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Are you thinking about getting new window treatments?  I’ll tell you that as long as you are doing it, you might as well do it right.

If you’re the type that likes to research all the available options, and you decide what best suits your needs.  You are also a forward thinker, and “old-fashioned” doesn’t fit into your repertoire.  Naturally, after mulling over these points, you are brought to the world of motorized window treatments.  They are functional, cool, new and technologically advanced.

Can I do a quick test with you?  Take out your cell phone right now, or just imagine it in your minds-eye.  What kind do you have?  Is it a smart phone with a touch screen, or an email worthy type with a rolling track-ball?  If it is, then you are the typical consumer for automated products in general, including window coverings, or window treatments.

How do you know if you NEED motorized treatments?  If you have very high windows that are not easy to reach;  If you have to climb into a bathtub to adjust;  If you have an application that is so large, that lifting them is a real chore.  If you answered yes to one or more of these, then you might need the automated options.

Aside from needs though, most purchasers of motorized draperies or shades are men…because they’re COOL.  I had one client recently who told me that every time his friends come over, he runs the draperies for them.  He and his friends get such a huge kick out of it.  They aren’t designed to be used as toys, but you try stopping him!  For the record, he’s in his 80’s.  His wife loves using them too.

So, let’s say that you want to pursue motorized options, where do you start?  There are many answers to this question, and I’ll try to make it relatively simple.

Hard Wired Systems These are the cream of the crop.  This is where actual wiring  is done at your project.  Your specialist will consult with your electrician, and determine what type of wiring will be needed based on the parameters of the job.  Many new homes are being constructed these days with the appropriate wiring to accommodate the different types of motorized treatments and home automation that many home owners are electing to install.  With a hard-wired system, you usually have greater options.  You can lift heavier products, you can integrate them fully with home automation systems.

On some hard wire systems you can actually work the different shades in different rooms directly from your cell phone.  There are two substantial drawbacks here though.  The first is that hard-wire systems tend to be quite expensive as you have to purchase and install custom wiring. The second is that because the motors in these systems tend to be stronger, the costs for the motorization are more expensive than Battery Operated Systems.  Most people who are doing Hard Wired Systems tend to plan ahead for them, and they are part of a master plan for new constructions and major remodels.  To run new wiring on these systems as a retrofit can be messy.  They often require separate sheetrock, painting, and electrical contractors at a minimum.  On the other hand, though, when the work is done as part of a major build, the “messy quotient” is pretty negligible.

Battery Operated Systems This is the most popular form of motorization my clients choose.  This system takes people into the modern age in a simple, practical and cost effective way.  There are no walls to be cut into, no paint to be retouched, no electrical wiring to hassle with.  Many types of window coverings offer this option of motorization. One huge plus to battery operated systems is that the costs for those types of systems tend to be substantially below the costs of their hard wired counterparts.  With this positive comes a couple of negatives too.

The battery systems are very limited by their power.  They can’t lift anywhere near as much weight as the hard wire systems. Therefore, larger openings may not be available with this option.  Another drawback is that the batteries, in most cases, need changing periodically.  The manufacturers say that you should probably change the batteries every 1-2 years, but I have seen that number be significantly higher, and significantly lower as well.

Most Battery Operated Systems use standard batteries, like AA or AAA, but there are some exceptions where replacement batteries will need to be replaced at the cost of $75.00 per window.  With these batteries, however, the average battery life is 4-5 years.  With either example, usage determines the life of the battery.  Placement of the shade is another concern.  If you are using a battery operated window covering on a window that is 16 feet off of the ground, do YOU want to climb a ladder to change batteries?  If you don’t want to change them yourself, many companies, including handymen will charge you a trip charge to change the batteries on your window coverings.

Plug In Systems Kind of the hybrid of the motorized window covering world is the Plug In Motor System.  Many companies offer a way to plug your motors directly into power using a standard 3-prong outlet.  The systems are the same as before, namely the Hard Wired System, and the Battery System, but the delivery of power is a bit different.

Think for a moment: Do you have outlets mounted at the TOP of ANY of your windows at home?  I’m guessing not.  Now think aesthetically too.  Would you WANT an outlet next to every window?  Unless you are covering them up with a soffit, cornice or valance they would look quite ugly.

One of the most common uses for a Plug In System are motorized draperies.  This is usually a very simple application though because the outlet is generally covered by the drapery stack.  When a cord is provided to convert a battery powered system to a Plug In one, the motor stays the same, but a transformer is placed in-line to convert the power coming out the wall to the type of power that the shade or blind uses.  The same limitations apply as to the strength of the motor, but at least you don’t have to replace batteries.

Just as there are different systems that enable you to have motorized window treatments, there are also many different way to actuate these systems.  We’ll talk about those in our next post.

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