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Thinking about adding motorized shades to an existing home in San Diego?

by Lisa Osborn

1. What are the pros and cons of battery powered shades vs. hardwired shades?

This is a very common question and one that I get asked often. The answer often comes down to a number of factors about the property as well as the home owner’s mobility to a degree.

I will start with battery powered shades. The size of the window or opening is very important to consider as battery powered shades can only support window openings 144” wide by 120” high. Fabric weight is also important to consider on battery powered shades. The motors don’t have the lifting capacity for heavy fabrics.

It’s also important to keep in mind that battery powered shades will eventually need the batteries replaced or charged, now certain manufactures will quote some average use times before the batteries need changing. Lutron shades for example will last 3 – 5 years, Somfy shades only last one year, these figures are based on the blind or shade going down once per day and up once per day. There is a big difference between three years and one year so keep this in mind. While it’s not every month it will come around fast.

Access is also important to remember when having to change the batteries as this will require you to take the shade down to do this with some manufactures shades.

Sometimes the shades have been installed with a fascia that hides the shade and on some manufactures the battery compartment. Lutron shades only require the removal of the fascia to change the battery so the shade its self does not need to be removed.

Now this is all well and good if you are able bodied and access to the shades is easy, but with a lot of modern homes with 9ft plus windows or windows over stairways with uneven surfaces or just plain hard to get to without fear of falling to your imminent death then this might not be such a great idea. Not to mention how awkward it is working on a ladder at heights with a long heavy weighted object and it really requires two people up a ladder at each end.

Fascia’s on battery shades are typically larger than on hardwired shades so this needs to be taken into consideration when choosing what option to go with as you don’t want the fascia to look bulkier than the window frame it’s supposed to be hiding.

Motor noise is also something to consider, some manufactures of battery shades can be as quite as a hardwired shades around 33dB (whisper level), but some can also be rather loud at close to 50dB. (the sound of traffic)

2. What’s the price difference between battery powered shades vs. mains powered shades?

The cost of the shades are about the same price for battery vs. hardwired, so the difference will be the installation time and the electricians time spent cutting holes into the drywall to bring power to each window location, power is generally sourced from a nearby power outlet. Don’t forget the cost of patching any holes and repainting the effected walls also needs to be allowed for. Most serious shade companies will have a couple of referrals for a drywaller and painter they can recommend that specialize in doing smaller jobs like this.

Some shades use 6 to 8 D size alkaline batteries per shade motor, others can use 8 to 16 AA lithium batteries which can cost more than the D batteries.

Also the cost will escalate considerably once your shade width goes past 96” wide on battery powered shade but not on a hardwired shade.

3. How will I control my new shades once they are installed?

There are generally four ways to control shades, remote controls, wall mounted buttons, or app control via the shade manufacture’s own app or via third party home automation control systems via phones and touch screens.

Now we have completed a few shade installations over the years and I can tell you having a wall mounted light switch style button on a wall that never moves and is always there has a lot of value, and it’s our preferred choice by a long way. Now there is nothing wrong with the remotes, it’s just that they tend to move around a bit as they do and sometimes they get lost or misplaced.

Motorized shades are a great way of reducing the mundane twice daily trip around the house to open and close them. If you combine your shades with your home automation system and your HVAC system you can now automate and regulate the temperature of your home and not have one system fighting the other.

If you like what you read here or would like to discuss your own project please get in touch.