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The Living Lab Comes to Life: PowerShades

Last week, I kicked of a blog series focused on our experiences in the Living Lab, a home that aims to leverage advanced products and systems from leading manufacturers and technology companies to demonstrate and educate both industry and consumers. Today, let’s look at the shades used in the home.

First, a little bit of background about the shades that we chose for the project and the company that provides them. PowerShades was founded in 2017 to provide motorized shades to enhance the quality of life with products such as PoE (Power over Ethernet) shades. Some options, like PoE, require hard wiring, but they will offer you a greater level of control. Also, if energy efficiency is a priority, a much higher degree of programmability will help.

Naturally, the system is very high-tech. Homeowners can use PowerShades’ cloud-based MyDashboard to set the cadence of their shades. When they do this, they can determine when to raise and lower with custom pre-set scenes.

The shades can be controlled by any home automation system with the PowerShades mobile app. Using the app, users can use a smartphone to control motorized shades, including PowerShades TruePoE automated shades.

Here’s where this gets cool. The app doesn’t have to be on the same network, so the user can control their shades from anywhere. So, say you are away from home and realize you forgot to turn down your shades. You can easily get on the app from wherever you are and make a change to your shades.

Also, for both RF (radio frequency) and PoE shades, the PowerShades mobile app lets users control single shades or groups at the same time. Controlling groups of windows is truly one of my favorite things to do in the morning when I wake up.

These shades are not only intelligent, but the shades are also unique in that they are developed around PoE technology and only require five watts of power delivered through a standard CAT 5 or CAT 6 cable.

Let’s take a step back here. Traditional RF (radio frequency) motorized roller shades are powered by a battery, low voltage DC (direct current) hardwired, and/or high voltage AC (alternating current); with any of these methods, PowerShades can be controlled through a remote control but must be charged every year. With PoE, that inconvenience disappears. Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into our experiences in the Living Lab.

Selection and Installation

Our objective when picking shades in this home was to provide key light depending on the time of day. The company had a book to select the type of shades, and we tried to pick something that was fairly neutral in color. (To be clear, we do not have shades in every room of the house.) In addition to color selection, you can also select the opacity of your shades. For example, we chose blackout shades in the bedroom to make it easier to sleep at night. We also chose solar shades to manage the sun, as well as for security reasons.

If we just needed a couple of manual shades, we may have been able to install them ourselves. However, with the motorized options, things can get a little bit trickier, which is why we chose to work with an installer. Overall, we had a very positive experience with the installation of the shades in the Living Lab. PowerShades was great in finding us someone local, and the installers themselves were knowledgeable and easy to work with. Our installer was Robert Jackson and his team with JAVAM.

The Benefits

Motorized shades offer a number of benefits for us (or any homeowner for that matter), including greater energy efficiency, convenience, security, and privacy. Let’s explore each of the advantages of motorized shades and how they correlate to what we are seeing in the Living Lab.

Energy efficiency: PowerShades’ claim to fame is that use of the motorized shades can reduce total energy consumption in a home by up to 30%. An east-facing window, for example, can be programmed in the winter to go up at sunrise, bringing as much sunlight as possible into the house, providing natural heat and lowering heating costs. It’s green for the environment and green for the consumer’s wallet, and in the long term it will save energy costs.

Here at the Living Lab, we are still testing whether the shades provide the right temperature. Our solar shades are a pretty cool solution for managing sun and heat, and they also look great on our windows as an added bonus.

Another point you might want to consider is mounting. If the shade is mounted inside casing, you don’t need the end bracket. However, as is the case with our shades, the window depth wasn’t deep enough. Our end caps could have been cut and modified to conceal the bracketry for a finished look, but we elected to leave them as is in the two smaller bedrooms, so some light peeks through. Ultimately, we really want our guests to wake up so we can enjoy their company, but not stay too long.

What I can say is the convenience of the shades going up and down has to be one of my favorite aspects, which brings us to the next benefit.

Convenience: Motorized shades offer various levels of convenience and can be scheduled to automatically rise and lower based on many parameters aimed to make homes safer, more comfortable, and more energy efficient.

Here in the Living Lab, I can use the app or even tell Alexa to instruct the shades to go up or down. In my master closet, they are manual. I just pull them down and leave them in the same closed position all the time. Another inherent and convenient aspect is the fact that the shades offer a high level of both security and privacy.

Security and privacy: So, there is one very obvious advantage to intelligent shades when it comes to security. I love opening and closing the shades remotely or setting them on a schedule at the house. Sometimes when we are not at home, I can open and lower the shades to create the appearance that we are home. Plus, at night, I can lower them to just the right point to give me that comfort that I can see out, but others can’t see in.

Here in the Living Lab, while the shade is lowered over the window, the solar shades allow me to see outside through to my deck or to the side of the house through the solar fabric. And it blocks most of the UV rays and glare, depending on which shade and weave is selected for each window. Honestly, that is another one of my favorite features. I have tested these three or four times at different times of the day, just to see if the shades really do give privacy as well as they say they do. To me, that’s a big value as it pertains to privacy.

All in all, the technology is quite appealing and works well for the dual purpose of sun and protection. So far, our energy consumption is less than others in our area, according to our Schneider Wiser app. So, between our blinds and the other measures we are taking, we are reducing our energy consumption. But time will tell if the ultimate overall energy benefits of everything we are doing are exactly what we had hoped to achieve.

Now, I am also going to admit the blackout shades are truly a one-two punch. On a lazy Saturday morning when I’m looking to sleep in a little, they keep the room nice and dark. I am normally an early riser, but when the room is dark—the blackout fabric is a heavier weight, I would estimate about a 10% fabric—it really does help me sneak an extra hour of sleep. So, if you need to catch a little extra shuteye, the blackout shades might work better than other sleeping remedies.

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