Window coverings are a major design consideration in every new home or remodeling project, just as much as furniture, flooring, and walls. With thousands of unique combinations of colors, textures, weaves, and types of shades, you’re probably going to spend a fair amount of time deciding what fits your home’s decor and style best.
So no, your walls are not going to look like a room from Star Trek with lights blinking and motors whirring (unless that’s what you’re going for). For the most part, motorized window shades look just like regular shades. The only difference is you’ll see no pull cords or wands hanging down the wall, as the operation of the shade happens via a handheld remote, wall-mounted keypad, or smartphone/tablet app.
Even better, you may be able to motorize the shades or drapes you already own with the addition of a special track or rod. Established brands like Somfy and entry-level newcomers like Erod offer affordable retrofit solutions that allow you to upgrade your blinds instead of replacing them.
There are attractive motorized shade options for every type of window and door: Shades use rollers and box brackets and drapes are hung from motorized tracks or rods. As for the shades themselves, the benefits of material and design are the same as with manual shades. Each has a different look, weight, color, light blocking ability, insulating properties, and overall style. Here we’ll compare the different benefits, technologies, and designs available.
Benefits of proper shade usage
You’d be amazed by how much heat you can trap or block by opening or closing the shades on sunny days. Accessories like sun sensors and timers can maximize climate control by automatically adjusting the positions of the window shades throughout the day.
The sun provides the most pleasing light, so use it. Sheer shades and thinner fabrics let in sunlight while still minimizing the glare on TV screens, while blackout shades can completely darken a room on the sunniest days.
With smart scheduling, the climate control and lighting benefits of motorized shades can substantially reduce your home’s energy consumption. Reducing your air conditioner’s workload just a little can have a big impact.
Thicker fabrics, honeycomb shades, wood blinds, and blackout shades can provide complete privacy from prying eyes. Grouping individual motorized shades together makes it easy to quickly close them all for privacy and timers can tell the shades to move to give the illusion of a lived-in home when you’re away.
Sunlight can make it nearly impossible to watch TV, and all shades besides wood tilt blinds will help reduce the glare. For the best viewing experience and especially in home theaters, blackout shades will isolate the room from all exterior light.
Everything from furniture and fabric to wood floors and artwork is susceptible to UV light damage or fading. All shades will block some UV and visible light, but for maximum protection solar roller shades and blackout shades can’t be beat.
Double and triple cell honeycomb shades provide considerable sound dampening, which can be a big benefit for rooms facing busy streets. Specialty shades for home theaters can block both sound and light for ultimate isolation.
Motorized shade technologies
Box brackets look similar to what you’d use with traditional shades, but are slightly larger to accommodate the motors and wiring or batteries. They are used for all drop-down types of window shades except roller shades. Some systems have stylish covers available for an additional cost.
Rollers are used for:—you guessed it—roller shades. You never actually see the roller bar because the shade fabric is always wrapped around it.
Shade designs and styles
How to mount your shades is one of the easier decisions you’ll make. Just like standard shades, they can be mounted over the window and extend beyond the frame, or can be mounted within the window frame for a more custom look. Roller and cellular shades, along with wood blinds, look great mounted inside the window frame. Draperies are usually mounted over the frame to ensure edge-to-edge coverage.
Sheer fabrics are the type you can see through. It’s a material that’s commonly used in roller shades and drapes, allowing you to change the natural lighting of a room without blocking the view. They offer varying levels of UV protection and light diffusion, with darker fabrics providing a clearer view through the shade.
Translucent fabrics fall somewhere between sheer and blackout, allowing you to see light through the shade but blurring what’s outside. They are great for softening harsh sunlight and providing privacy. They are most commonly found in roller or Roman-style shading systems.
Blackout shades are available in most of the styles and do just what the name says—they blackout outside lights sources. With 100 percent light blocking performance, they are an ideal choice for home theaters, rooms with a lot of reflective surfaces, and bedrooms. They are available in many colors and patterns and provide enhanced
Roller shades are an extremely popular option because there are hundreds of colors and patterns from which to choose and are available from numerous manufacturers. They are also one of the most affordable options for motorized systems. Considered both practical and stylish, roller shades are desired for light filtering or blackout capabilities, depending on the fabric’s thickness and color.
Solar shades are roller style-coverings that combine light diffusion and heat reflection with an elegant appearance. With superior glare reduction, UV protection, and climate control capabilities, these simple yet attractive shades come in a variety of colors and help manage sunlight without blocking it completely. Because they are relatively sheer, solar shades allow you to soften the sunlight hitting a room but do not provide much privacy.
Cellular shades or honeycomb shades come in single, double, and triple cell thicknesses to insulate your home and provide substantial energy savings and climate control. These familiar looking shades offer options for light filtering and blackout needs. They are often the most affordable type of shade and are available from just about every manufacturer of motorized shading solutions.
Wood blinds are elegant and provide tilt control, allowing you to direct the sunlight up or down or darken a room completely. They are usually more expensive and may require a stronger motor for large windows due to their weight.
Top down/bottom up shades allow you to essentially ‘float’ the shades in front of the window. They can come to rest at any level, not just starting at the top or bottom of the window, so you can let light in at both the top and bottom of the window while blocking the midsection. Designers and homeowners often use these to create a unique style by setting adjacent shades at different heights and positions. Most fabrics listed above can be found in top down/bottom up configurations. EH