Automated Blinds Can Be A Cheap And Easy Build

Blinds are great for blocking out the sun, but having to get up to open and close them grows tiresome in this computationally-advanced age. [The Hook Up] decided to automate his home blinds instead, hooking them up to the Internet of Things with some common off-the-shelf parts.

The basic idea was to use stepper motors to turn the tilt rod which opens and closes the blinds. An early attempt to open blinds with unipolar stepper motors proved unsuccessful, when the weak motors weren’t capable of fully closing the blinds when running on 5 volts. Not wanting to throw out the hardware on hand, the motors were instead converted to bipolar operation. They were then hooked up to DRV8825 driver boards and run at 12 volts to provide more torque.

With the electromechanical side of things sorted out, it was simple to hook up the motor drivers to a NodeMCU, based on the ESP8266. The IoT-ready device makes it easy to control the motors remotely via the web.

The build came in at a low cost of around $10 per blind. That’s a good saving over commercial options which can cost hundreds of dollars in comparison. We’ve seen other work from [The Hook Up] before too, like his creative Flex Seal screen build. Video after the break.

22 thoughts on “Automated Blinds Can Be A Cheap And Easy Build

        1. Yes, but if you live in the US or any other first world country, chances are that the cost of labour would be in the $100s when you account for all the trial and error for your specific blind

          1. Nobody is paying you for your hobby work.

            Putting a monetary value on hobby stuff is rather pointless.

            It’s not like you would have been at work, being paid, if you weren’t doing hobby stuff.

            It’s your free time. Its value isn’t represented by dollars.

          2. You and your employer have mutually agreed upon the value of your time. Do you really think you are worth less than what your employer thinks you are worth? So sad!

          3. Free (libre) time is not free (gratis), not by a long shot.
            If I make $44k/yr, and there are 8800 hours in a year, then you could say my time is worth $5/hour.

            My discretionary time — that in which I can do whatever I want — might be 10% of that (17 hours a week). Similarly, my discretionary income — with which I can do whatever I want — might also be 10% of my gross, or $85/week.

            So — should I spend 10 hours building something I could buy outright for $25? Heck, no, that’s literally a waste of my time.

            If the goal of spending my time is to have the thing, then it’s better to just buy it most of the time.

            If the goal of investing part of my remaining lifetime is to learn something while doing it, that tilts the equation a bit — there’s value in that.

            But heck, no, my time is not remotely ‘free’. It’s precious and valuable, and the only irreplaceable thing I have. Putting a monetary value on it is crass but money is a convenient, if imperfect, universal metric of value.

            So why am I wasting it typing this out?

            Bah. I’m outa here. I have better things to spend my time on.

          4. However, if you find such activities “fun” and relaxing, displacing other entertainment costs, they could even be cheap, Depends whether you compare marginal cost of tearing round in a speedboat for an hour, watching live concert in person, or merely an hour of vegging in front of netflix.

          5. I think someone has a grossly inflated expectation of their personal worth.
            I can sell farts for $10 a jar, but I doubt I could sell too many…. but that’s the price.

  1. “Blinds are great for blocking out the sun, but having to get up to open and close them grows tiresome in this computationally-advanced age.”

    Not as tiresome as having to replace the cheap blinds constantly because a slat failed.

    1. Makes me glad that I’m living in an old house in good old Germany that has roller shutters. They are from the 70s or 80s and still working fine. Even the shutter belts are from that time, if not even older. 🙂

      1. The roller shutters are what I miss most from the house when I lived in Germany. I think those might have been older b/c they were tongue in groove and used to black out interior lights during bombing raids from WW2. I wanted to look for some for my house in the US, but it appears they aren’t sold b/c they don’t meet fire code. :(

        1. The good thing is: they keep the sun OUTSIDE, so the room doesn’t heat up, becuase heat-radiation can’t enter through the window. Plus they create a still-air pocket between the shutters and the glass.

  2. I just wish home decorators would promote blinds that are flat black on one side and reflective on the other.
    Turn the black side out during the winter to absorb sunlight, and the shiny side out in summer to reflect it away.

    1. Paradoxically, putting a black face against the window in the winter is worse. It creates a very high heat gradiant against the window which accelerates heat loss. Better to open the blinds in direct winter sunlight and let the sun warm your floors instead. The reflective side is a very good idea though. Or blinds combined with a reflective roller shade behind them.

  3. There was a good chance missed here to use the Trinamic drivers to sense the each end position of the blinds. You could have put a function to go to each end position and give portioned control over the position. Not to mention they have digital current control anyway to dial in the current perfectly.

  4. The author mentions that servos constantly try to keep their position and whine, when you switch off a servo this stops, the friction in the gearbox will keep the position of the shades pretty good til the next movement. And due to the potentiometer they don’t forget their position.

  5. Venetian traders discovered the window coverings through their trade interactions in the East and brought them back to Venice and Paris. To this day, the French call Venetian blinds “Les Persienes,” and remain loyal to their true place of origin.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.