Automated blinds are becoming more popular as the smart home market continues to grow. We love the automated privacy and energy savings they bring to our homes. But price continues to be a hurdle for most DIY smart home enthusiasts. Shades from popular brands like Lutron can cost $400+ per window! The MySmartBlinds Automation Kit is a tempting option since it works with existing 2.5″ horizontal blinds a lot of people have in their homes. But the additional $89 needed for their bridge is hard to swallow. They also don’t integrate with popular hub-based home automation systems like SmartThings or Hubitat. But we came across a new option: the iBlinds retrofit kit, a Z-Wave solution for smart blinds.
Z-Wave Retrofit Kit
The iBlinds retrofit kit is similar in concept to the MySmartBlinds Automation Kit. It converts your existing 2-2.5″ horizontal blinds to smart blinds by putting a connected motor in the headrail of the blinds. At $120 + shipping for the kit and a solar panel, the price is fair, too. And they have one key feature that appeals to hub owners: Z-Wave connectivity. If you already own a SmartThings, Hubitat, or other Z-Wave enabled hub, these will connect directly to your existing smart home system. This eliminates the need for another hub in your house. One drawback of the iBlinds kit, compared to MySmartBlinds, is that they do not have temperature sensors or local schedule storage. You will need other sensors and your own hub for these features.
Installing the iBlinds kit is fairly straightforward if you take your time and follow the instructions. (Pro tip: before pulling the rod out of your blinds, make aligned marks on the rod and rollers with a permanent marker. This makes it easier to line things back up during reassembly.) iBlinds is working on official integration with SmartThings. In the meantime, though, you’ll need to use their custom device handler to pair them with your hub.
Real World Use
Our iBlinds kit has been in service on a 47″ x 69″ window for 6 months so far without any mechanical issues. It opens reliably every morning at sunrise and closes every evening at sunset. With the solar kit installed, the battery hasn’t dropped below 100%, thanks to a favorable east-facing window. Installing the kit requires removing the manual tilt rod, so we did have to come up with a manual adjusting solution that doesn’t require access to the SmartThings app. We ended up using an Eria remote and programmed the buttons with open, close and two partially open settings in the SmartThings system. The only hiccup we have run into is the iBlinds motor’s Z-Wave connection seems to hang after sending several commands back-to-back. A quick calibration routine clears that up, but it’s something to consider if you’re mounting these out of reach.
For integration with voice assistants, the iBlinds device shows up natively with the SmartThings Action in Google Home. This is nice since telling Google Assistant to open or close the blinds works natively. Alexa, on the other hand, only exposes tilt % settings through SmartThings. So you have to create a routine to open and close them with Amazon’s assistant.
The iBlinds kit is a great smart blinds solution if you already own a Z-Wave enabled hub like SmartThings or Hubitat. The price also won’t break the bank compared to solutions that totally replace your blinds or require an additional bridge. Having them integrated with all the other smart home devices in your house opens a lot of possibilities for automating based on time, temperature, mode, or other scenes.