Today, I challenge you to find a new TV for sale without remote control. It's not about lazy. It's about a new standard. We use motors now to open and close our garage doors, to lock our car doors and to adjust the exterior rear-view mirrors on our cars.
This new standard is pervading more aspects of our lives and many functions of our homes. Many mid- to upper-level home builders are promoting their products as being pre-wired for the present and the future, capable of conducting signals throughout the home for controlling security, lighting and heating, entertainment and communications. Home automation is developing into an entire industry unto itself.
So, let me rephrase my initial question. Who will sell the motorization for the window coverings to your customers? A certain percentage of your customers will buy automation if offered. Some of them will add it later even if you don't sell it to them. If you are not, at the very least, offering it when you sell the window covering, you open the door for someone else to make that sale.
LEVEL OF INVOLVEMENT
There are different kinds of motor systems for various types of window coverings. Adding motorization can be relatively simple or it can be somewhat complex. More advanced levels of expertise may be required depending upon the level of automation desired. There also is more than one way to get motorization added to your window covering products. These are what we'll address next so you can determine the level of involvement that might be required of you in selling these different systems.
If you choose to offer motorization, there are three ways to get it onto your window covering.
1. Order it from your fabricator along with the window covering.
2. Once you receive the window covering, send it out to a third party who specializes in motorization to have it added and sent back to you.
3. Buy components and convert the window covering to a motorized system yourself before you install it or deliver it.
One way to get your window covering motorized is to order it that way from your fabricator, if that is an option. As the popularity of motorization grows, more fabricators are offering motorization systems on at least some of their products. If there is one that works for your application, you can order everything you need with one purchase order. The advantage: one-stop shopping. Is there a reason you might not want to buy motorization this way?
If your fabricator does not offer motorization, or if you choose not to use what is offered, you either can have a company that specializes in motorization retrofit your window covering for you, or you might opt to retrofit it yourself. Why would you do this? Well, you might need something that goes beyond the limitations of your fabricator's offering, either in terms of the type of product to be motorized or in terms of size restrictions. What other advantages might accrue to you from retrofitting?
When you customize your window covering by adding an automation system, you remove the commodity aspect from that product. It is more difficult for customers to shop you in order to negotiate a lower price. It even may be more difficult for them just to find another dealer who offers the same system. And, with all the motorization companies and systems to choose from, you can custom tailor a system suited to your customer's specific needs.
At Techniku, we have organized the various types of automated systems into groups based on criteria of capacities, complexities and cost so we can more easily define the requirements of dealing with each type of system. We use four categories to define any motorization system.
The first, we call Value Systems, simple, inexpensive, battery-powered systems, providing entry-level automation. Next are Mid-range Systems, hard-wired, low-voltage systems that have greater capacity at somewhat higher cost. For very large window coverings, Heavy-duty Systems have the capacity to lift or move just about any window treatment of any size. The cost is generally greater and installation may be more complex. Specialty Systems are those used to automate curved, angled or inclined treatments.
We refer to the battery-powered motors as Value Systems because they are the most economical and easiest to use and install. Battery systems are available mainly for pleated or cellular shade lift or for blind tilt and lift/tilt. They are most commonly controlled via infrared remote. These remotes often have several frequencies so that side-by-side window coverings may be adjusted individually. They retail under $150. Many fabricators are offering some sort of battery system on some of their products. Or, these are some of the easiest systems that can be retrofitted at the dealer level. And, when you provide the labor to retrofit, you increase your opportunity for profit on that product.
Sometimes, you need more power capacity than batteries can provide. Mid-Range systems are low voltage units that have a transformer so they can be plugged into regular household outlets, securing a greater and more consistent power source. Wiring from the outlet to the window covering needs to be hidden some way. Different mid-range systems provide lift and lift/tilt functions for cellular shades, pleated shades, horizontal blinds, roller shades and roller shadings. Some drapery traverse systems also fall into this category. Control is commonly provided either via infrared remote, a wired wall switch or a combination of both. Cost for these systems is generally $300, or less.
Heavy-Duty systems will lift or move just about anything you can put on a window. And they can be controlled by just about any means your customer might require, from a simple wall switch to infrared or radio remote to integration into a full home automation CPU system. The motors in heavy-duty systems are AC line voltage motors to achieve the kind of capacities required in these systems. They may easily cost up to 10 times as much as battery-operated systems or some of the low-voltage wired systems. Unless you are a specialist, you will want to use one of the motorization companies for retrofitting. And, because they are high-voltage motors, you need the services of a licensed electrician to run the wiring for you. Even with that, there are applications where nothing less will do the job.
There are some Specialty Systems available for some of those already hard-to-treat windows consisting of angles, curves and skylights. Specialty systems can overlap characteristics, pricing and wiring requirements of all of the three prior categories. Generally, you will have specialty systems fabricated for you, either by your fabricator or by a specialist. Automation is not limited to standard windows.
I hope these definitions will help you in evaluating the various systems available to you in terms of your application requirements. Align yourself with a motorization specialist that best meets those requirements. We invite you to check us out at Techniku where we sell both systems and components with new products coming out soon and next year. Happy motoring!
John Bagwill is the eastern regional sales engineer for Techniku, Inc., Denver, CO. Bagwill has devoted more than 30 years to the window coverings industry. His experience runs the gamut from installer, retailer, fabricator, wholesaler, trainer and sales representative.