Evolution of the Smart Shade Industry
Shades and blinds, or what we commonly refer to as window treatments, are not a new or modern concept. The origin of blinds can be traced back to the 12th century when Persians used Venetian blinds to cover their windows. Over centuries, blinds and shades have gained popularity and evolved in style and functionality. Gradually, manually operated shades got a makeover and became motorized. The cords were replaced by remotes and controlling the cheap motorized shades and blinds became easy as pie.
Technological innovations further revolutionized the shades and blinds industry to emerge with what we popularly refer to as ‘smart shades’ today. These are just like your regular window coverings offering privacy, controlling light and blocking out heat, and they come in a variety of fabrics and styles. But what really sets them apart from the run-of-the-mill curtains and shades is in their control. No cords, no remotes. A smartphone, automation, or voice command, and bam! The shades are raised and lowered as per your needs. These shades are integrated with existing home automation systems and can be controlled through an app or smart device from any part of the house.
This has captured the imagination of the users and window treatment manufacturers have jumped into the fray to come up with their own smart products. This has created a highly competitive marketplace, each brand showcasing their unique features and styles to win over homeowners. If you are looking for smart blinds or shades for your homes, you will not only be spoilt for choice, you will be hard-pressed to choose the brand which suits you best.
Comparative Analysis between Brands
Among the top leading window treatment manufacturers operating in North America are Lutron, Hunter Douglas, and Graber. And all set to take the market by storm is the Swedish-founded multinational group IKEA. Let us ease your woes and assist you in understanding how the leading brands compare to each other vis-à-vis their product designs and specifications.
Design options can also be referred to as the range of products that are offered by the brands in their ‘smart’ category:
|Graber Z-wave||Hunter Douglas||Serena by Lutron||IKEA|
|Smart Cellular (Honeycomb) shades||Cellular (Honeycomb)||Roller shades||Only Roller Shades available.|
|Smart Roman Shades||Roman Shades||Cellular (Honeycomb) shades||(FYRTUR – Opaque and KADRILJ – translucent)|
|Smart Natural Shades||Natural Shades||Pre-made with fixed limited sizes available,|
|Smart Pleated shades||Pleated shades||Ranging from width 23.62 inches x 76.77 inches and|
|Smart Roller shades||Roller shades||Height to 55.12 inches x76.77 inches.|
|Smart Solar shades||Solar shades|
|Smart Sheer shades||Sheer shades|
|Smart Blackout Shades|
|Smart Dual Roller Shades|
Graber and Hunter Douglas are well placed in terms of number of products offered. Customers have more options to choose from. While Graber, Hunter Douglas and Lutron shades are customizable, IKEA shades are premade and have limited sizes available.
Graber: Graber smart shades are placed in the mid-price range category. They are neither extravagantly priced nor are they considered budget shades. The smart shades approximately cost somewhere between $270-$300 + batteries or a DC transformer for $30 to $40.
Hunter Douglas: Hunter Douglas shades are estimated to be more expensive than Graber (Somfy) shades. They belong to the high-range price category.
Serena Smart Shades by Lutron: Serena shades manufactured by Lutron are quite highly-priced. They cost approximately around $350+$80 (bridge) + batteries.
IKEA: IKEA smart shades are to hit the market later this year. As per initial reports, IKEA shades will be budget-friendly. The approximate price is $250-$300 inclusive of batteries and charger.
In the price category, IKEA is expected to win hands down. Quality and performance are yet to be assessed.
Graber: Graber offers 5 years warranty on motorization components and accessories (batteries excluded), draperies, fabric covered cornices and valances, soft shades and accessories, exterior solar shades.
Hunter Douglas: Hunter Douglas, too, offers 5 years warranty for motorization components.
Serena Smart Shades by Lutron: Serena offers a 1-year warranty for wall controls, interfaces, and system accessories. 8 years warranty is offered for other systems and the electronic drive unit, shade fabric, and shade hardware of the Shade System.
IKEA: Data not yet available as the product is yet to hit markets.
It is to be noted that the warranty is extended for manufacturing defects & internal mechanisms and components only. No damages incurred after usage will be considered.
Home Automation Integration Technology
Graber: Graber uses Z-Wave technology to allow motorized window shades to seamlessly integrate with popular home automation systems. It is open source.
Voice assistant integration can be done through a Z-wave smart home hub. Can be opened and closed at intervals of 1% like 30%, 31%, 32%, or any whole numbers in percentage.
Hunter Douglas: PowerView Hub integrates PowerView features with smart home systems. It is a proprietary system of the brand.
Voice assistant integration can be done only with the proprietary app of Hunter Douglas. Can be opened and closed to fixed preset positions.
Serena Smart Shades by Lutron: Caseta Bridge integrates shades with home automation systems. It is a proprietary system of the brand.
Voice assistant integration can be done only with the proprietary app of Lutron. Can be opened and closed to fixed preset positions.
IKEA: Zigbee solution will be used to integrate IKEA motorized shades with home automation systems. Zigbee is open source.
Not information available yet on voice assistant integration or functionality.
Motor Types Offered
Graber: Graber uses Somfy technology which gives easy, one-touch control of shades that are great for hard-to-reach or larger window treatments. It allows users to operate one shade or several at the same time from anywhere at home or over the internet.
Hunter Douglas: Hunter Douglas uses PowerView Motorization and SoftTouch Motorization. PowerView Motorization allows users to operate their blinds and shades from a remote control or mobile device. SoftTouch Motorization is a battery-powered system that uses a wand to control its operation.
Serena Smart Shades by Lutron: Smart Bridge and free Lutron App for convenient control from anywhere. Remote uses Lutron reliable Clear Connect RF technology.
IKEA: IKEA’s TRADFRI gateway, IKEA’s own Wi-Fi Hub will be used to enable smartphone control.
Graber: Graber stands by its products. If customers encounter any issues due to faulty parts, Graber customer care will assist in replacing the defective part.
Hunter Douglas: Hunter Douglas also provides part replacements. You need to request a replacement and upload photo of the faulty part.
Serena Smart Shades by Lutron: Items that are returnable can be returned to Lutron within 15 days of purchase. Lutron will either exchange or offer refund. They must be in unopened condition. For opened packages, Lutron may levy a 15% restocking fee.
IKEA: Data unavailable as the product is yet to be launched.
Replacement or exchange is not provided by any brand for configure-to-order and personalized or customized products.
Pros & Cons of Smart Shades
Now that you are well versed with some of the most important product specifications of the brands, we will quickly delve into the pros and cons of these brands.
Graber Smart Shades
Price: in comparison to Hunter Douglas and Lutron Serena smart shades, Graber shades are comfortably priced at around $270-$300. This makes them more affordable and within reach for most would-be customers.
Motorization: The Somfy technology gives easy, one-touch control of shades, wonderful for hard-to-reach or larger window treatments. It allows you to operate one shade or several at the same time from anywhere at home.
Product Range: Graber boasts of a wide range of products which makes them an appealing choice for customers. They have a wide range of options to choose from.
Operational Advantages: Graber shades can be opened or closed by voice commands at 1% intervals between 1 and 100%. This means it can be stopped or asked to resume at any point like 36% open or 67% open. This is a feature exclusive to Graber shades.
Graber motors also send back real-time status updates to the app which allows users to be aware of the shades position or if there are any errors they should know of. Most of the other brands show battery level but no real-time status.
Installation: Somfy’s battery tube is located separately from the shade and hence requires more space to accommodate.
Noise: Graber Somfy shades emit a humming sound when operating, which is not extremely loud but not completely quiet either.
Hunter Douglas Smart Shades
Personalized Operating System: Hunter Douglas has introduced their own personalized operating system, PowerView for motorized window treatments. It allows easy operation of the windows with the touch of a button.
Product Range: Like Graber, Hunter Douglas boasts of a wide range of motorized products. It gives prospective customers lots of options to choose from as per their preference and requirement.
Installation: Installation of Hunter Douglas smart shades are not as complicated. They come with detailed operation manuals which outline step by step installation procedures.
Price: Hunter Douglas smart shades are expensive and cost more than the Graber shades. They are certainly on the upper price range.
Serena Smart Shades by Lutron
Installation: Serena Lutron Smart Shades installation is simple. The entire process of setting up the shades, Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge, app and remote can be completed within an hour.
No additional purchases: Besides the Caseta Bridge, all you need to invest in are the shades. No extra hubs or remotes need to be purchased. The bridge must be purchased to reduce battery usage.
Integration: The Caseta Bridge makes integration with other Lutron and HomeKit products a smooth process.
Design: Lutron’s Serena smart shades are designed cleverly which does not require anything extra to install. Also, unlike other brands, the batteries are positioned inside the body of the shades itself.
Noiseless: Lutron’s smart shades are extremely quiet. When they operate there is no noise at all. it makes them unobtrusive.
Price: Lutron Serena smart shades are fairly expensive. They come with approx. price tag of $350. In addition to this you have to purchase an additional a bridge that costs somewhere between $80 and $150. It pushes these shades out of range for many would-be customers.
IKEA is yet to launch its much-awaited products, set to arrive in the second half of the year. Only after the shades have hit the market can we discuss their pros and cons. But one feature that will certainly work in their favor is their pricing. They are estimated to cost somewhere between $250 and $300. This is fantastic news for prospective users.
This comparative study is not exhaustive in anyway. It is an ongoing process as new features and specifications get added and must be updated and studied periodically. Nevertheless, we hope that this study will give you a basic understanding of the brands and their offerings. It is our endeavor to assist you in finding the right shade solution which is the perfect fit for you in terms of price and functionality.