Motorized Blinds for Home Automation

Infrared

This is the most common way to control your window coverings. Just as you point your television remote control at the front of the television to change channels or adjust the volume, IR (Infrared) sends a line-of-sight signal to a receiver on the shade that performs the action you sent via remote control. This is a good and cost effective solution, but again there are some drawbacks.

IR signals have limited range, typically around 20 feet or so. Since you are sending a light signal, if there is a lot of competing light in the room, let’s say from the glaring sun, the signal may not read accurately.

It is really hard too to keep shades from operating that you did not intend to move. Remember, if the shading gets the signal, it’s going to move.

So, if you have two side-by-side windows and you want to make one go up, while the other one remains stationary, you have to ensure that the signal is not received by both receivers. This is something that can be handled by proper programming, but it is an issue nonetheless.

Radio Transmission Systems

I would say that this is the new standard in operating mechanisms. By using Radio Transmission Systems, or RTS, you can program special needs and moods into your room. It is possible to work only one shade, all the shades in unison, or create special groups of shades based on real needs.

For example if you had 4 windows in a room, you could program them to all work at once, or to work individually, or you could have windows 1 & 4, or 2 & 3 or 1, 2 & 3 all working at once based on the programming.

RTS is also a great option when line of sight operation is not possible between the shade and the remote control.

For example, many people like to have valances or other top treatments mounted over their window treatments. Because the top treatment would block the path of an Infrared signal, they are forced to use RTS, or add a satellite eye to the IR receiver.

A satellite eye is a receiver with a cord on it that allows you to relocate an IR receiver, usually above or below the top treatment allowing for line-of-sight operation. Effective, but not very clean looking.

With a radio receiver, the remote control doesn’t even need to be in the same room.

Direct Drive

This is a fancy name for button-pushing. With many motor systems, there is a small button directly on the motor, usually placed on the headrail that can provide simple on/off functions. Essentially, a motor will do one thing. Turn. All you are doing with these buttons is telling it to do that one function.

The other signal that it needs is a “stop doing that” notice. Much of this is handled in programming which is done prior to installation, but the button on the headrail provides this simple “start turning” function. Wall switches are provided as standard with many hard-wired systems.

This is a toggle switch that usually has a up/down/neutral position. These are mounted in the wall by your electrician and are pretty bullet proof.

Radio Transmission Systems also offer wall switches, but these are not actually wired directly to the shade, but rather send signals through the air. This is the standard system that many people have for their ceiling fans in their homes.

There is a receiver in the fan that accepts the signal from the transmitter that sits on their table. It is the same thing with window coverings.

Home Automation

Systems are the crème de la crème of operating systems. These systems can be programmed to do just about anything that the shade can do, in any increment. So, for example, let’s say you wanted the shade to raise 23% in the morning at 8 a.m., then go all the way up at 11 a.m. and lower 85% at 3 p.m… you get the idea.

With home automation systems you can do that. These systems are designed for hard wired applications.

A low cost option to get a bit of this idea is to use radio frequency timers. They can be mounted, or kept on the counter or in a drawer. They can be given simple commands which will be carried out at the proper times by the appropriate shades/motors.

There are so many motorization options available these days that it is virtually impossible to expound on them all here. In the future, I will try to tell you about the different applications that can be motorized.

For example, roller shades, draperies, cellular shades, etc. Each application will have different options available.

As I so often say, “you really need to talk to a professional” if you want to do motorized window coverings and want them done right the first time. I just checked my schedule, and I have an availability to talk to you!

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How Do I Clean My Window Coverings ?

How do I keep my window coverings looking as good as the day they were installed?

If you are not sure about how to care of your window coverings, don’t jump in and clean them with just anything. Get the facts first. To make it a little simpler, I will lay out some different cleaning options below.

Dusting

This time tested method is a good way to clean most of your window covering products. There are a couple of things to be aware of though.

First of all, if you are using a wand type duster, make sure that it is a dry dusting type. The ones that have lanolin, or furniture wax, or any other type of additive may leave residue on your coverings making them harder to clean in the future.

Also, if you were to use this type of additive on a cloth shade or drapery, you are actually minutely staining your coverings, which over time can turn into a permanent stain as the sun reacts with the additive and discolors your products.

Secondly, if you have any type of pleated shadings, like a cellular shade, motorized blinds or something similar, be careful that you don’t press too hard on the pleats as they can become misshaped, leaving a permanent crease.

A special note on dusting. Please remember to dust the back of your window coverings. Over my many years in the industry, I have noticed a trend in how people care for their window coverings. Often, they are fastidious in maintaining the front of their coverings, but lax in caring for the back. This is especially true in shadings.

What happens, especially in localities that have a high UV index, is that any dust that sits on the back of the shades eventually bonds to the shade itself after reacting to the sun’s powerful rays, and creates an ugly dinge that is extremely hard to remove. If this dust is untreated, it can actually break down the chemicals in certain cellular shades, causing the cells to delaminate.

Under certain circumstances, the manufacturers may refuse warranty claims on such a shade due to negligence.

Submersion

For certain types of window coverings, submersion is a viable option. I remember going to a seminar once where they took a bright white piece of shading material and squirted it with Ketchup. We all watched as the representative submerged the fabric, and wiped it off with soapy water and the fabric came out spotless. There are a couple of things that we can learn from this.

First, if you get a stain like this, try to get it out immediately. If you let it sit, especially if the sun hits it, it will set up in the fabric. The next thing to keep in mind is that you verify that ALL of the shade can be submerged.

For example, wood blinds, motors, any specialty lift system and many other types of window coverings, should never touch water at all. Verify with your original paperwork as to the proper care and cleaning of your product, and if you can’t find it, search the internet for the manufacturer’s website, where these instructions should be found.

Spot Cleaning

This is the type of cleaning that many people think to use after some sort of accident. These are probably due to splashing from a sink, or kitchen accidents or even pet stain removal.  We are all probably picturing the two year old in their high-chair flailing their arms wildly with food flying off of their spoon onto the window coverings.

Aughhhh! Never fear, spot cleaning is here. Your best bet: water. Next: soapy water. Next: spot cleaning solution (think Shout Wipes, Tide Pen or similar. Do follow the manufacturer’s instructions as some solutions can fade colors and cause other damage). Act quickly, and be gentle.

Some materials are very delicate, and heavy scrubbing can erode the fabric quickly. Even the paint on wood blinds or shutters can wear through very quickly causing a bigger problem than the original stain.

Vacuuming

For many types of window coverings, namely shades and draperies, vacuuming is an excellent option for cleaning. Some of the materials that you will be cleaning are delicate, as mentioned before, and if you don’t take precautions, you run the risk of sucking the material into your vacuum hose, and ruining the material.

Most manufacturers recommend using the brush attachment and running your cleaning pattern in the direction of the pleating. On horizontal shadings, this means moving your hand side to side, and on vertical shadings, this means moving your hand up and down. If you vacuum, just like dusting, don’t forget to do the back side of the product.

Ultrasonic and Dry Cleaning

These are excellent options for cleaning your window coverings. They are pretty easy to research on the internet, and I suggest that you consider these options when looking for a deep and thorough cleaning of your draperies, and window coverings. You can even go with a steam cleaner as a last resort.

Keep in mind though, that these options have drawbacks too, and that you are best served having all of the facts before you jump in.

In the future, I will discuss how to clean specific products, for example the Hunter Douglas Silhouette Shades. This is a generic list of options for cleaning window covering products and not an exhaustive guide. For specific instructions on how to clean your window coverings, see the manufacturer’s instructions or contact a window coverings professional near you.

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