Windows coverings are often an afterthought in home automation. And when it comes to the concept of the healthy home, shades and blinds are not the first thing on homeowners’ minds.
Recently, at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas, TecHome Builder sat down with O’D McKewan and Scot Dietz, general manager and CEO, respectively, of 3 Blind Mice Window Coverings.
3 Blind Mice, a specialized retailer of automated window shades based out of San Diego, sees the trends of the TecHome and Healthy Home evolving exponentially.
McKewan and Dietz discuss, in their own words, how window coverings play an important role in the Healthy Home’s growth. You can use their knowledge to guide you when working with your local dealer.
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TecHome Builder: So, first off, tell us a bit about what you do at your company.
O’D McKewan: With everything becoming automated, as far as the HVAC and lighting systems, we tie our shades in with those systems to accent and help these systems, as well as add security. It all meshes together so you can have enhanced service. So, for example, if you’re going off of HVAC, we have energy efficient window coverings that, if you’re in a hot climate, you’re going to have window coverings that drop automatically during the daytime to keep your internal temperature the same. Therefore, your air conditioning wouldn’t have to work so hard. On that same concept, in the wintertime you can gain heat. You bring the shades up, let some thermal heat come through, and then drop it down as soon as the sunlight leaves in order to maintain it.
TecHome Builder: You mention lighting as well. How would shades tie into that?
McKewan: As far as lighting goes, it is similar in that we have sensors that monitor how much light comes through. This way, you can lower or raise the lighting in your homebased on how much natural light is coming through. We also work with security. We have shades that are tied into fire alarms, home burglar alarms, where the shades will go up or down automatically depending on the situation.
TecHome Builder: Where do you see these types of integration/home automation trends going?
McKewan: Ease of use. The big thing right now is thermostats. Nest is the talk of the town and everyone’s buying that. But that’s such a small portion of automation. I believe the homes will be ready and plug and play when people first move in. Then they can go down to the store and integrate whatever they like into the already integrated system. The other thing that’s taking off, especially in our industry, is app-control based products. Everything will be from the phone and you’ll never need to touch a button again. It’s already that way now, where you have one app that can control your lights, your shades, your TV, your air conditioner, thermostat, all of that.
TecHome Builder: What can builders learn from these innovations and new products?
McKewan: There are two things I would say to the builder who is trying to get tech-savvy. One, find a product that they’re comfortable with and start with that. Build upon that, and then they’ll be able to expand. Assuming you get involved with building with tech, the faster you will be able to master it. At least get involved with it. The technology is getting simpler, better, less expensive and more available. Old TecHomes were for the millionaires only. That’s not the case anymore.
TecHome Builder: How does what you do play into the concept of the “Healthy Home?”
McKewan: In our industry, we have low-VOC products. We have PVC-free products. So our industry is involved with it. I think the most interesting thing we’re doing towards this concept is just keeping the energy efficiency up. Security contributes to the Healthy Home atmosphere. We do have products also that are dust repellent, and that plays into the HVAC/IAQ. Draperies are notorious for dust and mold collecting. So get rid of those products, and you already have a healthier home.
Scot Dietz: And Healthy Home ties into sleep as well. Blacking out the shades at night. Opening them up in the morning to wake up to natural light.
McKewan: You can have the sunlight be your alarm, instead of a buzzing alarm clock.
Dietz: Also, keeping your child safe at night.
McKewan: That’s a good point. A lot of our work has gone into child safety and pet safety too. An issue that’s really popular right now in our industry, in relation to child safety, is cord free shades. Shades that don’t have pull-lift cords for children or pets to get wrapped up in. You don’t want any strangulation issues. There are even laws against certain shades being made now, which five years ago were the norm.