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Tech Spotlight: What’s Up in Shades?

Keeping up with this in-demand, ever-evolving product category.

It is a good time to be in the smart shade business. With homes doing duty as offices, schools, theaters, and other places we no longer have access to, shades have become an invaluable tool in comfort, privacy, and energy efficiency — things that will remain important long after the pandemic ends.

Like many of the technologies we apply, smart shades are constantly improving to provide more convenience and better aesthetics. Here we take a look at some of the recent advances in the category.

Smart Shades - Hunter Douglas
Hunter Douglas Rechargeable Battery Wand

We’re Motoring

When dealing with smart shades, the motor can provide its own set of problems, especially in cases where it is difficult to run wire or there is limited space. Fortunately, shade designers have some solutions.

Hunter Douglas has introduced a unique solution for its PowerView automated shades with the Rechargeable Battery Wand, which is concealed discreetly behind the headrail and provides a switchable battery pack that can be easily removed, replaced, and recharged. [See John Sciacca’s review on page 30.] The Rechargeable Battery Wand can be installed with most shade styles and can also be retrofitted to existing Hunter Douglas automated window treatments. Plus, it offers a sustainable solution that reduces waste, conserves resources associated with manufacturing and distributing disposable batteries, and saves money for the homeowner in the long run.

Hunter Douglas has also improved the roller motor design for its Sonnette Cellular Roller Shade. It can now include Kickback, which is an extra rotation that brings the automated shades even closer for a flush fit to the window. With this new feature Hunter Douglas expands the application of the Sonnette shades to a range of window depths. When the automated shade is lowered in the window, the kickback motion pushes the back of the shade closer to the window, decreasing the light gap and increasing privacy. It also improves insulation, allowing the shade’s cellular pockets to better trap warm air to help maintain the heat in cold winters and lock in air conditioning in the summer.

If you have multiple shades that need motors, Screen Innovations (SI) has a solution for you. The Nano 375 Coupled Box provides integrators with a highly functional solution for banks of windows up to 24 feet in size. Integrators can install one motor to drive as many as four individual Nano Box shades.

Learn More: The Integration Guide to Smart Shades

The Nano Coupled Box matches the look and feel of the entire Nano shade lineup. Plus, by eliminating the need for one long fascia, its modular design facilitates simpler, safer transport and one-person installation. Power and control options mirror the Nano lineup, providing integrators with the flexibility to employ either AC or DC power and enable control via a wide range of third-party control systems.

Draper has been busy getting UL Listing for several models of its Motorized FlexShade. UL Listing is for the entire unit, and not just for some UL Recognized components. Products included are Motorized FlexShade AC, Motorized FlexShade I/O AC, Motorized FlexShade 485 AC, and Motorized FlexShade RTS AC. UL Listing covers both single and dual roller units, as well as coupled shades, up to the largest sizes available. UL Listing is good throughout the United States and Canada on units manufactured beginning February 10, 2021.

Smart Shades - Screen Innovations
Screen Innovations Nano 375 Coupled Box

Under Control

Besides the motor, the other key element of a smart shade is its control, which is becoming more and more flexible.

For example, URC and Somfy have partnered to create integrations between Total Control, URC’s residential and commercial automation platform, and TaHoma, a gateway hub with embedded Radio Technology Somfy (RTS) and Zigbee 3.0 radio connectivity that communicates with both new and legacy Somfy products in one device. This collaboration allows seamless control of Somfy powered shades, blinds, and curtains via URC’s control products. The two-way module supports Somfy bi-directional feedback for Zigbee 3.0 products on URC Total Control systems, a long-awaited feature for integrators.

Crestron Home, through an alliance with Lutron Electronics, now integrates with Lutron lighting and shading control, specifically, RA2 Select, RadioRA 2, and HomeWorks with QS and QSX control systems. Crestron Home will automatically detect Lutron hardware on the customer’s network then, once added to the system, Lutron lighting and shading control products will integrate with Crestron Home touch screens, iOS, and Android apps.

The Right Look

There are far too many options for styles to get into it here — QMotion alone introduced 79 new decorative shade fabric styles to its offering early last year — but suffice to say there is a right fit for any room.

Related: Going Beyond the Roller