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How to Automate Your Home’s Horizontal Blinds

Of all types of window coverings, maybe the most versatile are blinds. Not only can they be raised and lowered, but their slats can be open, closed and tilted in various positions. They can let in a little sunlight or a lot depending on how you the slats are angled.

Because the positioning of window blinds extends beyond simple up and down movements, it has taken manufacturers a little longer to engineer products that can control them—unlike solutions for roller shades and draperies which have been widely available for many years.

If you’re a fan of window blinds, but would enjoy the same level of control and convenience found in automated shades and draperies, you’re in luck. Here are three different options:

Lutron – custom-made, automated, and works well with other systems

Wood blinds from Lutron are made to order so they will fit just about any size window. They are available in several different finishes, as well, and here’s the really good part: they come pre-installed with the motor that moves the slats. The blinds mount really no differently than non-smart blinds, and a handheld remote, smartphone app, keypad, or your voice can be used to raise, lower, and tilt the slats to your desired position.

Presets can be programmed so one click moves the blinds to the positions you like. Lutron products are compatible with a number of different automation systems, so their movements can even be synched with the lights, thermostats, audio equipment, and more. Imagine a good morning command initiated from your smartphone (or via a timer) that slowly opens the slats then raises the blinds over a certain amount of time. It’s possible, because Lutron’s automated shade lineup is one of the most robust and intelligent around.In addition, if you order multiple blinds, they can all be synchronized to move in unison.

Lutron offers automated blinds that do-it-yourselfers can install, but professional installation is available if you have hard-to-fit windows or a desire to integrate the blinds with other smart devices in your home.

MySmartBlinds – custom-made blinds and kits for existing blinds

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, MySmartBlinds offers blinds that can be ordered to fit a window of choice and arrive at your doorstep with automation technology built in and ready to snap into the window frame. From there, it’s a simple matter of downloading the companion app and setting up a schedule for the blinds to follow. A sun tracking feature enables the blinds to adjust differently as the seasons change, and an optional solar panel which applies to the exterior of the blind, can be used to power it to preserve battery life.

If you’re happy with the blinds you already have in your home, MySmartBlinds also makes an automation kit that can be retrofitted onto them. You’ll get the same level of control and automation at a cost of $99. Be aware, both the turnkey and the retrofittable solutions form MySmartBlinds are able to tilt the slats only. They cannot lift and lower the blinds. Plus, unlike Lutron’s integration-friendly offerings, they are currently limited in their ability to integrate with other smart home systems.

SolarGaps – new innovation; harvests energy from the sun

What if your blinds could also harvest energy for your house? Instead of just keeping the sun out, what if they could also function like a solar panel and generate electricity? A startup company in Ukraine is developing just that. Called SolarGaps, the horizontal blinds install and operate just like an ordinary blind. Plus, like other smart blinds they can be controlled from a smartphone app and follow schedules you set up, with the added convenience of responding to voice commands, hand gestures and the position of the sun. They are expected to be available this summer for $480-$890 per square foot of window.