One of the devices that has fallen behind in the smart home revolution is motorized curtains. Many of us now have automation for everything — lights, security cameras, thermostats, and locks — but haven’t ever considered automatic curtains. By automating this area of your house, you can improve your home’s security while increasing the home’s energy efficiency.
What are motorized curtains?
Motorized curtains, as the name suggests, are curtains that are opened and shut with a motor rather than by hand. Typically, a battery or plug-in motor powers the automatic curtains. And because the motor is hidden behind the drapes or curtain rod, nobody except the homeowner will know it is there.
Because the process is automated, there is almost no manual labor involved. Although opening and shutting curtains isn’t a particularly strenuous task, this automation greatly benefits elderly homeowners and those with physical disabilities. But the real value in motorized curtains comes from the ability to integrate into a smart home system via an app, or through voice-activation with Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant.
Benefits of remote control drapes
The most obvious benefit of an automatic curtain is convenience. Rather than having to tug on curtains, or manually adjust them to the perfect position, you can let a battery-powered or electric motor do the work for you. So, there is a significant ergonomic improvement from this automation.
Along with a decreased physical workload, there is also increased functional convenience. You can set your curtains to open/close on a timer, or control them when you are away from home with an app.
Shutting the blinds can be a great security feature, as it prevents outsiders from seeing what is happening inside your home. Being able to open and shut the blinds remotely can take home security to the next level. When vacationing, one challenging aspect of home security is trying to hide from the neighborhood the fact that your house is sitting empty day after day. If you leave the porch light on, it wastes electricity all through the day. If you leave the exterior lights off, the house looks empty in the evenings and may become an easy target for break-ins. By setting a timer, or adjusting curtains remotely with an app, your house can appear occupied even when you are out-of-town.
Technically, it is energy-inefficient to use a motorized curtain rather than manual. But this expenditure of energy is minimal. The real benefit comes from easily opening/shutting the curtains in response to sunlight. Mobile phone apps and/or timers allow you to schedule the behaviors of the automatic curtains. So, in cold weather, you can set your curtains to open during times of sunlight exposure to allow for natural heating. And in warm weather, you just do the opposite — close the curtains to prevent the sun from heating your house.
Smart home integration.
As smart home devices get more sophisticated, our expectations continue to increase. A few decades ago, security cameras were devices made for museums and the ultra-wealthy, but impractical for us normal people. Now, for less than the price of a nice dinner, we can purchase a home security system so sophisticated that it sends you alerts even if you are thousands of miles away. Voice-activated devices were also considered futuristic not many years ago. Now, we use them to make phone calls or change the channel on our TVs.
All of this is to say that our homes continue to get smarter. Being able to lock doors and control lights remotely is becoming commonplace. So it only makes sense that controlling blinds and windows remotely is the next step in the smart home revolution. Depending on the model of motorized curtains, you can use a remote control, voice commands, a wall switch, a timer, or an app to open and close the curtains.
Features that matter in choosing automatic curtains
Size & weight of curtains vs quality of motor
For wide, heavy, and long curtains, demand on the motor is high. For a lightweight, sheer curtain on a small window, any motor should suffice.
Be realistic about the weight of the curtains, and how much demand they place on the motor. Even if a motor is rated to handle 20 pounds, for example, keep in mind that moving a 15+ pound curtain will put a lot of strain on the motor, and cause it to fail sooner. And if you plan to use blackout curtains, know that they are significantly heavier than standard curtains.
Power source of motorized curtains
Common power sources for smart blinds are battery and electric. Solar-powered automatic curtains exist, but are less common and more expensive.
The pros and cons of battery and electric are pretty clear. If you have an outlet that is easily accessible, plug-in options probably make the most sense. But keep in mind that, in addition to being able to reach the outlet, you will also want to hide the power cord.
For windows that are not conveniently located to an outlet, battery powered curtains are a great option. Many of these come with rechargeable batteries, which should last a long time between charges assuming normal use. The battery itself typically lasts 3 – 5 years, although I haven’t tested this myself (largely because I had never even heard of remote control drapes 5 years ago).
Your smart home will feel a lot smarter with smart blinds that run silently. Something about the grinding noise of a loud, struggling engine just doesn’t feel right inside a smart home.
Somfy, one of the leading manufacturers of motorized window coverings, offers a 5 year warranty on all motors and controls. Compare this to some of the off-brand, direct-to-consumer products that offer a 1 year warranty (or less), and have poor customer service as well. Ultimately, like all electronics purchases, it comes down to your budget and your willingness to gamble with a cheaper, less reliable product.
DIY vs professional installation
Elaborate setups will likely require a professional to install. If you want something that is simple and quick to install, there are a number of direct-to-consumer brands that are user-friendly. Generally, battery-powered devices with remotes and smartphone apps are easier to install as a DIY. And hard-wired devices with wall switch controls are best left to professional installation.
It is possible to find an automatic curtain for less than $100. On the other end of the spectrum, you can spend thousands to install a whole-home setup with dedicated power supply and wall switches.
Retrofit existing vs. buy new
For low budgets, products like SwitchBot can be retrofitted to your existing curtains and curtain rod. So, for as low as $100, you can turn an existing curtain into a smart curtain. For larger budgets and more exact specifications, it will likely provide more function to replace your current curtain rod system with a smart system. I-rails, U-rails, and rods are typically easier to motorize than rod pocket or grommet style.
Smart home integration
Have goals in mind before you make any purchase decisions. If you want to control your curtains with a remote control or voice commands, be sure to purchase a compatible product. Likewise with timers, apps, or wall switches. Also determine the power source that works properly with your smart home setup. I am hesitant to fully recommend any solar-powered automatic curtains, but if you are willing to spend extra money for a passive energy source, this may be something to look into.
Side open vs center open vs blinds
The mechanisms that power automatic blinds are different from the mechanisms that power automatic curtains. And, likewise, the setup will be different for a side-open curtain than a center-open curtain. This is another area where you can save time and frustration by planning ahead.
Products to consider
These products are generally available from design companies and professional installers, and may require a trip to the showroom. But the benefit is that most of these companies have decades of experience, industry-leading warranties, and can be customized to any specifications you can dream of.
These products are available from online marketplaces like Amazon, and can be purchased with no middleman. Usually they will be cheaper, but with less support provided. These are great for a DIY installation. Although cost savings are possible by choosing this route, be sure to check product reviews and vet the brand you are buying from.
This product turns an existing curtain rod into an automatic curtain rod. It can be easily installed, and then controlled with a remote, app, timer, or voice assistant. It is compatible with I rails, U rails, and curtain rods. If you have a light enough curtain (check the weight of your curtain compared to the weight capacity of the product), retrofitting your existing curtain rod will likely be the quickest and cheapest way to purchase an automatic curtain.
Similar to the SwitchBot, this product can be controlled by an app, remote control, or voice assistant. It also has a “smart motion” feature, where you can gently pull the curtain in order to activate the motor. Installation is fairly simple, and it will work with wide curtains. The downside of this product, relative to the SwitchBot, is that you have to replace your existing curtain rod with it, rather than retrofitting it to the existing. But the advantage is that it can handle significantly heavier curtains than the SwitchBot.
This is almost an identical product to the Quoya system discussed above. Most of the specifications are similar. It is good for heavy curtains, but will require you to replace your existing curtain rod.
This product comes in various sizes, from 6.5 feet up to 20 feet. As with the other products, it can be controlled from most voice assistants, as well as via remote or app. Homesupplier Smart Curtains work with very heavy curtains, and allow for center, left, or right opening. The device also has high-end features like a “light touch trigger” and the ability to remember curtain position and distance settings.
Automatic curtains are a great way to make a home smarter. They reduce manual labor, increase home security, and can improve a home’s energy efficiency. While not as common as smart home devices like smart thermostats or security cameras, motorized curtains can be worth every penny.