Compact Controllers Automate Window Blinds

Commercially available motorized window blinds are a nice high-end touch for today’s automated home, but they tend to command a premium price. Seems silly to charge so much for what amounts to a gear motor and controller, which is why [James Wilcox] took matters into his own hands and came up with this simple and cheap wireless blind control.

[James] started his project the sensible way, with a thorough analysis of the problem. Once COTS alternatives were eliminated – six windows would have been $1200 – he came up with a list of deliverables, including tilting to pre-determined positions, tilt-syncing across multiple windows, and long battery life. The hardware in the head rail of each blind ended up being a Moteino on a custom PCB for the drivers, a $2 stepper motor, and a four-AA battery pack. The Moteino in one blind talks to a BeagleBone Black over USB and wirelessly to the other windows for coordinated control. As for battery life, [James] capitalized on the Moteino’s low-power Listen Mode to reduce the current draw by about three orders of magnitude, which should equate to a few years between battery changes. And he did it all for only about $40 a window.

Window blinds seem to be a tempting target for hacking, whether it’s motorizing regular blinds or interfacing commercial motorized units into a home automation system. We like how compact this build is, and wonder if it could be offered as an aftermarket add-on for manual blinds.

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Automated Blinds Open the Window to our Heart

[Brian Harms] made his living room window blinds open and close automatically using servos, an Arduino, and a SmartThings Arduino shield. Best of all, it’s connected to his Amazon Echo so that merely saying “Alexa, turn on/off the blinds” will open and close them.

To accomplish the feat [Brian] used two laser cut acrylic gears; one of which was attached to the servo horn, and the other to the long square rod running the length of the blinds. Despite using the bulky Arduino and shield, the finished product is inconspicuous and streamlined, and the single Arduino controls all three of the blinds in the living room. [Brian] answered a bunch of questions on a Reddit thread.

Blinds are a common connected home hack, and while none of the hacks we’ve covered in the past were voice activated, we have seen temp-sensitive blinds and a Raspberry Pi-based solution.

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Temp-Sensitive Automatic Blinds


Any opportunity to shave a few bucks off your power bill is probably worth considering, especially if it’s a device like [Steve Hoefer’s] Mini Blind Minder. This little guy staves off (or welcomes) the sun by monitoring the room with a temperature sensor and checking against a setpoint. If the room is too warm or too cool, the top-mounted servo will spin the wand and close or open the blinds, respectively.

[Steve] started by building a homemade Arduino shield from some perfboard to which he added a handful of discrete components: some current-limiting resistors for the RGB LED indicator light and a 10k trim pot for fine-tuning the temp sensor. Although this build forgoes an LCD readout to display precise information, it does provide feedback by stepping the RGB LED’s color through a spectrum of blue to red to indicate how the current room temperature compares to your setpoint. The two momentary pushbuttons beneath the light allow the user to adjust the setpoint up or down.

See the video below for a detailed guide to building your own, and take a look at a similar automatic blinds build from earlier this year that opens and closes in response to ambient light.

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Hackaday Links: February 1, 2012

The only thing he needs now is a micro and RTC

For [Dino]’s 44th Hack A Week extravaganza, he made powered window blinds in five minutes. It’s a simple build with a small gear motor and a bit of tubing to adapt the shaft to the control rod of the blinds. Good job [Dino].


The wonderful [Lizzie] over at LUSTlab realized that typing meta keys really slows down the development process. The result? Foot pedals for the Shift and Command keys. No build log for this one, but it’s just a set of old racing pedals and a disused keyboard.

So much cooler than a potato

[mdevaev] out of Russia built a fully articulated GLaDOS replica. Here’s the build album and the relevant MLP forum post. This GLaDOS is tiny – probably less than a foot long, but it moves around and speaks (Russian, which is weird). Somebody get us a couple of motorcycle fenders so we can build the 1:1 scale version.

Visualizing a plane of fog

[greg] was looking for a way to visualize the chaotic turbulence of air. He mounted a laser on a computer fan and held some dry ice above the beam. The result looks like it could make for an interesting photography project, but check out the video if you don’t believe us.

We were asking for it

We asked for battery charging circuits that don’t use specialized parts. [Petr] found this one that only uses few transistors, a MOSFET and a voltage regulator. In one of the Hackaday comments, [atomsoft] had the idea of putting a USB plug on the traces to save a bit in component costs. [mohonri] said he designed one, but we have yet to see it. Perhaps next links post…