Set the not-so-way-back machine for last month and you’ll recall that I reviewed two new HVAC controllers from Lutron. I also mentioned that company founder Joel Spira hoped Lutron’s legacy would extend beyond just lighting control–undoubtedly what Lutron is most known for–into the far broader category of energy management. This month, I’m reviewing another component in energy management: automated shades.
The Sivoia QS Honeycomb Shades are available in approximately 100 different colors/fabrics spread across four options: sheer, single-cell, or double-cell light filtering, and room darkening.
Shading certainly isn’t new to Lutron, but shades–launched at CEDIA 2011–are. Due to significantly lower pricing and the ability to run on battery power, I felt it was one of the biggest pieces of news at CEDIA EXPO and “an industry game changer.” From that, you can infer that this was something to get excited about. And after installing them, integrating them into my system, and living with them for a few weeks, I’m still every bit as excited.
Consider that a home’s typical energy usage is 12 percent and 40 percent for lighting and HVAC usage, respectively. One thing affecting both of those costs is the sun, or what Lutron refers to as “Zone 1.” By managing the amount of sunlight allowed into the home, homeowners can cut down on electrical lighting and heating/cooling costs. (Not to mention the obvious privacy issues that window shading addresses.) Tie shading into the astronomic clock in Lutron’s Radio RA2 (or HomeWorks QS) system, and you have the makings of a powerful automation system.
Specifying shades requires a tape measure and Lutron’s Shade Configuration Tool (SCT) software. The current maximum shade is 84 x 84 inches, meaning they will fit most windows. (There’s no window in my home they wouldn’t accommodate.) There are also approximately 100 different colors/fabrics spread across four options: sheer, single-cell, or double-cell light filtering, and room darkening. SCT gives a nice detail of the overall stack value and batteries required. (Most shades run on D batteries, though smaller ones take AAs.)
Having installed Lutron’s Sivoia shades prior, I was skeptical over claims that these could be installed in “around five minutes.” In truth, the mounting bracket is so ingeniously designed, that once you get your groove on and start taking measurements and zipping screws into the wall, it really does take about five minutes. (Well, I’d say most took around 10.) From an install standpoint, this is awesome; one installer could likely outfit an entire house with shades in a day. While the bracket greatly simplifies the mounting process–two brackets per shade; two screws per bracket; then click-click snap the headrail into place–it’s the battery power that really opens automated shading to a much broader group of candidates. Batteries mean no more costly or complicated Romex retrofitting or wondering where to put a transformer. Lutron’s patentpending Triathlon power technology says it will run for three years between changes (assuming two up/down travels per day). The bracket features a “tap ‘n tilt” system allowing a homeowner to easily change batteries when necessary. The shades also feature a zippy–usually 10-day–order-to-delivery time.
Once installed, shades add to projects and activate much like any other device. Simply select the room/area and add in the appropriate number of shades. Shade open and close limits are also set within this programming.
You can manually control shades with a keypad button, a Pico remote, RS232 command, or the iPad app. For example, my living room shades drop with my “watch movie” macro and my bedroom shade drops when I press “goodnight” on the keypad. Shades can also tie into the astronomic clock; closing at sunset and opening to 50 percent at 8:00 a.m.
Starting at $434 ($299 for the non-system version), shades cost significantly less than Lutron’s other offerings, but there are some trade-offs. First, the size and fabric selection is more limited. Second, while the shades certainly aren’t loud, they are noisier than Sivoia’s QED (Quiet Electric Drive). Also, features like intelligent hem bar alignment and Hyperion sun tracking aren’t available. For projects with larger budgets, Sivoia will likely still be a go-to. Fortunately, Sivoia and shades can be integrated together into the same project, making shades excellent for secondary areas or smaller windows.
There is an undeniable, “Wow!” factor with motorized shading; everyone that came to my house was totally blown away. And window treatments are already a part of every homeowner’s budget. Lutron’s shades give integrators a compelling story– and price point–to go after that piece of the pie.
Bracket is brilliantly designed allowing for super quick install; running off battery power means way more install opportunities; fast integration into RadioRA2/HomeWorks QS systems; the sheer wow factor of motorized shades.
While far cheaper than previous Lutron offerings, still not cheap for the budget-minded.
• Approximately 100 different fabric options
• Multiple color choices in single-cell light filtering, double-cell light filtering, room darkening, and sheer fabric
• Triathlon power lasts 3-years off AA or D batteries (depending on size)
• Custom sized fits windows up to 84 x 84 inches
• Starts at $434 list price (shades up to 36 x 60 inches with a basic, neutral fabric)