I was at the inaugural demonstration of remote controlled blinds (through Hunter Douglas,) way back in the mid-nineties. We were awe-struck. “We” being most of the custom blind and design community in Calgary. Previous to this intro, motorization required hard-wiring by an electrician, lots of patching of drywall, had rather limited operation options and was very expensive. The new remote operation was also expensive but it turned the blind market on it’s ear. In the years since, the industry has come a very long way.
I attended a seminar last week presented by five of the largest distributors of custom window coverings, and all of them offer motorization of most of their products at really reasonable prices, some as low as $100.00. The price depends on the size of the blind, the fabric, the style and the type of remote operation.
There are three main types of remote operation: Infrared, (IR), radio frequency (RF) and hard-wired. Infrared involves a beam of light directed at a receiving eye on the blind, it is line-of-sight, meaning you have to point the beam at the eye and from no more than forty-five degrees off a direct line. Distance of operation varies but is typically about fifty feet. Several blinds can be programmed to one control if they are within the beam range; otherwise you may need one remote for each blind.
RF control can activate a blind from anywhere within one hundred or so feet and does not rely on line-of-sight. Several blinds can operate on one remote, but setup can be tricky if you want different blinds to operate differently — you may need several channels on the remote.
These two control types can also be wall mounted if they are positioned correctly, and operate on direct current via a battery pack.
Hard-wired control is just that, the wires run in the wall from the shading to the switch. This is the most expensive control type, and the most invasive. Not a good option for most homeowners.
If you are considering remote control, make sure you know how the batteries are changed. For example, must the blind be taken down to change the batteries? One company makes a hinge-operated front panel for access to the batteries. Or, for the green folks, some companies also offer a solar pack which takes care of the battery replacement.
These options can really make a difference in the functionality of your window coverings. No more cords dragging on the floor, no need to stand on a stool, ease of operation for the physically challenged, and, for those who already have standard blinds, retro-fitting is often possible.