MySmartBlinds adds window automation
We have been looking for solutions to automate our window coverings for some time. We would really love to have our shutters automatically open and close at certain times of the day, when we are watching TV, or to help us save energy when we aren’t home.
So far in our research, we have discovered that automating our window coverings is a pain and really expensive. When we moved into our house, we invested in some nice Hunter Douglas shades, blinds, and shutters. A couple of years ago we went to a local dealer who estimated it would cost us hundreds of dollars per window to retrofit, and even if we retrofitted, the Hunter Douglas app didn’t integrate with any of our smart home hubs. There are some other quality alternatives, such as Bali and Pella, but it’s pretty expensive to experiment with one or two windows before making a commitment to our whole house. By the time you add all the labor costs and hassle, it would be much more simpler and cost-effective to replace all the window coverings at once.
Thus far, we have concluded that there is currently no cost effective way to automate our existing shades and shutters. At CES this year, we discovered MySmartBlinds, who have a product to automate tilting of venetian blinds. They sell both complete blinds with a tilt motor, and a retrofit kit for those who already have venetian blinds installed. We have a few windows in our house that have wood venetian blinds from Hunter Douglas, so we bought two kits to add to our home offices. Check out our tour of their CES booth below.
The MySmartBlinds Automation Kit includes a motor, motor cover, adapters for diferent tilt rod sizes and shapes, a battery, an on/off switch, and cable guides to keep the internal blind cords neatly inside once installed. The installation instructions are really comprehensive and walk you through every aspect and the different types of assemblies for different manufacturers, plus they have a number of really helpful installation videos, both within their app and on their website.
In our case, we removed the tilt cord mechanism to replace with the on-off switch. We found that Hunter Douglas lightly crimped the ends of the tilt rod, which required us to grind down one end, allowing us to remove the tilt rod to install the new tilt motor. We cabled everything together, including the battery, the motor and the switch, added the tilt rod adapter, then re-assembled and re-installed on the window. It took us about an hour to adapt each blind.
Controlling the blinds
Once the motor is installed, you can control MySmartBlinds through their free application. The app first walks you through a calibration process to make sure the app can fully open and close the blinds. The app includes the ability to schedule when your blinds open and close and how far to open them. Currently the app only works over Bluetooth when near the blinds, however, if you have automated your blinds on a schedule, that schedule is kept within the motor and will operate without the app. MySmartBlinds currently does not integrate with any smart home platforms, so unfortunately we can’t control our blinds through any of our hubs or with our Amazon Echo.
Battery powered, solar option
The motor kit is battery powered, and the included battery lasts 6-12 months before it has to be re-charged with a USB cable. MySmartBlinds also offers an optional solar panel, which we installed, that will automatically keep the battery charged. The panel attaches to the window with an adhesive strip or the included hangers.
Each MySmartBlinds Automation Kit costs $99 plus an additional $45 for the solar charging panel. They also sell a Bluetooth remote switch for $60, allowing you to control your blinds from a wall switch instead of the app. We feel this is a reasonable investment for a couple of rooms but if you were going to do an entire house it would start to add up fast. Still, it is far and away cheaper than the other solutions we investigated.
Thanks to MySmartBlinds we are making progress on our dream to automate our window coverings. We look forward to future integrations with other platforms and hope that they can find a good solution to automate our shutters in the future.