08 July 2020
Automating Your Shades When It’s ‘Too Darn Hot’
When Cole Porter wrote “It’s Too Darn Hot” for Kiss Me Kate, he wasn’t thinking about the long Texas evenings for those with westerly facing rooms. Even those of us with windows that do not face south can feel the effects of the summer sun on our rooms and air-conditioning bills. Rather than just crank the A/C another few degrees, let’s consider how a well-automated home can combine multiple approaches to cooling down and keeping the air flowing.
Automated, Apps and Manual Operation
The cornerstone of over 3,500 homes Bravas works on every year is the idea of whole home automation. As we review ideas of how to stay cool, we will do some through the lens of a home automation platform to make using these technologies easy, convenient and safe. We support the main brands of Savant, Lutron, Crestron, ELAN and Control4 – all of whom can, in their own ways, continue to make your home automated. We will use some specific examples, but each provider can probably solve the problem in a similar way.
Of course, these systems cost money and take a company like Bravas to help you tune. If you want to save money, then you can do much the same with multiple apps on your phone or even with manual systems. In smaller homes this is often a great solution. In larger or busy homes, while you are putting in lower cost tools, in the long run they do not have the same effect. Two reasons: integration and laziness.
Despite what they tell you, most of the apps on your phone do not integrate with most of the other apps on your phone. Solutions Apple HomeKit or Google Home do a good job of combining some automation tools into a single interface, but they are difficult to manage. Also, as each piece of technology gets a software upgrade then you need to make sure they all work together. Today your Nest works with your Haiku fans; tomorrow, not so much.
You can get even cheaper and just go manual all the way around. You can say to yourself “It’s not hard to change the shades – will just take me a couple of minutes.” True, but most people do not. Few people with manual shades open and close them as the sun raises and sets. Some reports have said that 75% of all manual shades never get changed. If you really want to get the benefits of home automation and maybe even save some money, you need a home automation platform.
While we consider automated shades and window coverings for their privacy benefits, they are useful for many other reasons. Additional benefits can include:
- Aesthetics – they can add to the attractiveness of the room
- Protection of valuables – direct sun exposure can cause discoloration, fading and irreversible damage to furniture in your home
- Security and Safety – limit what people can see from outside, especially when you are away
- Value of your home – a well-designed motorized system can add to the value of your home
- Convenience – can add additional privacy and security to bedrooms and bathrooms
When we consider our summer sun, the biggest benefit of good shades may be energy saving. Depending on what materials your shades are made up of, the right material can block up to 99% of the light coming into the room. Of course, you also want to balance this with the right choices of material than do not lose the look or aesthetics of the room.
Companies like Lutron offer a huge range of fabrics and designs of shades that can be integrated into your home. Companies like Crestron offer solutions like Color Match that means you can request roller shades in any color you desire.
Automated climate control and moving air
There is no doubt that the Nest changed the way many people think about thermostats. For many of us they went from stupid to smart, from hard to program to easy to alter. We learned that we could be ‘Away’ and save money and even program different temperate for different time of the day on different days. Also, the EPA has advised that “recent field studies have suggested that programmable thermostats may be achieving considerably lower savings than their estimated potential.”
One of the problems with the original Nest-type systems was that they tied to the zone of heating or cooling. In a one zone house with multiple rooms, there can be a huge difference between the temperatures in the rooms. Some of these problems were solved by companies like Ecobee (and now Nest too) who have smart sensors for different rooms. Of course, the whole zone can still only be at one temperature. To get multiple temperatures in one home you need multiple zones. With large homes there can be so many zones that managing them can be a significant challenge, so people often do not bother.
Home automation companies have solved some of these problems by giving you a centralized approach to managing all these zones. Additionally, they can install almost invisible remote sensors in any room to help manage the home.
Companies like Savant have great climate control systems that can even be retrofit into an existing home. You control the temperature through an interface you manage the rest of your home including in-wall units, remote control and smartphones. Other suppliers like Control4 have well-designed integration with systems like the Nest.
While most automated climate control systems can also turn on your HVAC fans without needing to activate your air conditioning, a better solution may be a room fan. While automation platform providers do not really provide fans, they all provide the ability to wirelessly control ceiling fans through the platforms. An example might be the Chowmain Haiku Driver for Control4, which allows integration of Haiku from Big Ass Fans into Control4 allowing full 2-way, multispeed fan control over your home.
Bring it together
Whether you choose shades, thermostats or fans to help cool your home, integrating them into your home automation platforms is critical to get all the benefits. While we have talked about specific vendors and capabilities here, whichever platform you choose can probably give you the benefits you are looking for. When you’re working with a company like Bravas, we can help integrate these into your home and your lifestyle.