Ease
If you’re going the DIY route, this is a big sticking point. You need to be confident when installing a motorized shade; if you aren’t sure, you should probably choose a simpler product or hire a professional to install it. Most battery-operated shades and some plug-in systems can be installed by the average homeowner, while larger, more advanced systems using in-wall wiring or integration with other home technologies will likely require professional installation. For any non-plug-in units we’ll lump in battery life here, too. Whether it’s in two years or five, you will need to change the batteries.
6. Darkening Properties
Do you want to black out a room for movie viewing, or just eliminate glare and partially block the sunlight? When choosing a fabric, consider the range of brightness you want in the room. Thicker fabrics will block more light and visibility, as will wood blinds. On the other end of the spectrum, solar shades, thin fabrics, sheer blinds, and lighter colors can allow you to reduce harsh sunlight and glare without turning your kitchen or dining area into a darkroom. As a bonus, solar shades are see-through, even though they block sunlight, so you can cut the brightness and still retain your views.
7. Smart Functions
A shade’s smart functionality may be the most convenient thing about it. Through home control systems and accessories like sun sensors and timers, you can fully automate your shades for maximum heating and cooling efficiency and energy savings. Of course, you can always override the sensor or timer and use your remote or keypad to fine-tune the positions of the shades.
If you don’t love how the shades or hardware look, you’ll never really appreciate your investment. Even if they could do your laundry and walk the dog, they’d still be an eyesore. There are a ton of styles, colors, thicknesses, and patterns from which to choose. Roller shades can be mounted to drop from behind the roller and closer to the window, or reverse to have it in the front, hiding the roller and sitting further from the window. Mounting shades inside the window frame looks more customized and exudes a sleek appearance while also showing off the frame itself. For an even more custom look you can install top down/bottom up shades that can ”float” in between the top and bottom of a window, or add a motorized drape over the entire window if you choose in-frame mounting for your shade.
Clearly, there’s potential to blow your budget. Manufacturers offer shades with a wide variety of feature sets, sizes, fabrics, controls, and power sources, so it’s important to figure out your must-haves before shopping. If you absolutely don’t want visible wires or you need mobile app control, you can narrow down the options considerably. Then decide if you want to do every room, choose the style and color you want, and see how it compares with your expected budget. EH