Most homeowners will agree that a home needs window treatments for privacy and decorative appeal. But why would anyone need their home’s window treatments to be motorized? Some might perceive it as a frivolous luxury as opposed to necessity. However, motorization can bring real value and practical benefits to the drapes and shades that cover the windows of your home, especially when they’re tied to a home automation system.
Benefit 1: Convenience
Convenience is at the top of the list of benefits for many owners of motorized window treatments. The more windows that occupy a room, the more you’ll benefit from motorization. Imagine a master bedroom with six windows. Manually raising each shade in the morning and lowering each shade at night is bound to become an extremely tedious exercise. What about the windows on the second story of a two-story great room? Or the bathroom window you can only reach by stepping into the whirlpool tub? Wouldn’t it be quicker and more convenient to move the shades and drapes with the touch of a button? You can—and you should, by motorizing your window treatments. While you’re at it, have that button in your bedroom turn off all the lights in your home, arm the security system, deactivate any A/V equipment that you might have left on, and lower the thermostat as you get ready for bed.
Benefit 2: Security & Privacy
An effective way to protect your home from intrusion is to make it appear as if it is occupied, even when you’re hundreds of miles away. A control system can evoke a lived-in look by randomly turning lights on/off and raising/lowering shades. When you’re home, privacy becomes paramount, and is accomplished nicely with window treatments that can be operated by a button on a keypad, remote control, or smartphone. And note: Just because a motorized window treatment is able to block the view from the outside to the inside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the view of the ocean, city skyline, or your backyard garden. There are plenty of fabrics available that are designed to let you see out without anybody seeing in.
Benefit 3: Energy Savings
Homeowners are more conscious of energy savings now than ever before. While it may be nice to let the sun shine in through the windows on a bright snowy day, in the summer this natural light can put a huge strain on your air conditioning system — not to mention your wallet. In great rooms with floor-to-ceiling glass this problem is even more prevalent—but easily solved by fitting the windows with motorized drapes or shades.
Benefit 4: UV Protection
Speaking of solar gain, have you ever seen fabric that’s been bleached by the sun? If you live in a home with rooms in which the sun shines through all day long, take a look around. Lift up a corner of an area rug and see if the hardwood flooring underneath the carpet is the same shade as the flooring that’s exposed. How about your sofa? Is the side facing the window as vivid as the side that doesn’t face the sun? If you’ve only lived in your home for a year or two, you may not see much of a difference, but after years of being exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays, textiles break down and colors get “bleached.” Think that UV protection really isn’t an issue for you? Check out some of these statistics from sun control textile manufacturer Mermet:
Ã¢—: More than 90% of UV rays can pass through clouds. (Sorry, Seattle, you still need UV protection.)
Ã¢—: 60% of UV rays occur between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. If you motorize and automate your shades, you’ll never have to remember to put the shades down during these high UV times.
Ã¢—: Snow reflects up to 80% of UV rays; and for every 1,000 feet in elevation, UV increases by 40% (important for those slope side homes).
Window Treatment Options
Some companies offer battery-powered products but, if your home is under construction, do yourself a favor and hire a professional home systems integrator to run the wire and hang the motorized roller or track. Even if you’re not sure whether you want motorized window treatments, run the wire anyway, as it’s much less expensive to install wiring while the walls are open than when the walls are closed. Battery-powered window treatments are great solutions for existing homes where adding cabling might be too labor intensive.
Where to Buy Them
There are a number of manufacturers that offer motorized window treatments, including Crestron, Hunter Douglas, Lutron, and QMotion. Each company has its strengths and weaknesses, provides different types of window treatments, and offers hundreds or even thousands of fabric choices, as well as control options (remotes, apps, etc.). Your home systems integrator will typically recommend one or two brands, depending on his familiarity with them, how flexible the product is from an installation and programming standpoint, and how well it meets your needs.
Motorized window treatments are much more than just beautiful; they enhance the convenience, security, privacy, and efficiency of your home. And when combined with a smart lighting or automation system, they contribute even more to the form and function of the home environment. Operated by handheld remote, smartphone app, keypad, touchpanel, or automatically based on the time of day or other conditions, motorized window treatments are like power windows in cars: Once you live with them, you’ll wonder how you ever did without. EH
Window Treatment Types
Roller shades, Roman shades, drapery tracks, venetian blinds, cellular shades—there are so many choices, all of which can be motorized. For the best fit between fabric and the motorized hardware, buy both the fabric and the hardware from the same manufacturer (most manufacturers of motorized systems offer a wide variety of window treatment styles). Here are some of your options:
In its simplest form, a roller shade consists of an aluminum tube with a motor inside that rolls a panel of fabric up and down. Roller shades are a very popular choice when building a home, because pockets can be constructed within the ceiling to completely hide the roller from view.
Roller shade fabric comes in three basic types: sheer, translucent, or blackout (completely opaque). If you want to maintain a view of the outside, and reduce glare, UV exposure, and heat gain, a sheer fabric works best. If the intent is to provide privacy but still allow light in, a translucent fabric is the better choice (keep in mind that you will not be able to see through the fabric). For complete privacy and light blocking, you’ll need a blackout fabric. Beware of the term blackout fabric—while the fabric is completely opaque and no light will shine through it, in order to achieve a completely dark room, you may need to add metal extrusions to the top, sides, and window sill. What if you really need a way to block out UV, glare, and heat during the day and have complete privacy at night? Or what if you want that sheer fabric, but there are days when you just want to sleep in on a weekend and want the room to be completely dark? A dual roller shade is the answer. You can have the best of both worlds by stacking two motorized shades, slightly offset from each other, on the same window.
Roman shades are similar to roller shades, but the fabric does not wrap around a tube. Instead, cords or a fabric band wrap around the tube and lift the Roman shade up, folding it neatly as it raises. Depending on the type of fold you select, it looks similar to an accordion. This can add visual interest to a room more so than a flat panel of fabric hanging in the window. Fabric choices from the manufacturers are similar to that of fabric available for roller shades; however, with Roman shades you can use virtually any fabric you’d like, so get creative. Match your bedding or other upholstered furniture in the room.
Drapery Track Systems
Drapery systems are comprised of fabric that hangs from a motorized track that pulls the drapery from one side to the other or opens the drapes from the middle and pulls them to each side. Like Roman shades, you can choose practically any drapery material you wish. For bedrooms, most people combine sheer or blackout drapery fabrics on a dual track system.
Cellular shades, also called pleated shades or honeycomb shades, are composed of at least two attached sheets of fabric. Empty pockets of air run parallel to the seams and give cellular shades some great insulation properties. A small motor installed in a headrail at the top of the unit raises and lowers the shade. Similar to a Roman shade, a cellular shade typically has a cord that runs through the unit that folds the pleats as the shade rises.
A Venetian blind system is composed of horizontal slats made of metal, plastic, or wood. The slats are suspended by strips of cloth or by cords. Some motorized systems allow you to tilt the slats only, while others allow you to tilt, raise, and lower the slats.
All images courtesy of Lutron
Charlie Derk is Technology Manager Shading Solutions at Crestron Electronics.