Hacking Window Blinds to Interface with Home Automation System

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Home automation is great, but what happens when you start mixing different systems around the house together? Follow [Bithead's] journey of interfacing with his motorized blinds!

After having his original blinds fall apart many times, [Bithead] and his wife decided to invest in some new, motorized blinds — but [Bithead] wanted to add it to his home automation setup… Unfortunately, commercial offerings for that are very expensive, so [Bithead] knew he’d have to figure out how to interface with the system manually.

The problem is, companies don’t typically advertise the kind of in depth information us hackers would love to know about products, so [Bithead] started checking out store showrooms. Salespeople didn’t quite understand his focused attention on the control boxes!

After determining a specific brand should work for his purposes, he bit the bullet and purchased them — no turning back now! He was in luck however, as there was in fact a control interface that the sales people didn’t know about, and all he would have to do is route in his network control.

To do so, he made use of a leftover Arduino Fio from one of his other projects, a few 3V reed relays and an Xbee S6B to allow the Arduino to communicate over the house’s WiFi. He prepared the entire system before the blinds even arrived. He even managed to convince the installer from the company to help him do the modification before they installed the blinds!

Looking for more home automation info? Take a look at our plain and simple summary of what it is, and how you can do it yourself!

Comments

  1. Grayda says:

    I saw a post not too long ago on the Ninja Blocks forum about using a 433mhz enabled blind control to do your bidding. Sure you needed a Ninja Block (or a Raspberry Pi with their 433mhz addon), but it seemed like the no-fuss way of doing stuff.

  2. fartface says:

    Actually commercial and residential Motorizied blinds from Somfy are not that much more expensive than regular high quality blinds. Only 20% more expensive. The problem is most people will crap themselves at buying $250 each blinds. Most people buy the bottom of the barrel low quality stuff from Home Depot. Yes, if you are paying less than $100 each for blinds, you are buying bottom end blinds.

    I really am interested in how reliable his solution is and how well they hold up. Most systems I program the blinds are actuated 4 times a day, and somfy’s are rated to last for over 20,000 actuations, or more than 10 years.

    • Rob says:

      A case could be made for arguing that utility ultimately trumps price in a high-end/low-end ranking. Admittedly fit and finish is a significant part in that ranking, but a categorical “if you are paying less than $100 each for blinds, you are buying bottom end blinds” is just not a sound statement. It’s just as likely that a sub-$100 blind could be found that met all required characteristics (function, finish, durability) as it is that an over-$100 blind could (easily) be found that certainly wouldn’t meet those characteristics. As always, individual tastes/requirements vary from person to person. And of course, the law of diminishing returns still applies.

      And, frankly, a 20k actuation rating for such a price seems fairly low. Personally, I’d rather build from scratch… even if I couldn’t hit that rating (and it’s likely I could), my costs would be so much lower that I could refurb my own system multiple times for the same purchase price of a Somfy system.

  3. Paul says:

    Most motorized blinds take dry contact closure inputs. They work by shorting the wires together. Usually a common wire, up, and down. Short common to up and the blinds go up (or open). Hit it again and they stop. That’s fairly typical and the easiest way to interface to automation systems. Other companies make Rs232 interfaces or wireless interfaces for their equipment.

  4. Adam Goldsmith says:

    Hunter Douglas also has shades that have a ethernet bridge which uses simple tcp commands. They are really easy to control that way. I just did this at my house.

  5. Tim says:

    Solving the issue of mounting motorized shades on the doors and hiding all of the wires will be the next project I am sure. If the shades aren’t battery powered, you might look into something like these door jamb contacts (when the door is open, the shade motor will be disabled which is a bonus):

    goo.gl/nI0A9J

  6. Tim says:

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