Home Automation Planning: Don't Forget the Window Shades

August 26, 2014 | Comments

When it comes to planning a home automation system, top billing goes to the cool stuff: Streaming music around the house from your iPad, a to-die-for home theater setup with a gargantuan projection screen that drops down from the ceiling, and the ability to monitor and control temperature, lighting, home security cameras and door locks from your smartphone.

But what about window shades that move up or down at the push of a button and automatically open or close certain times of the day?

As any savvy home technology pro will tell you, shade control provides benefits that extend well beyond style and convenience. In addition to adding an element of grandeur to a room and making it ridiculously simple to open and close drapes and shades, a well-planned system makes it possible to set different moods in a room as well as harness the power of the sun.

Controlling Natural Light

Expert advice is invaluable here because, depending on the fabric selected, window treatments can be tailored to a specific living space and designed to let in varying degrees of light. So-called transparent fabric, for example, is a great choice for homes situated in picturesque settings because it preserves the view while minimizing glare from bright sunlight.

Translucent fabric obscures the view but allows light to flow into the room while blocking potentially damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Blackout fabric, as its name suggests, blocks incoming light, making it ideal for use in dedicated media rooms where movie-watching is a serious pursuit and in bedrooms with morning exposure to bright sun.

Fabric color also plays a role in determining how natural light interacts with a room. Light colors tend to create glare, which can make it hard to see outside. Dark colors generally don't have issues with glare but they do attract heat — sort of like wearing a black shirt on a hot, sunny day.

Automating Natural Light

Adding a motorized roller for shades or an automated track system for drapes provides convenient control over natural lighting.

In one room, you might have shades made of sheer fabric that can be lowered during the day to minimize glare without completely obliterating the view, while a set of blackout shades stands ready to transform another space into a dark cave at the touch of a button. Or you could install both treatments to create a multi-purpose shading system.

Tying these mechanisms into a home control system brings a whole new level of sophistication with shades and/or drapes that can be programmed to automatically open and close during specific times of the day, providing natural lighting and heating/cooling benefits.

Keeping shades open on frigid winter days during times of peak sunlight takes a little pressure off your heating system, while keeping them closed on sultry summer days helps keep the room cool. Best of all, this kind of strategic shade management can go a long way toward conserving energy and lowering utility bills.

To learn more about home automation options and professional installation, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.