How Can I Turn My Existing Blinds into Smart Blinds?
We are always trying new products that our customers may find useful in their smart home builds. One solution that has always been elusive was a smart blind controller that would work with universal protocols like ZigBee or Z-Wave and could be installed on existing “dumb” blinds. There are several out on the market today that use proprietary communications, require a special hub just to control the blinds, or are just not reliable enough to operate consistently. An ideal solution would integrate seamlessly with a universal smart hub, such as SmartThings or Hubitat, and work every time.
Our search brought us to the iBlinds system. This product uses the Z-Wave protocol and is therefore compatible with most smart hubs including SmartThings and Hubitat. It also fits almost any 2-2 ½ inch corded lift horizontal style blinds. The motor controller is the main component of the system. It installs by simply removing the top chassis of the binds, withdrawing the tilt rod, removing the existing tilt mechanism, snapping in the motor controller and battery, and reinstalling the rod and chassis into the window. The system essentially replaces the manual pull sting or twist rod to control the tilt angle on the blinds.
Once installed and linked to a Z-Wave capable controller, the user is able to automate their blinds based on schedule, set scenes that can control multiple devices (imagine your blinds closing, TV coming on, and your lights dimming with a single command when it’s movie time), and control with a voice assistant (Alexa or Google Home) or smart phone. The motor is battery powered so there is no need to run new wires to maintain power. Charging is possible either with a typical USB micro charger, or an optional solar power panel that attaches to the top of the blinds and provides all the power they will ever need.
There are a couple small draw backs. First, to install the motor you must remove the manual tilt control the blinds came with. iBlinds has listened to the feedback from their customers and is adding a capability to open and close the blinds with a manual button press on their version 3 motor controller. So, even if your hub fails for whatever reason, you are not stuck with your blinds being in whatever position they were left.
Since they are battery powered devices, and therefore low power, the motor controller do not typically have the same range of always-on Z-Wave devices. iBlinds is also improving this with their version 3 controller, which will not only increase range, but also improve the power of the motor. If there are still range issues, as with any Z-Wave device, it is always possible to improve connectivity simply by adding a nearby Z-wave device to act as a repeater.
This product is what smart homes have been missing for so long. It is always nice to be able to control lighting, but without being able to control a home’s blinds you are not quite able to fully control the lighting in a room or space The installation is simple, it fits most modern-style blinds, and can interface with any Z-Wave capable controller.
iBlinds will be releasing their iBlinds kit version 3 in this month, they are currently available for pre-order at myiblinds.com. We at Ion Technologies can always add this to any home customization with any of the Z-Wave capable hubs we offer. If you are interested in turning your house into a smart home, check us out at IOnTeks.com.