Rodrigo Alvarez

Tinkering as a way of life

Home automation Project – Part 1: Intro & Actuators

Since I’m aware, there has been a ritual going on in my house. Every morning when everyone in the house wakes up, the blinds have to be raised (Having window blinds is a very typical thing in Spain) to let as much light in.

Who ever leaves last, or around 10 a.m. blinds have to be lowered just enough to let light in, but not direct sunlight. This is kept until someone arrives home or around 3 p.m when blinds are raised, and the sun shades are lowered (The objective is to let light in without damaging the colours of carpets and sofas while also keeping the temperature low in summer). The last operation is around dusk, when blinds are completely lowered and sun shades raised.

Sounds simple right? Well, my dad never gets it quite right making my mom angry. Don’t worry dad, I’ve got your back. (Anticipating his lower home workload he has proudly sponsored this project and helped in the installation)

The blinds

First of all, I had to start by adding actuators (a.k.a motors) to all the blinds. Fortunately it seems most of the constructive details are pretty much standard. I found these from a local distributor. (I believe they are actually chinese made). All you need to provide is a 220V power source near the window. They come with a generic remote control which can be paired on installation. Additional remotes that control more than one blind can be purchased separately. Easy!

After installation, I had a few problems of the remotes unpairing randomly. Each time I wanted to pair the remote again i had to get a ladder, open a junction box and carefully unscrew and screw a wire clamp. There was a high chance of receiving a shock, so I modified all blind boxes to add a switch.

The sun shades

The installation of blinds took longer than expected, therefore when the sun shade topic came up, Mother (although happy) decided we should take the commercial route. Unfortunately we didn’t have many choices around so we went with a french brand called “Somfy”. Their product has really worked flawlessly, however, their support is terrible. We had one of their distributors come by our house and install a new set of shades with a motor inside. I haven’t got a clue how he set everything up. I don’t like it!