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Forget smart lights, smart blinds is where it’s at
I don’t often quote cliches, but when I do, it’s usually to say “Let there be light.” I’m not saying smart blinds will make you god-like, I’m just saying there’s a reason power over illumination is celebrated. Building a harder-working smart home has never been more popular. For me, what started with smart bulbs and smart outlets has branched into a realm I never imagined: blackout curtains and privacy sheers.
60 watts vs the power of the sun
Years ago, when smart lights were first slipping into the mainstream, I was an absolute sucker. Turn off my lamp from bed? Great. Turn my living room lighting blue and gold for college football games? Sold. Why use the apartment’s conveniently located and adequately clustered light switches when Alexa will do my bidding? And then the novelty wore off and I realized smart bulbs were inevitable, practical, and certainly make sense, but are also utterly uninspiring.
At first, I was smitten with smart lights, but they eventually lost their luster, so I set my sights on controlling sunlight instead.
So I set my sights on a bigger prize: power over the sun. Now I can’t turn off the sun, obviously. I also don’t want to, because, well, I value its impact on the environment and the general role it plays in my existence. However, I do have beef with everyone’s favorite ball of gas. In particular, I cannot come to terms with its incessant need to shine at 6 AM. Luckily, there’s a technological solution as simple as smart bulbs, and that is smart blinds.
I used to fall asleep in natural darkness and wake up to blinding light. On other occasions, I would remember to close my manual blinds, but wake up the next day in a self-made cave, to an aggressively snoozed smartwatch alarm. Now, a convenient schedule drops my blackout curtains at sunset. By the time I amble to bed, the scene is already set. On workdays, the blinds automatically raise partway at 6 AM, introducing natural light back into the bedroom. On weekends, I wake to a shuttered world, because who wants the sun waking them up on a Saturday?
Regardless of what your sleep tracker may already say, managing light can only improve your bedtime routine. In fact, light is typically the most critical external factor affecting your circadian rhythm. More specifically, exposure to light minimizes your body’s ability to produce melatonin. (At least, these are the arguments I made to justify spending a small fortune on smart blinds.)
In reality, I am strictly after a life of convenience. On that front, automated blinds outshine smart bulbs as opening and closing a home full of curtains is time-consuming. Window coverings are finicky. For someone of my nominal stature, they’re often hard to reach. One window would literally require me to climb onto my kitchen counter to control it manually. When I ask my voice assistant to raise or lower a smart blind, I feel like I am successfully shirking a chore, not just avoiding the two-second flip of a switch.
Smart blinds don't just impact your sleep, they turn a tedious chore into a display of power (over an inanimate smart assistant, but still).
In the kitchen, my window coverings serve an even greater purpose, and that is one of privacy. When the night is winding down and I’ve undergone my daily metamorphosis into oversized pajamas, slippers, and corrective eyewear, the last thing I want is to be seen by my neighbors. Unfortunately, my front windows are close enough to the street that privacy is questionable. I can easily hear families in conversations on their evening walks. So when the sun goes down, so do my front blinds, closing off the world for the night.
But then I make dinner and, on occasion, my grandfather’s red sauce. I start in on dishes, and well, there’s simply no way to wash up without splashing dirty water at the crisp white privacy blind above my sink. My hands already soapy, I can’t finagle a string or latch. “Alexa, open kitchen shade halfway,” I command, (with a “please” in case robots someday take over and are recording whether we’ve each been kind). Thus the smart blind offers me the comfort of automated privacy and the convenience of hands-free system management.
Smart blinds are typically battery-powered, either with standard or rechargeable batteries. Some products can also be hardwired into your home’s electricity or plugged into a nearby outlet.
Are smart blinds worth it?
If by this point, you’re wondering “how much are smart blinds?” the answer is not cheap. Compared to a smart bulb, they’re downright expensive. Some basic adapter kits may land under $100, but full-blown custom-sized smart shades can cost hundreds of dollars per window, depending on your fabric choices and preferred features. However, blinds in general aren’t especially affordable, so if you’re thinking about upgrading your current ones anyway, the price hike for smart blinds may not be too outrageous. And think of how much more fun it sounds to shop for high-tech blinds than dumb blinds or curtains, (which are essentially vertical bedsheets on a rod).
There are products available that can convert regular blinds into smart blinds to add convenience to your existing setup. These options often involve taking down your blinds and installing a motor inside the housing.
I purchased the Yoolax Smart Roller Blinds, for about $200 each, and so far have no complaints. The company has tons of materials and colors available and even sells lookbooks if you want to peruse fabrics before committing to an order. I did so and still landed on white because I am just that boring. Despite my lack of imagination, I have found the final product to be attractive and durable. Most importantly, they have (so far) functioned seamlessly. They can also be integrated with Google Assistant, in case you were wondering.
A simple Amazon search for smart blinds will yield a bunch of options, from roller blinds to vertical shades and much more. For example, for Zebra blinds, Xingun Motorized Shades come in multiple colors starting at $150. There are also certainly nicer options available if you are willing to fork out extra cash. Lutron Serena Smart Shades are a popular pick that cost upwards of $500 each. No matter your budget, I think the convenience is worth the investment.
Smart blinds are expensive, but a worthwhile investment with tons of practical use.
Smart blinds also help control the climate inside your home for “free” with optimized schedules. During the summer, using your blinds intentionally can help block out excess sun rays and keep your home a few degrees cooler. In the winter, they’ll help you grab a few extra degrees of warmth by popping open during peak sunlight. They won’t substitute for an air conditioner or a solar panel, but it still adds up.
As I mentioned, smart blinds can also play a crucial role in privacy. I find them as beneficial as the Nest doorbell I depend on for identifying (and then hiding from) solicitors. The price of comfort is immeasurable. If you’re already on the smart security train with a smart lock or video doorbell, automating your privacy just makes sense. I’ve seen Hitchcock’s Rear Window enough times to know what happens if leave your shades up.
Moreover, investing in smart blinds is also an investment in personal entertainment. Creep out overnight guests with a fake haunting or impress them with your Tony Stark sunrise setting. Throw a few sets in your living room to create a movie theater ambiance, cut glares, and maybe, just maybe, figure out what was going on in the Battle of Winterfell. Plus, I simply cannot oversell the feeling of indirectly staring into the sun (please do not stare at the sun), as a thick barrier of polyester slowly lowers, creating your own personal eclipse. With smart blinds, you are a god.