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Motorized Window Shades – Things to Consider When Purchasing

1. Power. Where will the motorized window shades get power to operate? This may involve hiding a wire behind existing furnishings and plugging into an existing outlet or tapping a local outlet so that power is available at the motor location. Depending upon the size of the window to be covered and the size of the shade required this may involve high or low voltage power.

– a. High Voltage. 120V motors. Used if shades are greater than 9 feet wide or if 2 or more large shades are to be powered by the same motor. (Called a 2-on-1 application, explained below). Wiring may be subject to building code regulations.

– b. Low Voltage. 24V motors. Used in shades less than 9 feet (approximately) or smaller 2 on 1 applications. Wiring for power is simpler and not subject to building code regulations as it is low voltage and therefore considered safer for installation. Low voltage motors require a transformer to transform power from high voltage to low voltage.

2. Use of room. If a room is bathed in light and used frequently, the shades will need to be raised and lowered frequently which augurs for a convenient solution like motorization. Bedrooms and media rooms have specific, frequent lighting and/or privacy needs and motorized window shades are often called for.

3. Location of sun relative to the room. Depending upon their exposure, some rooms have large windows that do not receive much direct sunlight are not used for sleeping, privacy is not a concern and therefore shades may rarely be raised or lowered. Motorized window shades may not be needed in these locations.

4. Child safety. Each year, a surprising number of injuries and deaths result from control cords for manual window shades. Since cords are obviated with automated control, this can be a very strong rationale for motorized window shades in children’s rooms. Also, frequent use and naps during the day as well as timers for scheduled wake ups (or non wake ups!) are factors.

5. Control. Given the advent of reliable Radio Frequency (RF) technologies, control for shades is flexible. Remotes or Wall Switches can be used both of which have the ability to be wireless. Generally, control in each room should be independent. Beyond that, controls can be programmed to allow for all the shades in the house to raise or lower from one button press or any variation of rooms or floors or zones that you wish to control as a group. Control that is integrated with home automation or lighting control systems are also popular – this will be the subject of a subsequent article. Basically, this means that the shades are controlled by the remote or touch panel of the overall home or lighting control system rather than (or in addition to) the stand alone shade control.

6. Value and performance. There are simple ways to lower costs of motorized shades without compromising system performance which should be considered. The key is configuration.

– a. Multiple shades driven by a single motor. Shade motors are very powerful and can easily lift multiple shades. A wall of windows is a perfect application for this configuration. Granted, individual control of each shade is not possible, as the motor drives all shades up or down at the same time. However, in the vast majority of cases, it is not necessary or desirable to operate the shades individually along this line of shades.

– b. Avoid extra large shades, even if the measurements are within specified tolerances. As shades get larger (greater than 9 feet wide) the price increases geometrically as opposed to arithmetically. Best idea is to split shades in large openings on a mullion and use a 2-on-1 configuration (see above).

7. Warranties. Most motors come with a 5 year warranty and electronic components come with a 1 year warranty from the manufacturer.

Installation warranties of one year from the window treatment company that installed the product should be provided. This means that in the first year of operation, if anything goes wrong, there should not be any trip charges or service fees. This is important as it is in the first year (or first 3 months) that any problems will typically occur.

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