Need help brainstorming - automate shading of small window opening

I have a small (3’ wide x 14" tall) transom-style window above my kitchen cupboards.

Every other morning one of my kids, sitting at our kitchen island and enjoying breakfast, will complain about the sun hitting their eyes. I find an empty box, or something, and place it on top of the cupboard to block the sun.

I already have a slew of automated roller blinds for larger windows but this window is right up against the ceiling and wouldn’t accommodate a ‘top-down’ shade. It’s got to be something that sits on the top of the cabinet and raises up.

As I have plenty of space atop the cabinet I’m envisioning a battery powered device that can raise a small, thin/light piece of opaque material 90 degrees (from 3:00 to 12:00) and back down on zwave command.

Can anyone think of a way to accomplish this? Thanks for any ideas!

Do you have a curtain on the window? (or are willing to install one)

1 Like

Sounds like an interesting project! And very practical. I can think of a couple of options that might work. First, just to be sure: what country are you in? The device selection does vary.

Also, what model smartthings hub do you have?

And finally, do you use Alexa? There are some devices that will work with Alexa that don’t work with smartthings, and you can use Alexa as an intermediary and get some integration that way. :sunglasses:

Onto the brainstorming. Two interesting options you might not have thought of.

  1. Photochromic transition film. You know those glasses that automatically get darker when you go into bright light? There is window film which does something similar with a similar technology. It’s not smart: it’s just going to get darker as the light gets brighter. This works well for some use cases and the cost has come down a lot in the last four or five years. Here’s just one example but there are multiple brands with offerings in this category. I think even 3M has one. :thinking:
  1. Smart Film. this film responds to a charge, typically it will be clear when it’s “on“ and opaque when it’s “off“ but it might be the other way around. This is used for a situation where the opacity doesn’t depend on the brightness, like conference rooms and offices. But some people also use it for sun control. Again, the price on this has come way down in the last four or five years.

Aeotec announced a zwave product of this type about 8 years ago but then never brought it to market. :disappointed_relieved: but there are non-networked ones that you can buy now that just plug into a wall socket and have an on off switch. So those are easy to automate, you just plug them into a smart plug or add an in-line relay.

This one is a sample, about the size of a sheet of printer paper. But if you try it and you think it would work for you, the company makes custom sizes so then you get in touch with them. Or you can get in touch with them first to see what the eventual cost would be before you buy the sample.

I have a friend who, like me, uses a wheelchair and he has a system like this for A small window over his front door. He controls it with Alexa and just has it plugged into a Wi-Fi smart plug. It seems to work fine. His was a custom offering from a local company that does other accessible modifications to his house, like a front door opener, so I don’t think the cost would be relevant, but it wasn’t crazy expensive.

Anyway, just a couple of possibilities. For the smart film you do have to run power to it. And for the other one, you don’t have any control over it, it’s just responding to light. So I don’t know if these options will work for you, but they might be candidates for some use cases. :sunglasses:

1 Like

Thanks for the awesome ideas! I am thoroughly engrained in the Google’s ecosystem, with a ST1 hub (and a bond hub that I use for all my automated blinds)

I think a visual will help:

I love the idea of a smart film but for this use case would be overkill. As you see in the picture, this type of window is not something that you can really put any kind of curtain or blind on. And putting in photochromatic film would keep it dark(er) than it needs to be 23.5hrs of the day when it’s not needed.

It’s only between about 8:05am and 8:30am (and only about 1/2 the year) that the sun is in JUST the right position to blind my kiddo as she sits at the kitchen island.

You see that cabinet there is about 18" from the ceiling. So if I had a ‘flap’ of something, even just heavy construction paper, that lays flat on the cabinet, and ‘something’ flips it up to cover the window, then flips back down after half an hour, that would be super nerdy and super cool.

The question is, what kind of device am I looking for. I see a lot of actuators that go up and down; maybe I could make something like that work, with some opaque fabric on a simple roll, to raise it up and down enough to block the window?

Thanks again for giving me some ideas!

1 Like

If I’m understanding the picture, it looks like you have room for a vertical piece to normally be off to the side on each side, then you just need an actuator to roll it horizontally into position when you want to block the window. If you used a stiff piece of poster board painted the same color as your walls, you probably wouldn’t even notice it much when it was off to the sides. And for your use case you wouldn’t need perfect coverage of the window, you just need to block the glare. So at that point, you could use any kind of actuator with a horizontal movement, you could even use remote control cars. :red_car: or a train! :steam_locomotive: ( I love model trains.)

The flip up idea is actually, from a physics point of view, the most complicated part of your idea. It’s also the most likely to degrade over time. So I think I would go for something which is just sliding along a horizontal plane. :thinking:

Can’t do a sliding piece off to the side as that would be very visible those 23.5hrs of the day.

I don’t need anything with any amount of torque as a small piece of posterboard large enough when raised from flat to vertical weighs only an oz or two. I imagine those devices that manually turn light switches on/off have more torque than I would need.

I’ll have to continue mulling this over.

I know what you’re saying, but the lift is always working against gravity which the horizontal slide is not. inertia works for you with the slide and against you with the lift. But you can see what you can find.

Something like this would have 1000x the torque needed for my application. I’ll keep looking for something more suitable but as a last resort I might just get this!