DIY Motorized Blinds: The Best Products To Use
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Motorizing your blinds or other window shades allows you to add them into your smart home setup. This provides a great deal of utility when using schedules and scenes, and can actually save a bit of time since you can operate all the blinds at once instead of manually moving them one at a time.
There are certainly good professional options for doing this like the Hunter Douglas PowerView system, or Lutron’s Serena Smart Shades. These are clean and reliable options, but can cost a lot to get made and installed. If you already have perfectly fine blinds or curtains you may not want to throw them away either on top of the high cost of the replacements.
Thankfully there is a range of products on offer that provide motorization for various window coverings you can install yourself, and for much less up front. There are, however, quite a few different approaches here, and you’ll need to consider blind size, smart home integration options, and how visible you want the ultimate solution to be.
Types of Smart Motorized Blind Controllers
Let’s start with looking at the methods available to automate your shades yourself. There is some variance here depending on if you have curtains, roller blinds, or some other type like Venetian or vertical blinds.
Jump to roller blind recommendations
If you’re looking at roller blinds, you can potentially install powered rollers where the motor sits inside the tube. There are DIY options for these, but you’ll be looking at more installation effort than most other cases as you’ll have to remove and modify the rollers. Additionally, there aren’t many of these DIY motors that have any kind of smart home support, but I’ve managed to locate a couple of viable options.
Jump to tile motor recommendations
These devices provide the rotary control needed for opening tilt blinds like venetians and other horizontal types. These motors typically replace the wand used to manually control such blinds and can be either internally installed or mounted alongside the blind depending on the design.
Jump to blind engine recommendations
These devices all utilize the existing cord or chain that your shades have for manual control by attaching to them and pulling the cord for you. These are the simplest to install, but typically the least attractive as the controller has to sit exposed on the wall. The added benefit to that is they often provide some manual controls there as well.
Best Roller Motors
What I Like
You may not have heard of Moes, but they’ve been around for a while and have a wide range of low cost smart home devices across many categories. This is their newest tubular blind motor model, and offers both 433MHz RF and Zigbee for wireless control. The RF is used primarily to connect to their wireless remote controls, for which there are handheld and wall mounted options with single or multiple blind support.
I like the use of non-WiFi communications as it reduces the attack surface of your home network and keeps it uncluttered, plus you’ll have less issues with interference and responsiveness using these radio protocols.
To use smart phone control, and to connect to your compatible smart home, you’ll need a ZigBee capable gateway such as an Amazon Echo, SmartThings hub, or similar. The smart home support is provided through the Tuya smart home platform, and it is this that also enables Google and Alexa control, so you’ll need a Tuya account to use these.
The motor comes with a streamlined end cap and fits a 38mm roller tube. The motor is powered by an integral lithium ion battery charged via a micro USB port on the end cap, which makes it pretty clean once installed. No power cords or charging cables left hanging. There is a small antenna wire that does protrude though, which is not shown in the image.
Obviously if you don’t have a ZigBee hub then this one is a non-starter, but using Zigbee does offer some significant benefits in terms of reliability and battery life.
The lack of a remote in the box is a surprising downside, but Moes offer a few options in both handheld and wall mount models that you can pick up at the same time. This gives you some flexibility if you want manual control in addition to smart home methods.
Tuya could also be a concern for some, being a China-based cloud provider. These may be overblown though considering Tuya maintains no less than 6 independent security certifications across there systems and software. Nonetheless, some western governments have expressed worries about their growing influence, which we’ve covered in this article.
What I Like
If smart home support is not a big consideration, then this battery powered tubular motor from Rollerhouse could be the way to go. Dropping the need for a power pack or hard wiring makes this installation much easier, with a cleaner result at the end. The lithium-ion battery pack will give you around 3 months of usage per charge, and replacement packs are available.
If you don’t want to be bothered with charging the battery pack and your window gets sun on it, you can keep the batteries topped off with an optional solar panel attachment that mounts inside the window.
Rollerhouse gets great reviews for reliability and ease of installation, and they come in at a lower price than many of the competing tubular motors. They also provide excellent support and will even help you determine the correct size and model before you buy.
The lack of smart home support would normally take this out of the running, but Rollerhouse state you can control them through a mobile app if you have a suitable bridge. The only bridge that this seems to refer to is the Broadlink RM4Pro, which can learn infra-red and RF remote control signals. Unfortunately, reports are that the newer models of the Rollerhouse motors use a rolling code which prevents the learned controls from working.
Best Rail Motors
What I Like
The SwitchBot range provides unique solutions to adding automation to otherwise dumb products, and SmartBot Blind Tilt motor is no exception. When motorizing tilt blinds, specifically, you generally need to install a motor into the track, which can be a pain in the butt. SwitchBot solves this by clamping to the existing control wand. This little battery-powered smart motor simply hooks into your tilt blinds and twists the wand for you, just like you would do by hand.
Naturally this makes installation about as simple as it could possibly be, and the connectivity with the app is equally fast and simple so you’ll be up and running in no time. The included solar panel sticks to the inside of the window behind the motor to keep the battery charged, but if your window doesn’t get sun, you can recharge it in-situ using a simple USB cable.
The Curtain bot uses Bluetooth for communication to keep battery life up, and you can control it directly from your smartphone using the SwitchBot app with no other hardware, but you’ll need the SwitchBot Hub Mini if you want to integrate with other smart platforms.
In this regard, SwitchBot stands ahead of the pack as they support native integration with Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, SmartThings, and Siri Shortcuts. There’s also good Homebridge support if you’re more technically inclined and want to use it in Apple’s HomeKit.
The app also gives you a wealth of integration options with other SwitchBot gadgets and allows for the creation of rules and schedules across them all. You could tie your blinds into one of the temperature sensors, or a remote button for manual control as just a couple of basic ideas.
The only concern I would note here is that some people don’t like adding hubs. If you want to use it with your smart home platform, you’ll need one to provide a bridge between the device’s Bluetooth and you’re Wi-Fi network. It’s a very small hub, so it’s not an onerous thing to do, but it’s an issue for some people so it’s worth calling out.
What I Like
The Sunsa Wand is a super-compact blind motor that replaces your existing control wand without looking clunky. It attaches to the wand hook as normal, and uses a simple plastic, stick-on bracket to hold the motor in place so it can turn the blind mechanism.
It’s powered by 4 AA batteries that Sunsa says can last up to a year, and yet it connects directly to Wi-Fi for smart home control. Only Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are supported for this, though.
The Sunsa app provides direct control over as many blinds as you like, and these can be group arbitrarily as required for easier control. Basic scheduling functions are also included here, but anything smarter will require the use of Alexa.
The price on these is pretty high, but you're paying for a fairly innovative compact design. Still, at that price point I would expect the bracket that holds the motor steady to be a bit sturdier, and connect to the wand in a more robust manner. It works well enough most of the time, but it feels cheap, and doesn’t work in every situation.
What I Like
For an integrated solution to tilting those horizontal blinds the Somfy solution is a good option. It’s powered by a removable battery pack that is installed behind the head rail of the blinds, and fits a range of rail sizes with various adaptors included in the pack. A handheld remote is included, and they offer some good video tutorials on the installation process.
The motor replaces the existing tilt mechanism in your blinds and sits completely concealed inside the head rail, so that’s definitely a benefit over using an external blind engine like those further down this list. The downside is that there are stricter compatibility requirements.
Smart home support is on offer for Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT, but as Somfy uses a proprietary radio technology you’ll need their Somfy myLink bridge.
The Somfy motor only controls tilt, not raising and lowering of the blinds. You’ll also need to be careful checking the compatibility requirements, as not all horizontal blinds are covered. Somfy summarizes these requirements as:
Metal headrails (not plastic)
2” to 2-1/2” in depth (measured front to back)
Wood, composite material, or imitation wood (not vinyl or aluminum)
Cord to raise and lower
Best Blind Engines
What I like
The second edition of the Soma Smart Shades (see our full review), while lacking on device manual controls, provides native integration with the widest range of smart home platforms of any blind engine, and indeed any DIY smart blind solution.
The device itself uses Bluetooth for control, and this can connect to their smart phone app directly with no other hardware, but for integration you’ll need their Soma Connect bridge. This small USB powered device provides a bridge between the device’s Bluetooth and your Wifi network to allow other platforms to communicate with it.
While other blind engines often have size limitations, Soma’s motor is very powerful, and they guarantee it will work with your blinds, no matter what. You’ll need to order the correct drive gear for your cord type at purchase, but with the right match I’ve found it very reliable.
You can manually charge the internal battery via USB when required, plug it into a power outlet if you have one handy, or use the included window mount solar panel accessory to keep it topped up.
Not having on board controls is the biggest downside to the Soma Smart Shades. While you can fully automate the blinds with the apps own schedules or your smart home, ad-hoc changes need to be done via the app, which may not be convenient for some family members.
The need for a hub to provide smart home integration can also be a show stopper for some, but doing so allows for a battery powered device with long battery life. I would consider this preferable to needing a power outlet nearby, especially if you installing these on multiple windows.
What I Like
When it comes to blind engines, Zemismart seems to have ticked all the boxes. These types of devices tend to have limitations in terms of blind types, sizes or some other constraint. The Zemismart model supports pretty much any type of blind including venetians, verticals, rollers, honeycomb, and anything else that has a cord.
The cord types, as well, are widely supported with different drive wheels to suit various sizes of beaded and metal chains, as well as string type cords.
Smart phone control is provided by the Tuya cloud, which offers integration with Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as IFTTT. To use this you’ll need to install the provided USB Wifi adapter. Alternatively you can use the provided wall remote right out of the box, or the on device manual controls which provide a simple up/down/stop system.
The internal battery should last about 6 months of typical usage, and is recharged via USB.
Again I need to call out the Tuya cloud. Being a China-based cloud service is a concern for some, and you may want to look into that before signing up for an account. They do, however, have independent security certifications from non-Chinese companies, and have an extensive presence in the smart home sector across a wide range of devices.
What I Like
The Axis Gear offers a sleek alternative to other blind engines, with a high quality finish and intuitive on device touch control. You simply slide you finger up or down to adjust the blind position. Like Soma, Axis guarantees it can lift your blinds or your money back. That’s providing you have a beaded chain type, because they don’t support string cords.
Like Soma, Axis have their own smart phone app for manual control and setting up schedules. They don’t have explicit smart home integration because they only use ZigBee for communication. As such they can connect to any ZigBee controller, such as the Amazon Echo or a SmartThings Hub, and voice control is provided through that. While some smart home platforms might work in some way using standard ZigBee interfaces, the only explicitly supported platform is Smasung SmartThings.
The internal battery can be manually charged, but the included slimline window mount solar panel is the best way to go for trouble free operation.
The limited smart home integration is my biggest issue here, as well as not supporting all cord types. While most blinds will use a beaded chain, things like tilt blinds are probably off the table for most people.
Frequently Asked Questions
In many cases the answer is Yes. There are a wide variety of retrofit DIY products on the market to convert just about any type of blind to be motorized and linked to a smart home for automation. In this article we cover options for roller blinds, tilt blinds, vertical blinds, and many others. You can of course opt to build your own solution. This can be cheaper, but requires a bevy of skills including 3D printing, electronics, and programming to some extent.
By choosing a DIY Blind Motor that supports your smart home platform of choice you open up a range of smart automated behaviors. There are options for just about any type of blind, but many of them have limited smart home support. You’ll need to check for yours specifically, and you may have trouble with certain kinds of blinds if you’re using something other than Google Home or Alexa.
This article looks into the best options available for each type from the perspective of smart home support as well as plain motorization.
The cost to retrofit your blinds with motors varies depending on the type of blinds, the finish you’re are looking for, and the features you choose.
If you create your own system from scratch, this can be as low as $20 per blind, but off-the-shelf products range from $50 to $250.
Roller blinds tend to need a lot more power to raise them than other types of blinds and curtains, so the typical way to motorize these is to insert a motor into the roller tube itself. There are many such motors on the market, and they are generally simple to install. The main issue you’ll encounter is that they typically require a power outlet nearby. There are some battery-powered models now available, though, which can make for a much cleaner installation.
Roller blinds tend to have higher power requirements due having to lift the weight of the whole blind. These models often require hard wired or plug-in power. There are battery models for these, providing you are willing to recharge the battery every couple of months.
For other types of blinds, battery power is more common and relatively long lasting.
Almost all battery powered blind motors have a solar charging option that avoids the need to manually recharge. These small solar panels will install inside the window behind the blind motor.
The Wrap up
We are seeing a good variety of DIY Motorized Blind offerings hitting the market now, and many of these are now offering some kind of smart home integration. Unfortunately, those smart home offerings are often limited to the easiest options of Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
You’ll need to consider the type of blind or curtain you want to motorize, and the types of blind motors that can work with them. An integrated motor provides the cleanest look, but an external blind engine often supports a wider range of blind types and are very easy to install.
Smart home standouts are offerings from Soma and Switchbot, which have easily the best integration support in their respective categories. Other brands tend to lean on Chinese IoT platform Tuya, which has much more limited support, and requires a sign up with their cloud service.
Still, if you need support for a specific smart blind these can provide a reliable and cost effective way of getting the job done.