Home Window Shades Get Smart — Part 3
19 September 2021
When Debbie and I started our home build project I was really excited about writing about all the really cool new technology possibilities for it. If you had told me I would be writing a third post about smart window blinds and shades (Part 1, Part 2) I’d say you were crazy. But here I am.
As we work through the final steps of our floor plan and exterior elevation, it’s had us putting more focus on the patio. This added attention to the patio has had us thinking more about how we’ll be using it and solving the challenges in that space. We came up with a short list of the things we wanted to address specifically:
- Westward facing patio will get direct sun and be hot during the late summer months
- We live in the statistically windiest place in the US
- Winters get cold here along with the wind and average of 13” of snow
- The patio is intended for morning coffee and entertaining family and friends
In thinking about the challenges, our biggest concerns migrated toward creating a barrier to the sun and wind. With over 40’ of westward facing patio, we have a broad space across the back of the house so creating that barrier presented few solution options. And especially with my efforts to integrate automation.
I’m still researching but my immediate research revealed the Zen 2 solution. I really liked the architecturally friendly design and variety of colors of both the hardware and screen material. By architecturally friendly, I mean there is flexibility in sizing and ease of installation plus it also allows us to control costs. This solution gives us options for width of screens as we plan on brick columns — roughly three 13’ openings across the back of the patio. The variety of colors gives us flexibility with the overhead hardware and side tracks built into the columns which will keep Debbie happy. The hardware options allow us to design into box beams along the top to both protect the shade mechanism from the elements and conceal it. And solar protect properties and range of colors of the screen will protect the patio while offering views out and privacy from outside.
Here’s another sneak peek on our floor plan, like in last week’s post. If you can’t tell we’re getting excited about finishing up our plans and can’t wait to share more with you all.
All this satisfies the aesthetic concerns but I’m most geeked about the technology integrated into the solution. Zigbee 3.0 and Somfy are the smart part of the design of these shades that I love. The shades can be powered via POE (Power Over Ethernet) which means the same Cat6 cabling I’ll run for my network in the house I can run to power the shades. Just like my wifi access points, video cameras, etc. The power unit, which aggregates all the different shades, can be rack mounted so it’ll sit in the media rack with the other electronics as all the Cat6 will terminate there. And Zigbee 3.0 utilizes the latest 128-bit AES encryption, so security is also built in. But this also allows me to avoid installing shades that run on batteries — so no future worries about replacing batteries or charging internal batteries.
The automation options are outstanding as well — Voice, Touch and Mobile App:
- Voice — The entire ecosystem integrates with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for open/close as well as automating operations based on personal preference, scenes/routines, ambient light, outdoor temperature, weather alerts, etc.
- Touch — There are a wide variety of wired and wireless control interfaces that include Control 4, Savant, Crestron and others.
- Mobile App — Through Somfy’s new partnership with Samsung SmartThings, using their new TaHoma Gateway, Somfy-powered shading solutions can now be fully integrated into the smart home and controlled through the SmartThings application.
My research continues on other solution options. This will give us flexibility and opportunities to potentially reduce costs around patio screens as they were not originally in our plans. Push come to shove, we will install the low voltage Cat6 cabling and design the columns to accommodate tracks for future installation.
Lumber prices have been on a 3-month downward trend so we’re starting to discuss groundbreaking schedule. If we can get the plans finalized soon, depending on how long the builder/contractor bidding takes we could possible get started in December or January.
Let us know what you think of the motorized solar shades. Are these a solution you’d consider? Or is it over the top? Drop us a line in the comments, DM or email as we love hearing from you. Until next week …
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