Time To Automate!

At the Saskatoon Blind Factory we’re so excited about motorizing our product, we thought we’d start throwing out some helpful information on the subject.  Below is some general good rule-of-thumb kind of info on how we view and approach motorized wiring. Pre-Wiring for low voltage (12 or 24 Volt DC) and line voltage (110 Volt AC) motorized window covering is an extremely important process in the planning stage of a new building project and must be considered before the walls are closed.  Due to it’s superior insulating qualities, many builders are now using the spray foam insulation instead of the fiberglass batting.  This spray foam insulation can be extremely difficult to fish wires through after the fact. Typical wiring for most motorized window covering systems is done by running wire from each window to a central location where the power will be distributed to each of the window covering motors as outlined by the illustration below. The motors in the example below are controlled with an RF hand held remote controller or a Wireless RF Wall Switch.

Most window coverings can be powered by low voltage either 12 or 24V DC. The majority of low voltage motors are capable of lifting shades up to 17+ pounds and traversing drapery up to 130+ pounds depending on the manufacturer of the motor.  For larger windows where the shade will exceed this weight, an AC motor will have to be used or the shade split into 2 or 3 sections to reduce the weight so DC motors can be used. Low voltage DC is inherently safer than 110V wiring and has fewer regulations than AC.

Here’s A Few Things To Keep In Mind:

  • 1.)  What type of shade or window covering am I going to use?  (Roller Shade, Cellular, Pleated, Roman, Drapery etc…)
  • 2.)  Can this type of shade or window covering be powered using low voltage?  (In most instances…YES! Depends on the weight of the shade)
  • 3.)  How would I like to control the window covering?  (IR-Remote, RF-Remote, Wall Switch, Touch Pad, IPad, Cell Phone, Automation etc…)
  • 4.)  What’s my budget?  (IR, RF and Wall switch the cheapest, automation controllers more $$$)
  • 5.)  New or Existing Construction?  (Running wire in new construction is easier than existing)

Wiring for most low voltage projects can be accomplished using 16/2 or 18/2.  The first number refers to the Wire Gauge and the second number refers to the number of conductors. 16/2 for example is a 2 conductor wire and is heavier than 18 Gauge. A good “Rule of Thumb” is to use 18/2 for wire runs under 50Ft and 16/2 for wire runs up to 150Ft. These parameters should cover most residential situations encountered. Do not skimp or use cheap wire and DO not use lamp cord ever! Use good quality wire that is CL2 rated or higher. The “CL2” is  a wire rating that allows the wire to be run inside a wall and will pass most low voltage residential inspection. In commercial installations, you will need to verify and use what the electrical specifications call for.  For residential applications, we typically use 16/2 “CMP” rated and shielded with drain.  The “shield” is a foil wrap around the wire that helps prevent interference from other electrical sources that may disrupt the power and communication to the motor. The “Drain” is a small wire wrapped in the wire bundle that can be run to Earth Ground and drain any harmful interference in the wire run. If you want to run the wire yourself and save some money, check with your local Electrical Inspector to find out what types of wire will pass an electrical inspection. Using 16/2 or 18/2 will allow us to use motors and systems that will integrate easily with many popular and well know home automation systems including: Vera, Crestron, Control 4, HAI, SmartHome, Lutron HomeWorks, RadioRa2 and many others!!!  Many automation companies have embedded software drivers that allow control of almost any type motor that will be used.  Some automation companies, however, have proprietary communication protocols that only allow use of their motors.

If you are planning on installing skylights, just pre-wire for them now!!!  You will thank yourself down the road when you are sitting there on a Sunday afternoon watching the football game on your brand new 63″ plasma with the sun obscuring half the screen.