Window coverings are often an afterthought in home design and remodeling, but they shouldn’t be. In addition to adding style to a home, they can also add functionality and convenience. Some materials reduce your energy bills. Some help you sleep better by blocking out exterior light. Some do both. And just about all of them add privacy to your home. The latest trend is smart home enabled window coverings. Are they right for your house? Read on to find out why the answer might well be yes, and what you should be thinking about when choosing a provider.
Are they right for your area? “There are many more listings that have smart window coverings now than in the past,” observes Jean Rosalia, a Virginia Beach-based real estate professional. “The biggest reason for this is their availability and ease of installation,” she adds. The buyers who are most interested are Millennials, she notes. “They are also the clients most interested in smart homes and the integration of as many conveniences as they can have at the tips of their fingers or remotely.”
While they’re becoming more widely available, Rosalia doesn’t see them adding to a home’s value quite yet. “They are a convenience, much like smart appliances or a smart thermostat. Clients really don’t have a particular interest in smart window coverings unless they serve a specific purpose, such as high windows in a beach home or other windows that might be otherwise difficult to reach,” she points out.
Santa Monica-based interior designer Suzanne Donegan is seeing strong interest in her firm’s clientele, she says. “Interest is spread throughout age demographics. In general, Millennials are very interested in the innovative technology and integrating as many stylish components as possible to create a holistic environment. Baby Boomers are interested in new technology related to aging in place that allows for comfort, safety and ease of mind.” Lately, half of her projects include motorized shades, she reveals.
Donegan attributes the strong interest in smart home window coverings to the growing interest in wellness design. “Clients are starting to prioritize health in their homes and thinking about the areas in particular that impact overall wellness. As a health-informed design consultant, I encourage my clients to invest in smart window coverings in one area in particular, the bedroom. Science has shown the impact that daylight can have on our circadian rhythm; adaptive smart window coverings help to regulate the body’s internal clock, leading to more restorative sleep and more alertness and productivity during the day.”
Like most areas of technology, smart home window coverings are not without their issues. “It matters how easily they integrate into other smart systems in the home,” Rosalia points out. “Not all systems communicate with one another, and not all of them have simple operation systems for every smartphone.” This can be a turn-off to buyers. “Then, there is also the question of what system they will integrate with; this may or may not integrate with the larger systems currently being used for other applications in the home.”
Cost is another issue, Donegan shares. While interest is strong and her clients are comfortable with technology, “Not all see the need for spending the additional cost once they learn the price per window,” she remarks. (See below for more on this from a window coverings specialist.)
Window Coverings Specialist’s Perspective
LuAnn Nigara is an owner of the 39-year-old Livingston, New Jersey location for Window Works, and has been selling motorized window treatments since they first hit the market. “The smart home movement began in the early 2000s, with the last 10 years enjoying widespread popularity,” she recalls. Here’s her take on what to know about adding these features to your home.
Jamie Gold: What benefits does a homeowner derive from having their window coverings automated?
LuAnn Nigara: The benefits include comfort, ease, safety, energy efficiency, peace of mind and simple enjoyment. Just some examples:
- Comfort: motorization allows senior citizens to operate shades, drapes and awnings that might normally be too heavy for them lift or crank.
- Safety: motorization eliminates the need for cords and chains which can be dangerous for children and pets.
- Ease: motorization allows anyone to operate second story window shades, skylight shades or any hard to access areas.
- Energy efficiency: motorization allows you to preset your window treatments to open and close at certain times of the day. When the sun is hottest, you can be sure the shades have been closed to reduce your AC load and vice versa in the winter, allowing the sun to warm the room and close to keep the cold out as the sun sets.
- Peace of mind: motorization allows you to also set the window treatments to close for privacy at certain times. Homeowners can set their treatments to open and close while they are out of town, giving the impression someone is at home.
- Enjoyment: as with all tech, some of us just like having up to date gadgets and tech!
Gold: Do you typically partner with a technology integrator on these projects? Should homeowners and designers do so?
Nigara: Yes, in the sense that a true smart home with many facets connected – lighting, heat, AV, window treatments – this process starts at the very beginning of the build project. So, by the time window treatments are specified, the conversation and the groundwork for motorization is in place. In these cases, yes, most certainly, we work within the homeowner’s team to provide seamless service. If the homeowner or designer is only connecting our products to an existing smart home system, then we are capable of executing solo.
Gold: How much does smart technology typically add to the cost of a window covering?
Nigara: Anywhere from $500 to $1000 per window.
Gold: What are the different tech options available for automating window coverings, and their pros and cons?
Nigara: We can connect to smart phones and iPads, we can provide handheld remotes, as well as wall-mounted remote controls. Pros are stated above. Cons are cost, the need for electricity near the window and needing a service call if the technology fails.
Gold: What should a homeowner consider when considering smart home window coverings for their home?
Nigara: They should absolutely vet the provider to be sure they are not only knowledgeable but that they have a solid reputation for exceptional follow-up service. There are many details in smart home technology, and after making the investment you want to know someone is going to show up if you have questions or need service.
Gold: What are the most common mistakes people make when ordering them on their own?
Nigara: I’m not aware that you really can; that would be insanity in my opinion. Possibly you can order battery-operated shades on your own, but I don’t think you can order smart home integration on your home.
Gold: Are there hidden costs, risks or issues with these window coverings?
Nigara: As far as costs, you should know if an electrician is needed to run wire or install outlets etc. Your window treatment supplier should make it clear to you both their price as well as if an electrical quote is necessary. Regarding risks and problems, just service issues. Any treatment can require service down the road, the only difference with smart home shades is it will require a professional to service it, not a handyman.
Gold: What type of covering is the most popular with your clients?
Nigara: Roman shades and roller shades are by far the most popular.
Gold: What would you like to add about the topic that I haven’t asked above?
Nigara: Smart home tech really is wonderful for convenience, safety, energy efficiency and aesthetics. I often compare it to any new tech that you couldn’t imagine why you “need” it and then once you have it, you can’t imagine not having it. I remember when phones were first installed in cars and a colleague told me, “You are on the road all day, every day, you need one.” I told him there were phone booths at every gas station, it just wasn’t necessary. Think about how funny that is now! The same is true for smart home motorized shades. Once you have them, you just can’t imagine why you would ever go from room to room closing shades all over the house.