This post is in partnership with Bali Blinds.
Over the years, slowly but surely, we’ve been adding and updating the window shades throughout our home. At this point, almost every window has a shade, and in our mostly open concept living spaces, we’ve found a good mix-n-match balance by sticking to two styles – Romans and solars. Our last few upgrades have included motorization, and we have loved every second of using a remote to raise and lower the blinds throughout the day. Not only does motorization eliminate the need for cords, but in choosing them, we also knew that these shades would have the ability to operate within a home automation system – if we ever decided to go down that path.
Spoiler, we totally go down that path(!), but allow me to set the scene. Every day around 6PM, I’ll take 5 minutes to walk around the home and flip on the kitchen, dining and living lights, dimming them just so. I lower all the solar shades in the front of our home to cut down on the sunset glare, and I might even light a candle. The house feels cozy and ready for the evening, and I like to think that our home is welcoming Scott back after a busy day of work. I do this routine on auto pilot, and it’s hardly a chore, but recently, our friends at Bali Blinds asked us if we were ready to consider the switch to a home automation system. In our minds, a smart home was finicky at best, although we had nothing to base this on other than our own fear of taking the leap.
After more gentle nudging (You’ll love it! No more remotes!, they said), we quickly fell down the smart home rabbit hole. We had a lot to learn, but we eventually found this article that helped us to narrow down the many, many options to SmartThings, Wink and Nexia. There were a handful of things to consider, but in our case, we needed to ensure that whichever hub we chose could support Z-wave, which is how the hub would communicate with the motorized blinds in our home. Nexia was the only system of the three that required a monthly fee, so it was nixed almost immediately. In the end, we happily (and nervously) landed on Wink, which ultimately boiled down to the ease of their website and the products and brands it’s able to have a conversation with (Bali Blinds, of course, but also Amazon Alexa, Leviton and Nest, all brands we either use already or have considered for future use). The hub itself was $99, but we also picked up a handful of dimmer switches in an attempt to dip our toes even further into the smart home waters. The dimmers can be pricey, but as smart homes become more prevalent, our hope is that these costs will start to subside.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Wink hub was slim (and cute!), and setting it up couldn’t have been easier! After downloading the Wink app, we were walked through the steps right on our phones to get the hub up and running. The hub is plugged into an outlet that’s hidden inside our fauxdenza, and it’s connected through our home’s wifi. Afterwards, we installed our first dimmers in the dining room, which synced up almost immediately with minimal effort through the app.
Connecting our motorized Bali Blinds was a more involved process (so many windows!), but now that it’s all set up, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the performance! There are three areas in our home that have Bali motorized shades – the living room, studio and master bedroom. That said, our bedroom Roman shades speak a different language than Z-wave, so a RTS to Z-wave converter was necessary. The small converter plugs into our wall, and it’s hidden behind my grandma’s chair, out of sight and out of mind. Important side note: Our bedroom shades were installed before Bali Blinds switched their motorization over to a new system called Auto View, which speaks Z-wave right out of the gate. Luckily, the solar shades in the living room and studio are all on the new system, so only one converter was necessary.
Bali Blinds is 100% supported by Wink, however, it’s not yet fully integrated into the app. As a result, getting the shades in our home to sync up to the app was challenging at first, but a call to Wink’s customer service solved everything. (By the way, their customer service is so friendly and helpful!) After a handful of steps, we not only got all of our solar shades synced up to our home automation system, but I was walked through the process of adding ‘shortcuts’ to a solo shade or a whole group at once. The blinds and dimmers are controlled through the app, accessible as individual products or a ‘shortcut’ that we’ve created.
These shortcuts? They’re magical, we tell you! We’ve set a scene for Daytime, Evening, Bedtime and Patio, and with the touch of one button on the app, the Evening shortcut does everything I used to do before Scott came home. With that one button (and without leaving my desk!), our blinds are lowered and the lights come on with a soft glow. Even more, in-app Robots allow our products to talk to one another, something we’ve yet to dabble in. For example, if we want our motorized shades to go down when we lock the front door, we can make that happen with the help of a smart lock.
We’ve been so geeked out over the home automation system, that we’ve invested even further with additional dimmers; all of our outdoor lights are now on Wink, so just as Evening will turn them on, Daytime will turn them off. A Roman shade for the laundry room will be getting installed as well (which we’ll be adding to our Bedtime shortcut, no doubt), and sooner than later, I have a feeling we’ll be jumping over to a smart thermostat, too.
The possibilities are overwhelming, in the best possible way. A smart outlet can be swapped in to start your morning coffee, or alternately, set the mood with plug-in lamps on movie night. If we integrate Alexa into the mix, we can simply ask her to set a scene, bypassing the Wink app altogether! (How’s that for lazy – and yet, awesome?)
Have you started a home automation system? We’re so new to the game, and we’re soaking in all the tips we can. What products have you found to be the most useful?
This post is sponsored by Bali Blinds, a brand we use and love, and one that gives us the gentle nudge we need to make our home smarter and safer. Our living room and studio windows are outfitted in Skylar White solars, and our bedroom and dining room have tailored Roman shades. Fabric samples are always free, and Bali Blinds can be purchased here. (If motorization is not a priority, did you know that Bali Blinds has a large selection available at West Elm? Check those out here!)
The only thing I’ve done so far is a wireless thermostat in our lower level and LOVE IT. I took the jump because of a rebate offer received from our utility company. I purchased the Honeywell Lyric. I intend to get another one for our main living area also. The old thermostat (is 12 years really that old?) I hated. The temp seems more consistent and I know we are not heating our LL when we are not using it. Often items I’d put the heat on manual and forget to put it back to program so the heat would kick on during the night. Total waste. I do want to make the switch with our lighting but just haven’t had the time to research yet. Oh and the garage door I definitely want to go wireless. Husband forgets to close it a lot :)
We’re thinking the thermostat is the next item on our list. Ours are decent, and we have them programmed, but we’d love to be able to control them a little easier without having to go into the full blown program mode EVERY time. Glad to hear it has been so worth it for you!
Yes! We have automated our home! We did it with the WeMo systen which does not require a hub. We just use an app on our phone or the Alexa system to control it. My husband purchased either smart light switches or plugs for our lamps. The smart light switches were switched out for the old (after turning electricity off), while the plugs allow anything to be plugged into them. We also have several short cuts (scenes) set up. In addition my husband can turn the alarm system off with the app, and also control the furnace/AC. Every room has a “name” so we just tell Alexa to “turn on bedroom lights”. Works great!
We’re considering outlets/plugs for our lamps, but there’s also the option for a smart bulb, too. Is there a reason why you chose the plug over the bulb for your lamps? Decisions, decisions.
We chose smart bulbs for a few lamps and they are cool and work fine. The only catch is that you can’t use the regular (on lamp) switch with them anymore! It seems like it wouldn’t matter, but sometimes it’s more of a pain to pull up the app and find the particular lamp you want to turn it on. This is where Alexa is great, because you can just say “Alexa, turn on the lamp.”
That’s such a great point, and something we’ve thought about as well!
We’re starting to dabble in home automation and it’s so fun! We have a simple on-off coffeemaker that is plugged into a smart-plug. We have a dot (mini-Alexa) in the bedroom and I can turn on the coffeemaker from bed with a simple voice command. We also plugged all our Christmas decorations into a smart-plug. “Alexa, turn on Christmas” turned everything on, it was awesome!
Aw, I love the idea of a ‘smart’ Christmas! :D
Is that a space heater under your office desks?!
Yup! It’s this one. We LOVE it (dogs included, ha!)
All I could pay attention to were your dogs snuggled up on one another. That is just the sweetest! Melts my heart.
What a fantastic evening ritual! I love the idea of having automated blinds- I absolutely hate the strings on blinds. They are difficult to hide and my child always plays with them. It is amazing how a simple touch such as lowering your blinds can transform a space and brings a different feel to all of your home decor.
I don’t have any kind of home automation system, but one thing I have been curious about is how well they work if you lose power. For example, if the blinds were up and the power went out, would there be a way to close them manually in the evening? I’m not super technological, so I might be missing something really obvious!
Great question! In our case, the blinds run on batteries, and there’s a small button on the header of each one to raise and lower the blinds without a remote or via the app.
Quick update to add: our light switches work on their own like any regular switch as well, so if we don’t want to fumble for our phones, we can simply click them on or off or dim.
We have only done our thermostat! We’re getting one step closer to being a smart home!
We use the Philips Hue lights in our home…and I love them, used with the app. For some reason, though, Alexa is a pain to tell to turn on/off lights since she never, ever understands what I want her to do. Smart products are great when they work…but a pain in the behind when they don’t.
That space heather is awesome. Adding it to my wishlist! BTW very useful post.