Making Motorized Shades Work For You

motorized shades 0313

motorized-shades-0313If there’s any bellwether that can be used to ascertain whether a product category has reached the big time, it’s the number of groups who are trying to get a piece of the pie.

Automated window coverings have been a growth category for AV pros for years now. In addition to growing demand from clients who desire both the convenience and energy savings that motorized shading offers, in the last year I’ve noticed a clear indication of its continued growth: Custom window covering companies are diving into automation, both manufacturers of shades and blinds and the otherwise décor-centric sales and design companies who’ve decided to get the motorization business in addition to the drapery business.

In some ways this mirrors the thinking behind the expansion of theater and entertainment seating in years past: Your customer is going to buy it anyway, so instead of letting them buy it from a furniture store get them to buy it from you!

If your company’s primarily been an AV focused firm in the past, don’t worry: Motorized window coverings are easy, and I’m about to make it easier.

First, swallow your AV nerd pride, and partner up with your client’s interior designer.
I know full well that, under normal circumstances AV pros and interior designers (DON’T call them decorators!) get along as well as Pirates and Ninjas. However, having professional interior designer on your side in your local marketplace is a huge asset, not just in terms of smoothing out disagreements on the jobsite, but also for lining up future business referrals.

Motorized window coverings is one category where both you and the designer can find common ground. Designers often show a great deal of interest in motorized shading, and since much of their ability to make their client’s dreams a reality comes from “knowing a guy,” you want to be their automation guy.

Beyond getting along, partnering with the designer is crucial because you need to know the intimate details of the designer’s choice of both the type of window coverings and the materials used.

So you’re going to have to learn to speak their language: horizontal, vertical, venetian, drapes, muslin, silk, plastic, bamboo and so on. Why? Because knowing exactly what kind of covering is going on each window, and their dimensions and mass is central to getting the job done.

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There’s no such thing as a universal one-size-fits-all window shade motor, so the dealer is going to need to order an exact match from your shading vendor for each window. Think this through — in a big house there, will be 20 or more unique motors on a single job.
Obviously, you need to take exact measurements. Since motorized window coverings are almost always made custom order, you need to measure each window area three times at least for each measurement: height, width, sill depth and casement offset. YOUR team needs to take these measurements too; don’t rely on getting them third hand from the general contractor, and don’t take the measurements on the architectural drawings at face value either.

Never mind “measure twice, cut once;” measure THREE TIMES, ORDER AND INSTALL ONCE.
That’s a lot of design work, especially for big homes, and it may seem like a hassle, but it’s nothing like the hassle that will come from having motor fixtures that won’t properly fit the client’s windows. That may sound daunting, but don’t worry: your team are trained professionals with great attention to detail. You’ll be fine.

Finally, develop a partnership with your motorized shading vendor.

Let me tell you a secret: Even if they haven’t met you yet, shading vendors love you and want your business.

The level of support you can expect from a shading vendor is well beyond anything you’re used to from AV manufacturers. The sales reps for these vendors typically have significant design and install experience, and will happily schedule time to meet the install team on a jobsite and do on-the-job training, from taking proper measurements to assisting in the final install.

That just makes sense. It’s in their best interests for dealers to be crack installers, and the investment in supporting dealers pays off in long term shading business. If only more manufacturers in the AV business felt that way…

Lee Distad is a rAVe columnist and freelance writer covering topics from CE to global business and finance in both print and online. Reach him at