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:
- A motor
- A power supply or solar panel with a battery
- 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.
- A wall controller is ideal as you’d want the ability to open and close blinds locally without a scene.
The ones that we have considered are:
Roller Blind Solutions
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.
- 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).
- Great usage of BLE as it’s low power allows the battery to stay small and prevent the need for hard wiring.
- Completely hidden in track
- Retrofits most units
- Will have Android and iOS
- Needs a BLE device to keep a connection to it
- Limited to Venetians
For more information visit here
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.
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).
With all RollerTrol products you can get a USB Transceiver ($159 USD) that can then be used to integrate with your own automation system.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SmartThings VS Wink VS Vera VS Insteon VS Aeon USB Stick VS Tasker
Below is a comparison of the current major players in the home automation world. Since this is just getting competitive now the prices are still somewhat high. Prices will drop with the more entrants into this game. Ideally you have a box that isn’t dependant on a server but if price is an issue than you can try a different route (such as a USB stick or Tasker). Things to look for: Open API’s, Apps, Plugins, Z-wave, Wifi, Zigbee, Google Now or HomeKit Integration (iOS), Android Wear and iOS ‘Watch’ apps. Technologies: Z-wave is the technology you should be looking for as it has the biggest product catalog support and it’s extremely secure. BLE may be the future but right now the current future isn’t as developed as it should be. Zigbee is great but you are limited in the type of products you can purchase. WiFi only hubs such as a Tab 3 can be used to control your Philips Hue lights but there are far more Z-wave products to purchase.
Update Oct 18th, 2015:
There has been a lot of changes in the past year and the items below reflect the changes.
Above is V1 and the price is very low to reflect the older technology inside. It’s a great start if you’re looking for something cheap to get into the smart home technology.
- Open Platform
- Samsung purchased in 2014
- Works with X10, Zwave, BLE (V2 only)
- No monthy fees
- Easy visual builder
- Battery backup V2
- Need to open app and ‘clunk’ around to turn things on.
- Last time I checked they didn’t have a dimmer option. It was just turning lights on and off
Version two of the Smartthings hub have added bluetooth, an battery as a backup incase the power goes out, better processor and more RAM. It improves the speed of actions and provides a more reliable connection to your smart home. It also supports more video cameras (not just DropCam).
Here is a comparison image between V1 and V2: [/plan][plan title=”Vera Edge” featured=”true” price=”$99″ color=”teal-lite”]
- Newest Model (Late 2014-2015 Design)
- Best API and Plugins
- Biggest community
- Decent Apps
- Integration with Tasker
- Easy setup
- Great support
- Good design
We replace the VeraLite with the Vera Edge as it is a newer model with possible device connections (can connect up to 220 devices), more video camera controllers, latest gen technology.
We purchased this model and had some issues but their support team quickly rectified the issue and got it working. [/plan][plan title=”Insteon Hub” price=”$99-150″]
- SmartLinc has an API
- Apple, Android
- Been around for a long time
- X10 Compatible
- Can find cheap products on craigslist
- Not Z-Wave device compatible
- Not ZigBee device compatible
Why not the new Smart Hub PRO and a HomeKit Solution?
HomeKit isn’t ready yet for home automation; everything on your network has to be HomeKit compatible for Siri to see it. I wouldn’t recommend it yet and there are far better solutions (see Beecon voice technology) to control your system from your voice.[/plan][plan title=”USB Stick S.S. 2 ($35) or Gen 5 ($49)” price=”$35-50″]
- Need a windows PC to host software like InControl
- Cheap solution to integrate Z-Wave
- Lots of flexibility
- Integration with EventGhost
- Apple and Android Apps you can use
There is also a Generation 5 device (2015) like the one below
This model allows for all Aeon gen 5 products like their new LED’s. It will hopefully provide a more reliable connection than their Series 2 stick as well. [/plan][plan title=”Tasker with Wifi Solutions” price=”4.99″]
- Too many features to list with a ton of plugins
- Great app
- Cheapest Solution
- Software Based
- NO Z-wave or Zigbee
- Easy to learn
- Tons of tutorials
- Great for WiFi Only devices
- Need to be willing to learn
- The most flexibility
- Can be integrated with all these other hubs
- Can use Philips Hue (lights), Lockitron, or any other BLE connected device and skip the Z-Wave system products.
Sample GET request with Tasker[/plan][plan title=”Wink Connected Hub (NOTE!!!! Wink went bankrupt)” featured=”true” price=”49.99″]
- Lowest Price (they have also gone belly up and I dont recommend this solution)
- Great Technologies: WiFi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron, Android Wear
- Good API
- Poor documentation (No setup)
- Spotty Z-Wave Support for all devices. Click the above link and browse through the reviews. They aren’t all pretty.
- Decent apps
- Once they improve on the integration with all Z-Wave products you will have a clear winner
- All of these products do pretty much the same thing
- They mostly all support WiFi, Z-Wave or ZigBee
- The Wink Connected hub that controls BLE, WiFi, Z-Wave, ZigBee is clearly the one that has the greatest potential. They just need to improve their firmware to work with all devices.
I personally like the Vera solution as it has enough features for the advanced techie but enough tutorials and help to support a mid to moderate newbie. There are a ton of plugins available and can easily integrate with Tasker. I do like the fact that it has it’s own hardware versus a USB stick as having a server running all the time isn’t very ‘green’. This is a long race so expect a few new players to enter the game and surprise us. We will keep you posted. Let us know what other