May 24, 2023 - As you begin the process of choosing window shades for your home, there are several choices you will be making. The most obvious, of course, are fabric style and color and how the shades will operate. One important choice you may not have considered is how to communicate with your window shades.
Communication type determines how data and commands get from you to the shade motors. There are four main types of communication found in Draper at Home window shades.
Wired controls are simply that: wall switches are wired directly to a line voltage (120-volt) motor. This is the simplest form of communicating with a shade motor, and it requires hard wiring. The switches communicate simple “Up,” “Down,” and “Stop” commands. However, through the addition of other optional devices, control can be accomplished by low voltage switches, RF remote, and even other “smart” technologies.
RTS Radio Frequency
RTS is an acronym for “Radio Technology Somfy.” As the name implies, it is a radio frequency-based protocol that is only available on motors by Somfy. RTS motors have a built-in radio receiver for wireless control of shades. Even though these motors use RF to communicate, you’ll still need to run wiring for 120-volt power.
Control is accomplished via handheld remotes or wireless wall switches located within a 65-foot radius from the motor. However, you don’t have to point the remote or switch at the shade; like a standard garage door opener, RTS shade signals are omnidirectional. Light sensors can also be used with RTS motors. You can also connect RTS shades to smart home systems with the Somfy TaHoma hub.
This is another type of radio frequency communication. The Zigbee protocol differs from RTS (see above).
Zigbee wireless technology operates on a mesh network. That means each device on the network acts as a wireless receiver and transmitter of data. Data and communications are routed to every device, so that they are all sharing information with one another. This means you don’t have to be near a central receiver, only within range of a shade or other device. The Zigbee network is self-healing; if one device stops functioning, network devices simply find other pathways to communicate. Zigbee communication goes in both directions; not only can you send commands, but you can also receive data such as the current position of your shades. Zigbee can also connect with smart home systems.
RS485 is not a communications protocol. It is the method used to deliver communications. Draper at Home RS485 shades use an encoded line voltage motor. The motor can either be hard-wired or plugged in to a standard electrical outlet. Communication is via low voltage over a two-wired bus, which is used by home automation systems. RS485 shades can be configured to control individual shades or a group of them.
Which type of shade communication you choose depends on what you want to accomplish, and whether or not you are OK running certain types of wiring. To compare the various shade control, power, and communication options, visit DraperAtHome or contact your Draper representative.
By Terry Coffey