Motorized shades may be a killer app for home automation, but they’re often one of the most expensive elements of a home control system. And they can be complicated to retrofit, what with their requirements for power and possibly low-voltage wires for control.
But Lutron – traditionally one of the pricier providers of motorized shades – is changing the game with its new Sivoia QS Wireless Cellular battery-powered shades that start at just $299 for a 3- by 5-foot window. The maximum size is 82 x 82 inches.
The units – the first cellular shades that Lutron has ever offered -- are powered by four to six D batteries, which can last two to five years years thanks to Lutron’s new patent-pending Triathlon Power Technology.
In fact, that technology is what finally got Lutron into the battery-operated shading business. Motorized shades can consume quite a bit of energy -- they have to power both the motor and the radio that listens for commands from a controller.
“Up until now, battery-powered shades have not delivered consistent and reliable battery life,” says David Weinstein,VP residential sales (brief Q&A with Weinstein below). “In addition, most of the existing battery-powered technology is neither quiet, precise, or affordable.”
Inside the Sivoia headrail>
Lutron figured out how to do it, though. In standby mode, new shades draw only 1/1000 of a watt of power. And when the battery is low, the shades move at half speed to eke out a little more battery life. The motor, batteries and radio are concealed in a standard headrail that you can barely notice.
Sivoia QS is available in two flavors: standalone and integration-friendly.
The standalone version comes in two models – one that is controlled by IR and another by RF, specifically Lutron’s itty bitty Pico remote. In fact, Lutron is coming out with new designs for the Pico and a lower price, according to PR manager Melissa Andresko.
But CE pros will be most interested in the Sivoia QS System version with Lutron’s Clear Connect RF protocol. They can be controlled via Lutron’s HomeWorks QS, RadioRA 2 and GRAFIK Eye QS controllers, as well as third-party controllers that integrate with those systems.
The system version of the QS Wireless will be sold exclusively through Lutron's existing Sivoia-qualified dealers, while the standalone versions will be sold to a broader market.
The broader market (Lutron does love the shopping networks!) can certainly handle these products. They’re so easy, even a PR person can install it!
“Literally, there’s two brackets and then you snap the shade in,” says Andresko. “It took me about nine minutes. If you can hang a picture, you can hang a shade.”
Lutron cellular shades are offered in more than 50 colors. The are built-to-order as specified in Lutron’s Shade Configuration Tool (SCT). Shades will begin shipping in October. The products are on display at the Lutron booth at CEDIA Expo 2011.
Q&A with David Weinstein, VP Residential Sales, Lutron
What took so long for Lutron to offer battery-operated shades … and why now?
We have always been interested in creating a market expanding controllable shade product that would deliver the kind of quality and performance the market was used to, at a price point that would appeal to a broader base of residential dealers, specifiers, and homeowners. The challenge was to design long life battery powered system and a high quality and performance electronic drive system that would offer "Sivoia Class" quiet and precise control. Well, our engineers and design team accomplished both with our newest Sivoia QS Wireless Cellular Shades.
20 years ago, Lutron began research and development on controllable window shades. We have always focused on developing new products that are truly innovative in terms of what is already out there. The most important point is that we believe that daylight and the control of daylight is a significant component of lighting control in terms of reducing glare, improving visual contrast, managing thermal heat gain, and filtering out UV rays.
Lutron's first precision controllable shade product was called Serena, which was defined as a Window Transformation System. This system utilized a dual roller and the user was able to select a shade "scene" that rolled or scrolled from various fabric options that included blackout, solar, privacy, and completely open. When we introduced Sivoia, we created the first quiet, precise shading system with a side mounted electronic drive system. In April of 2003, we introduced Sivoia QED (Quiet Electronic Drive) , the world's first "tubular drive" quiet, precise shade system. In 2008, after launching several derivatives of our Sivoia QED we introduced Sivoia QS, which reduced the number of wires required to power and control the unit, as well as Sivoia QS wireless, which only needed two power wires and communicated using Lutron's Clear Connect RF technology.
What have been the biggest impediments for good, battery-operated motorized shades, and how did Lutron overcome them?
The two most significant challenges were battery life, and quiet precision movement. Up until now, battery powered shades have not delivered consistent and reliable battery life. In addition, most of the existing battery powered technology is neither quiet, precise, or affordable. For these reasons, I believe the adoption for battery powered shade technology has been slow. Lutron did several things to ensure that our newest product would be appealing to the larger "mid market" homeowner.
1. Design an affordable precision controllable cellular shade product that would work on D size batteries and last for three years
2. Deliver reliable wireless RF quiet and precise movement and control
3. Utilize Lutron's existing offering of IR and RF controls
4. Offer a "system" version that could be integrated to Lutron and third party controls
5. Offer a "non system" version for people who were only interested in controlling shades in specific rooms of homes
6. Offer the new product in both a battery power, and hardwired version via a Lutron power panel, or plug in transformer for a single shade.
We utilize patent pending Triathlon Battery Technology
- 3- Year Battery Life:
- Assumes 2 ups + 2 downs every day on a Light Filtering 3’x5’ shade
- Can vary from 2 - 5 years depending on size, fabric selection
- Standard D Cells, 4 or 6 depending on shade size
- Patent pending
- Shades draw only 1/1,000 of a watt of power
- Shades align, compensating for battery voltage
- On low battery indicator, shades move at half speed
- Internal battery pack
- Clean Look with standard headrail
Will these products have different distribution than your hardwired lines?
Lutron's Sivoia QS Wireless Cellular shades will have existing and expanded distribution path to consumers looking for affordable, and easy-to-install controllable cellular shades.
a. The system version will only be sold through Lutron's existing Sivoia qualified dealers, installers, and channels (Integrators and shade-focused dealers).
b. The non-systems version will be sold to our existing customer as noted above, as well as potential new paths to the market where cellular shades are currently sold today.
Can the products be integrated with third-party control systems?
Yes, using the "systems version" of our product, and our Radio Ra 2 repeater based system, or our Homeworks QS control system. We also offer apps for Apple devices such as iPad, iPhone, and iTouch, and will add to our already available Android app to include this newest cellular shade product category.
Your claim to fame is just how QUIET your shades are. How do these rank in that department?
Our newest shading product delivers the kind of quiet and precise performance that our customers have come to expect from our Sivoia Quiet Electronic Drive Technology. That means we have created a new standard of quiet movement, and precision movement and alignment for cellular shades.