Electric roller blinds – A London case study

Posted by on Jul 21, 2013 in Case Studies, Roller Blinds | No Comments

What to say about electric (or motorised) roller blinds?

They’re not cheap, but perhaps not as expensive as you thought? They’ve not exactly flooded middle England in the way that perhaps shutters have over the last 10 years – they remain very much the preserve of a young(ish) audience who appreciate technology and how it can enrich their living space and take the hassle out of their soft furnishings – and because of a few fundamentals, they’re not the sort of thing you’d install unless you’re planning a bit of a refurb.

Plan the electrics early! each mains (as opposed to battery- see further below) operated roller blind has a motor that needs to be connected to an electrical supply. So each blind will need to be connected to a switched fuse spur – which, industry best practice dictates, should be located within visual distance of the blind. Depending on the configuration and functionality you’re after, you can either connect each blind to a separate spur, or have all of them running into just the one spur.

Get the right advice:So if you’re planning a refurb or kitchen extension, make sure you get advice on placement of the electrics for the blinds at the planning stage, or at any rate, before your new space has been plastered. If you can, find a soft furnishings supplier who specialises in electric blinds – as they will be able to advise (or project manage) the builder and electrician on optimum placement of all relevant cables for the blinds. Don’t rely on the electrician to do this, as they’re not likely to know the size and configuration of what is being installed, and therefore where the cables need to go.

somfy electric roller blinds south London
Electric roller blinds with Somfy rts motors, in Contex Meteor SPC (solar protective coating) fabric – for increased UV protection

Choose the specifications that fit your needs: there are a number of products on the market, from the very high end systems such as Lutron – which can be fitted with daylight sensors to automatically adjust the height of the blinds depending on daylight conditions and pre-set moods.

But for those of us who don’t require that level of automation, there are some fabulous products on the market (eg Somfy) – which can be operated by wireless wall switch (see below), and/or by remote control.

somfy wireless wall switch by Moghul
Somfy blinds can be operated by wireless wall switches, and/or remote control

A recent south London case study illustrates quite well some of the considerations that come into play when you’ve decided to take the plunge and install electric roller blinds.

Our customers in SW12 sensibly contacted us when they were mid way through an extensive refurbishment of their four storey house. They wanted motorised blinds for their bi-fold doors (pictured above).

Our initial quote included some basic advice on cabling requirements, fuse spurs and suggested blind configurations – so that they could sort out the cabling before the kitchen was plastered.

We initially quoted for one of our standard systems that comes with a remote control for basic operation (by which I mean raising and lowering each blind individually or all of them together).

However after more discussions, client decided they wanted the additional option of being able to set the roller blinds to a mid point of their choosing.

This isn’t possible on our basic system, so we suggested they upgrade to a Somfy system that comes with a “my” position – a position that you can program into each blind so that regardless of whether each blind is fully up, down or otherwise, at a given moment in time, they can all move to the pre-set height at the touch of a button.

So why all the fuss about a mid point? Well, it’s actually a pretty useful tool. Imagine your kitchen is overlooked. During the day, you might want a little privacy without totally obscuring your garden behind the roller blinds. Without a “my” position you might spend the best part of a minute individually lowering each or all the blinds to a particular point. But with a pre-programmed position, you can simply press a button, and get on with whatever you were doing.

This system also has the option of a wireless, battery operated wall switch (pictured above), and/ or a remote control – both of which feature in the video below.

somfy electric roller blind video from Moghul
Click on the above picture to view our video of the completed installation.

So the next step was to carry out a technical measure on site, during which we discussed exactly where each blind should be positioned relative to the bi-fold doors behind. At this meeting we met client’s builder and talked through exactly where the electric cables should poke through the ceiling to keep them tidy and out of sight when the blinds were installed.

Client browsed through our roller blind fabric catalogues and chose an SPC fabric, which as the acronym suggests, has a solar protective coating on the back – to give added UV protection, and has the advantage of enhanced thermal properties in the winter.

Operating three blinds the size of those pictured above would be a bit of a chore if they were chain operated, but the family absolutely love the ease of operation of their new blinds. The blinds are near silent during operation, and there is, we are told, a bit of a fight each morning as the children jostle for the job of being allowed to press the button to raise the blinds. When would manual blinds attract such attention and admiration? 

Battery operated blinds: offer a very attractive alternative where you’re desperate for motorised blinds, but don’t want to go through the hassle, disruption and sheer mess of channeling into your walls to install the cabling for mains operated blinds.

The blinds have replaceable batteries that should last 18-24 months on twice daily operation. Typically the remote control doesn’t have the enhanced functionality of the intermediate “my” position documented above, but this is a worthy compromise if it’s not convenient to install a system that runs off mains electricity.