Retrofit Shades & Blinds
Manually operated window shades and blinds, curtains and draperies have always dominated the market. It was the only available solution for your window dressing requirements. However, things have changed! You may have visited a friend’s place, a workspace or a hotel suite and came across these absolutely stunning and amazing motorized shades that could be operated by voice command! It was too awesome to be true. Smooth operation, scheduled control and no manual opening and closing of blinds or shades.
Back home and you are back to running around the house, raising and lowering shades all through the day. You sit back and wonder if you could possibly replace these boring run-of-the-mill blinds with those exciting self-operated voice-controlled smart shades. You decide to do a survey to get an estimate of how much these smart shades could cost, and you are flabbergasted by their price! You have several windows in your house and to dress them up in these shades would cost you a fortune! Dejected, you give up the idea of giving your windows a makeover. But hold on! Technology comes in different packages and you just need to choose the one that best fits you.
To upgrade to smart shades you have to either:
• Replace the entire shades
• Replace the motor
• Retrofit existing window coverings
Retrofitting is a process by which existing curtains, blinds and shades can be motorized and used an automation kit to connect them with the home automation system. In this way you can keep your existing window treatments and just upgrade them to function as smart shades. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Just what you were looking for perhaps?
Features & Advantage of Retrofit Shades
No matter how exciting it sounds, it has to be seen whether they are worth the money and the effort to upgrade the existing window dressings. Few companies offer retrofit solutions like MySmartBlinds, SOMA, iblinds, and AXIS.
These retrofit shade kits come with some hardware which are used to motorize and automate the existing shades. They usually come with:
• Rechargeable battery
• USB charger and power cable
• Solar panel
Retrofit shades have a lot of positives to look out for. Let us take a quick look.
• Allow you to keep the shades you love and save money and time by simply upgrading them.
• Ability to lift the existing shades irrespective of size and weight.
• Allow motorized shades to integrate into your smart home system.
• The shades come with DIY automation kits and gear which you need to fix and install. They are simple and can be set up in few minutes.
• These shades use either Z-Wave or Zigbee technology to connect with home automation system while SOMA uses SOMA Connect.
• These shades are battery powered that can last up to days. They come with USB chargers. They are also equipped with solar panel which if you connect, no charging will be required.
• Once integrated into the home automation system, the shades can be voice controlled and its operation can be scheduled as per your requirement. They can be connected to Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit.
• They can be controlled from your smartphone or tablet through the downloaded app.
Cons of Retrofit Shades
Before you say hurrah and set out to fetch yourself a pack of retrofit kits for your window coverings, take a moment to read through some of these concerns.
• Though they claim that installation is easy it is not always that simple. Everyone’s shades or blinds are different and sometimes retrofitting your specific blinds can be a more complicated process.
• Some retrofit shades like SOMA is extremely slow. On an average it takes about 2 minutes to raise and lower the shade, which is painful.
• Some of these retrofit shades have quite noisy operation and given the amount of time they take to lower or raise, the sound can be irritating.
• If you were discouraged to install new smart shades because of the cost, these retrofit shades aren’t exactly cheap. A SOMA retrofit shade can cost about $149 + $99 for SOMA Connect. (androidpolice.com). MySmartBlinds are a little cheaper at around $149 but you need to shell out an additional $45 for a solar panel. (mashable.com).
• Before installing retrofit shades you need to check their compatibility for existing window treatments. They may not make a perfect fit for all types of shades and blinds.
Retrofit shades have their share of pros and cons. No doubt they make a decent alternative to new shades and blinds. After some initial issues with the setup, these shades work commendable. And despite their cost, if you compare with the price of installing any of the existing brands of new shades, these turn out to be a bit cheaper. That said, whether it is cheap enough to warrant going for a retrofit kit, or just going for a brand new motorized shade, is up to you. We’ll see how this shakes out as motorized brands become more and more competitive, ultimately driving the prices down and making motorized shades a more reasonable choice for the consumer.