Smart living project: In this article about the Smart Living Project we discuss everything that has to do with the windows. For example, the automated skylights are discussed, we look at the sun blinds and we discuss the window decoration.
Last month we took a closer look at energy and climate and smart lighting in the home. In this article, we look at a product group that, like lighting, is very suitable for a smart makeover: the windows. In the smart house, the skylights will be fully automated, smart Duettes will be hung in many places and we will add some atmosphere through automatically opening and closing curtains.
What is the Smart Living Project?
Together with a large number of partners, we are going to make a new-build house completely ‘smart’. We have been involved in the process of orienting, choosing, comparing, installing, programming and using for over a year. We show what the different options are, what the different parties have to offer and why the relevant systems have been chosen for the specific needs of this new-build home.
Skylights in smart living project
Three skylights are provided on the 1st floor of our house: two skylights are placed in the smaller bedrooms and one skylight is in the laundry room. Since the skylight in the bedrooms is important for both the light and the passive ventilation, we decided to fully automate these two skylights. This means that we want to control the opening and closing of the skylight as well as the opening and closing of the sun blinds and window decoration of the skylight using the smart home system.
There are not many options in the market to achieve this complete package. The two main players in this field are Fakro and Velux. We chose Fakro for a number of reasons. For example, Fakro uses the Z-Wave protocol for the motorized roof windows, so that they can communicate directly with the Homey, our smart home hub. Fakro has developed an app for Homey with which all functions of the skylight itself and the accompanying sun protection and window decoration can be used. In addition, unlike Velux, it is an open protocol and we are therefore not dependent on the API of the manufacturer. Finally, it was also a bit more favorable in terms of price to choose Fakro.
The Z-Wave roof windows from Fakro are therefore equipped with a motor. This means that you can (partially) open or close the windows at the touch of a button. The screens, which are on the outside and block sunlight and heat, are also motorized. And even the roller blind on the inside is equipped with a motor. All components are connected to the roof window and can communicate via Z-Wave with the smart home hub and its own remote control. The Z-Wave connoisseurs may know that a Z-Wave device can only be added to one network and that would mean that you have to choose between the supplied remote control and the smart home hub.
All three products have Z-Wave so that they can communicate directly with the Homey. In this way we can create flows where, for example, the screens close automatically when it is warmer than 24 degrees outside and the sun is full on the window. Or a flow where the skylights automatically close when it starts to rain. We can also automatically close the roller blind during a “going to bed scene” and automatically close all skylights when you are not there.
In addition to skylights, Fakro also has skylights that have a motor and can communicate with a smart home hub via Z-Wave. We have provided one skylight in the roof of the terrace to bring more light into the kitchen and under the roof itself. There is no need to be able to open and close the skylight as there is already sufficient ventilation under the canopy. However, it is useful to provide the skylight with sun protection. This way you can keep the sun away from the terrace and (part of) the kitchen during hot days. We therefore provide the skylight with motorized interior sun blinds (on the underside of the roof). No remote control is included here, but we can easily operate this sun blind with the tablet on the wall or a button on one of the scene switches.
Smart living project- Blinds
The left side of the house is in the sun almost all day and is (also for that reason of course) equipped with most windows. The house can heat up quickly in the summer and to prevent overheating, the windows are prepared for sun protection. You can choose any kind of sun protection here, as long as there is a normal motor in it. We have opted for Warema external blinds that work on a standard motor. We extend the wires from the motor to the technology room, where we have a Z-wave actor ( Fibaro Roller Shutter) to connect. We do not provide a physical switch for the awning. The external blinds can be operated with the tablet, the smartphone or assigned buttons on one of the scene switches. Basically, however, the external blinds work fully automatically: when the sun is shining hard and the temperature rises, they close automatically.
Indoor window decoration is the least effective at keeping the heat out, but for keeping the heat in and that little bit of extra atmosphere it does have value. There is plenty of choice when it comes to window decoration, but not everything can be automated. Heavy shutters, for example, cannot be equipped with a motor. However, the most important thing is that you choose window decoration that suits your taste and interior. Then you can start looking at the possibilities of automating the window decoration. Just like with the sun blinds, you can choose to install window decoration with a standard motor on which an actor (for example a Fibaro Roller Shutter) can be installed. You can also choose to buy a complete system that is already smart and has integration with the smart home hub of your choice.
Which solution is most suitable depends on various factors, as we have experienced ourselves. Looking purely at the taste and the interior, the choice fell on Duettes for all windows on the ground floor and for the windows in the bathroom. Based on this wish, we started looking for the possibilities and soon we found out that the type of fabric, the weight of the fabric, the pleat width and the surface of the windows determine whether the window decoration can be controlled by a motor. A heavy fabric with a large surface and a wide pleat width limits your options because the motor has to be bigger and heavier. Looking at the windows with the largest surface, a pleat width of 64mm and the desired semi-transparent fabric, it turned out to be impossible to find a standard motor with which to equip all windows.
Eventually we started looking at complete systems and we ended up with Luxaflex. With some minor adjustments it was possible with Luxaflex Powerview to make the desired window decoration with the desired fabric and the desired pleat width in the desired surfaces. We will equip the entire ground floor and the large upstairs bathroom with Luxaflex Duettes, including 230v motors and Powerview. We can operate the window decoration in different ways. For example, all Duettes can be operated via the Luxaflex Powerview app and remote controls are included to quickly set the Duettes in the correct position. With the Powerview app you can create scenes yourself, link Duettes together and create relatively simple scenarios, for example based on time. This is fine for quick operation in between, but a smart home is only really smart when everything is automated. Fortunately, Luxaflex has also developed an app for Homey with which the different scenes that you have created in Powerview can be activated. For example, you can activate a specific scene based on triggers within Homey. For example: the television switches on and it is light outside, then the Duettes in the TV room close. Or, when you go to bed, all the Duettes close. Or, the shower is turned on, then the Duettes in the bathroom are half closed. If the integration with Homey is lost (for example because Luxaflex changes the API and / or no longer supports the app) there is always a detour via IFTTT.
The Duettes add some atmosphere, of course, but for some extra color and warmth there is the desire to also place curtains in front of the large windows. This is on the ground floor the entire rear of the house and the large windows in the bay window. And of course it is the desire to be able to close and open those curtains fully automatically.
There are numerous solutions available for automating your curtains. You can fly in a complete and cheap rails from China and operate it with the Tuya platform, you can buy a compact product like the Slide and control your existing curtain via WiFi / app or you can buy a complete rail with motor from different brands and operate the curtain with your smartphone. We mainly looked for design, quality and the possibility of connecting the curtain rails to the smart home hub as directly as possible. These three factors quickly pushed us towards the Dutch Forest.
Forest is a manufacturer that focuses entirely on window decoration and especially curtain rail systems. The company attaches great importance to quality, has various designs from which to choose and offers with the Forest Shuttle a curtain rails that have Z-Wave. The latter of course sounded like music to our ears, especially since a Forest app has also been developed for Homey. Without the intervention of servers or APIs, the curtain rails can therefore be operated quickly and locally by the smart home hub.
We have opted for the Shuttle L 230v motor, but Forest has various other options, including 24v motors and motors with battery. You can also opt for a motor with WiFi (with the Forest Connect app), 433Mhz communication (HomeWizard, Domoticz, etc), Z-Wave Plus (compatible with Homey, Fibaro and SmartThings) or hardwired 230v (Crestron, KNX, etc) .). Each motor also comes with RF so that a remote control can be linked to it. Finally, almost all engines support Google Assistant (with Google Home), Siri and Amazon Alexa.
The curtains can therefore be operated in many ways. You can use the remote control, you can give voice assistants a command with your voice and of course you can create scenarios when the motorcycle is connected to Homey. This integration with the smart home hub also makes it possible to use other buttons / switches in the house to open or close the curtains. And if you stand in front of the curtain and want to open or close it, you can always use the touch control function. With a light pull on the curtain, the whole thing starts to move.
In addition to the motor, you also have a choice of different rails. By default, the motorized rail (FMS) is applied to the Shuttle motor. The FMS rail is available in three color variants: white, silver and black. The Shuttle L motor is available in the same color variants. Forest also has a built-in solution: FMS Plus in combination with a built-in profile. There is also a design rail with LED lighting: DS-XL LED. It is available in two colors: white and anthracite. Finally, there is the motorized rod solution (MRS). We have opted for the black FMS rails.
Good quality, something for everyone in terms of design, various control options and numerous options to connect the rails to your smart home platform. In our opinion, that is a good basis for choosing a product. If you are going to use a different smart home system in the future, you can purchase another module for the engine or replace the engine.
Window decoration and skylights: costs and alternatives
You pay a hefty premium for skylights, screens and roller blinds that come with a motor. For a skylight that is fully motorized, the additional cost in our case is approximately 600 euros for the skylight itself, 400 euros for the screen and 150 euros for the roller blind. There are not many smart skylights, especially if they also want to connect to your home automation system. An obvious alternative is Velux, which uses its own protocol / app and can be linked to Homey. The price of Velux is slightly higher than that of Fakro.
For the sun blinds for the normal windows, the surcharge is four times an actor to control the motors (50 euro ps) and in principle these actors can be connected to any sun blinds system. So you have a lot of choice, as long as a standard motor is used to which an actor can be connected.
The Luxaflex Duettes with PowerView are a considerable cost item, but, as described above, it can also be cheaper if you are more flexible in fabrics, surfaces and pleat widths. It is difficult to name an alternative to our solution as this is a tailor-made product with many variables that influence the price. It must be said that at Luxaflex you also pay a premium for the Powerview platform. Alternatives are products that use motors from, for example, Somfy or Brel. Sunway is also a brand that advertises home automation integration.
As far as the curtains are concerned, you can be ready for a few hundred euros with, for example, a Slide and for even less money you can fly something from China. Please note that a rail is still required, that several products have to be purchased or that parts still have to be made to measure. We have consciously opted for quality, design, flexibility and ease of use. In our opinion, that is worth the investment. The Forest solution is a tailor-made all-in-one solution, which in our setting is priced at around 1,500 euros.