New Retrofit Device for Window Blinds


(Stan R) #1

Hello!

I’ve been a SmartThings user since 2013, and am now part of a team in the process of creating a new retrofit product for window blinds.

We know there are some retrofit solutions out there right now (like Axis Gear and Teptron ), and were hoping to get your take on them, as well as automating window blinds overall.

One of the things we want to implement is allowing for manual cord operation of the blinds, which current solutions don’t offer (you must use either hub control or press buttons on the device). Is this something you’d want to see in a retrofit device?

What about features? Is there anything these devices don’t do that you’d like them to? Any must-haves you’d need to see prior to using a retrofit device like this?

Price point? Many people seem to consider the price of current retrofits to be too high. What’s an ideal price?

Would you even want to automate your blinds? What’s the best reason for doing so?

I hope I’m asking in the right place and really hope for some great info from the community. The ST community has been a strong support in my process of integrating automation, and has withstood many, many challenges over the years (hub v2 update, anyone?) so what better place to ask about what smart home users want!

Thanks!

Stan R


(Mark) #2

Some kind of safety certification from an independent tester.

Blinds with pull cords can strangle young children, and if you automate the opening/closing that adds a whole other level of potential safety issues.


(Stan R) #3

Definitely a valid concern.

From what we’ve gathered, there are two potential methods of strangulation: the pull-cord/bead chain itself, as well as the threading throughout the actual blinds (in the case of horizontal blinds).

For the blinds themselves, we will measure resistance/pressure during normal operation, and compare it whenever the blinds are moving. If the resistance is abnormal, the blinds will either revert to “maximum open” position or stop moving entirely. Of course, this could be independently tested.

For the cord, new regulations are in place in Canada and USA which require the cords to have a stop/break mechanism for excessive pressure on the cord, as well as shortened cords out of reach of children/pet height. Additionally, blinds with closed-loop style cords are required to be shipped with tension devices to be attached at the bottom of the loop, to keep the line taught and prevent anything beyond 2 inches or so in diameter to fit through the loop.

None of this would interfere with functionality of our device (actually, we will be the only retrofit device that attaches at the top of the bead-chain rather than the bottom, like all options currently available).

Would the cord regulations alleviate your concerns? Or would you want to see something that the device does in addition to what I’ve outlined? If we did alleviate these concerns, is there anything you’d want to see beyond that in terms of functionality? Price? Features?

Thanks!

Stan R


(Jimmy) #4

Need a retrofit solution for 2” horizontal faux wood blinds. $100 or less price point and z-zwave compatibility would be nice.


(Stan R) #5

Those are great features, thanks!

Are your horizontal blinds controlled by a closed-loop cord or individual cords (i.e. pull to the left or right to raise or lower)?

Currently we are only creating for closed-loop bead chain and rope style blinds. because the mechanics are a bit easier to integrate and most new blind installations seem to favor the closed-loop bead chain styles. We are looking to implement the alternative styles down the road.

Would the prospect of automating be enough to get you to switch blinds to a closed-loop style? Also, are you looking to automate your blinds as part of the smart home features you have already? Or is there a specific benefit you’re looking for from the blinds?

Thanks!

Stan R


#6

Because automation can greatly increase the danger from corded blinds. I would only buy either cordless designs or enclosed cord designs. With all the safety certifications required to be sold at Home Depot.

“Mysmartblinds” meet these requirements, and holds over 50 patents on smart blind design. They have been available for sale at retail for over two years, and are in most of the big DIY stores.

So anyone looking to design smart blinds for sale in the US at this point needs to be able to compete with them without violating their patents. It’s quite a challenge.

The biggest negative is obviously the price. At about $130 per window for a retrofit, they cost much less than most of the prebuilt motorized blinds, but still obviously an expensive choice, Which is why I haven’t added them yet. But I respect the amount of research and effort they have put into creating a hidden cord design. :sunglasses:


(Neal (www.zebrablinds.com / www.zebrablinds.ca)) #7

Safety is a major concern, the second would also be price and so far I haven’t found anyone who’s really addressed the price side of things.

Most solutions are $120+ and the well known ones are close to $200 in some cases and only come with a one year warranty (and 3 year in the case of mysmartblinds). That just makes no sense to me when most brand name products without a motor (depending on the product) can cost a few hundred dollars, and when purchased with a motor might only cost $100 - $150 more with a 5 year warranty on the motors to boot.

Yes it’s an option that you can consider for retrofitting later on, but then the price to warranty point still is an issue from my point of view for the amount being spent on them.


(Stan R) #8

@JDRoberts - Can you explain how automating the cord increases the risk of suffocation? If the risk comes from the cord and a retrofit device spins that cord in place, like the Axis Gear or Brunt Engine, how would automating it increase the risk of suffocation beyond just having a (non-automated) looped bead chain or rope?

@ZebraBlinds - What would be an acceptable price in your opinion? It looks like you work with blinds quite a bit. Can you elaborate a bit more on what the most frequent benefit or use-case is for automated blinds?

Thanks for your replies!

Stan R


#9

Same reason automating most things increases the risk: it might be accidentally activated at a time when it wouldn’t have been activated manually.

(This applies only to retrofit designs where the cord is still hanging at the window. Not to motorized designs like mysmartblinds where the cord is hidden completely.)

If the blinds begin to move on their own with a small child or a pet in the room, that becomes an attractive nuisance which may cause the child/pet to go investigate, increasing the risk of entanglement.

If I’m peeking around the edge of the blinds to look outside after an unexpected noise and they begin to move, I could also become entangled which would not happen without the automation.

https://knpr.org/npr/2017-12/window-blind-cords-still-pose-deadly-risk-children


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #10

“seem”… I would recommend that you ensure you’ve done the market research to confirm this before investing too much into development. :slight_smile:

You may be correct, but all my 2" wood slat horizontal blinds use separate up/down cords and are very difficult to adjust at times due to the force required when the slats rub against the sides of the window frames.


(Neal (www.zebrablinds.com / www.zebrablinds.ca)) #11

The price should be similar to what adding on a motor costs and should have a similar warranty.

And to expand on what @tgauchat mentioned. Most window treatments still use a standard cord. The new window safety guidelines basically dictate that for horizontal treatments or shades that as long as it’s a stock product which is for example cut down, it should have a cordless lift and a wand tilt. For custom made products (fully made from scratch) cords are still allowed but the length has been decreased to 1/3rd the height of the blind vs 2/3rds. So corded systems are still going to be available for a really long time on blinds and shades.

That’s a very simplified summary of the portion of the new guidelines that would apply to you.

I actually have never seen a continuous loop system on a horizontal blind, that would be interesting.


(Stan R) #12

@tgauchat - I love ActionTiles! Great integration and I always thought the interface was miles ahead of the default options available, especially for non-diy type people. Whenever recommending ST to new people I always mention ActionTiles. I should have clarified - we are working closely with a manufacturer and installer of custom (primarily zebra type) blinds and vertical shades. Virtually all of those they make and sell use bead-chain style loop ropes for operation, which is also the segment we are aiming for.

@ZebraBlinds - You are right, traditional horizontal faux-wood and similar blinds do not use continuous loops. I should have clarified that as well. Thanks for clarifying on the price/warranty/motor factors.

As for wand operation, we are looking into creating this device as well. As far as I know, FlipFlic was the closest we came to having retrofit of wands, but they seem to have dropped off the radar after their funding campaign.

Thanks for your replies!

Stan R


(Neal (www.zebrablinds.com / www.zebrablinds.ca)) #13

Even shades mostly default to cords unless specifically optioned with a continuous loop (and I know some manufacturers consider it an extra charge); the only exception would be roller shades, solar shades and most sheer shades. For example, cellular, roman and pleated shades are by default corded with the cords coming out the front of the head rail on the cellular and pleated and right behind the fabric on the roman.


(Stan R) #14

Real solid info @ZebraBlinds, thanks. Sounds like wand operation will remain quite ubiquitous into the future.

How about motivations? Can anyone weigh in on what they want to gain from automating their blinds? Convenience? Time? Energy?

Thanks!

Stan R