By: O’D McKewan
One of the primary ways motorized shades can be environmentally friendly is through the use of timers. Timers can be set to lower or raise window coverings at specific times of the day and, when set appropriately, this can greatly reduce the amount of energy needed to maintain a room’s temperature to the client’s specific needs, which can help reduce the use of an air conditioner or heater and thus help lower utility bills. For instance, during the winter, you can set a timer to raise all your south- and west-facing windows to allow as much solar heat gain in during the warmer hours of the day and then lower all of the shades an hour or two before sunset to help trap the room’s warmth gained by the day’s sunlight. Conversely, in the summer, you can set the time to lower all the shades a few hours after sunrise to block out as much heat from entering the room as possible. These settings can be easily set in most manufacturer’s motorization apps. Many manufacturers also offer a Celestial Timer, which can automatically adjust to the local sunrise and sunset, maximizing the potential savings for the end user.
Sensors are another great opportunity to reduce consumption on multiple levels. The two most effective sensors are temperature sensors and light sensors. Temperature sensors can be used year-round and in multiple rooms to help maintain thermal equilibrium and help reduce air conditioning and heating costs much like a timer but with more accurate control. A thermal sensor can detect a room’s temperature and adjust the shades accordingly. It can automatically lower a shade when the temperature rises, thus reducing the need for AC and can be programmed to raise a shade when the temperature drops to reduce the need for the heater. A timer doesn’t know what the weather outside is, so it could be automatically raising the shades on a very cold and cloudy day, letting all the room’s warmth escape out the window. Using a combination of both timers and thermal sensors can really help control the environment.
Another commonly overlooked sensor is a light sensor. Light sensors can be used for daylight harvesting, a more comfortable environment and asset protection. If you are unfamiliar with daylight harvesting, the general concept is that you can use the natural light from outdoors to offset the use of artificial light created indoors. So, with a light sensor, when the sunlight is shining on a window in a room, the shades will rise to allow natural light to brighten the room, allowing you to turn down or turn off the artificial lights in the room. This can reduce your electrical consumption. You can also use the sensor to block out light. You can set it to lower the shades when the sun is too bright, thus creating a more comfortable environment to work or relax in if wanted. A light sensor also has an overlooked protective aspect. You can use a light sensor to protect your valuable assets in a room from the damaging effects of the sun’s harmful UV and solar rays. At first, you might not think this fits in the energy-efficient/eco-friendly category, but it does in the sense that it can reduce your need to replace items such as furniture, floors, artwork or other precious items that would be damaged by the sun’s harmful rays.
I also want to briefly discuss the use of alternative power supplies, mainly the use of solar panels to recharge battery-powered motors. With the ever-increasing technological advances in battery power production and the overwhelming demand for battery-powered motorization, the use of a solar panel to recharge the batteries (both internal and external battery packs) is still a debatable advantage. Although the short-term advantages appear to be clear—including less batteries to dispose of, less chance of injury or harm from charging or changing said batteries (e.g., climbing on ladders, damaging window covering or walls), which can be good for the environment, your health and your pocketbook—the long-term environmental effects of the disposal of rechargeable batteries and solar panels has yet to be determined.
Lastly, I want to touch on the more advanced concept of home automation and building management systems. The combination of using sensors and timers with a whole home automation system for a residence and a building management system for a commercial application is the best option overall. When you are able to directly tie in the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and lighting to your motorized window coverings, you will get the best ecological, environmental and economic benefits of all the options discussed. Of course, there is a larger upfront cost for choosing this option, but when was the last time you had a utility company lower their prices? Using your knowledge of how to sell custom motorization, you should be able to offer your clients some excellent energy- and money-saving products.
O’D McKewan is the product coach for Window Covering World, an expert on motorization and an industry leader in the field of motorized window coverings. He has extensive hands-on experience with motorized window coverings, including fabrication, installation and selling.