1) Unit control
2) Central control
Knowing the features, benefits and limitations of these two control categories gives you the power to make confident recommendations to your customers when selling automated window coverings.
Unit control is the typical mode of control for the simpler, less expensive value and mid-range systems sold to the mass consumer market. These value and mid-range systems usually are operated by an infrared remote control that sends a signal to a receiver eye mounted on the blind or shade. These systems are connected to a battery pack or a small, low-voltage power supply that plugs into a standard wall outlet.
The concept of unit control is quite simple. Each automated blind or shade is a complete system that operates as an independent single unit. An automated shade with unit control usually has its own receiver eye and power source connected directly to the shade in some manner.
There are several benefits to operating a window treatment with unit control. Systems relying on unit control are less expensive, self-contained and simple to install. You install these automated systems just like manual shades and blinds. Running wiring in the walls is generally not required. While these systems are relatively newer to the industry, confidence is gaining in them as a new means to tap into the mass marketplace to expand the automation industry.
Systems operated in unit control have one major limitation: control options. This limitation may become apparent when two or more shades are installed together as a group and are expected to operate at the same time. Your hand-held remote control is like a flashlight that shines invisible infrared light on the receiver eye of each shade. A narrow light beam will only hit one receiver eye at a time causing each blind to respond when the receiver eye "sees" the light signal. Simply stated, the blinds or shades may not all respond at the same time when you press the button on the remote.
For the majority of your customers, this level of control is perfectly acceptable. Most hand-held remote controls have multiple channels so you can control either two or three shades independently when the shades are close together. The problem is most evident with remotes that have a single channel or control button that provides less predictable, independent control when two shades are close together.
Central control is the preferred mode of control for the more expensive mid-range and heavy-duty systems sold for higher-end residential and commercial applications involving multiple shades in a group. These mid-range and heavy-duty systems usually offer a multi-channel infrared remote control as a standard feature along with additional control options such as a master wall switch or compatibility with home automation. These systems typically are hard-wired to a central control unit and powered through a low-voltage DC power supply or directly connected to standard 110 AC line voltage.
The concept of central control also is simple to understand when you think of the shades or blinds as members of a group. Usually the group of shades is defined as the number of shades in a room. With central control, all of the shades in a group are connected and controlled from a central location. A single receiver eye and the power source are connected to the central control unit, which is wired to each shade.
The benefits of central control include a greater variety of control options, better performance and less maintenance with a consistent, wired power source. Central control systems have a proven track record of high quality and durability compared to the more recent unit control systems. Additionally, as technology continues to change, these systems will have greater adaptability for using the most advanced controls to allow for your customers' needs.
Central control is not without its limitations. In order to have the variety of options, these systems tend to be both more complex to install and more expensive, ultimately limiting their market penetration. Not only are these systems more expensive to purchase, but they are more expensive and intricate to install, usually requiring an electrician or a knowledgeable installer to run wire.
BE IN CONTROL
Whether your customers choose systems that operate in unit control, central control or both, Techniku offers several solutions to your automation needs. Currently, three families of products are offered, two are focused on unit control and one is focused on central control. As technology continues to advance, Techniku combines the benefits of both of these systems into compatible hardware for simple control.
TrimLight™ is the simplest family of products using unit control. It includes all of the systems available for tilting vertical and horizontal blinds. Operated with batteries or a small, low-voltage power supply and controlled with a three-channel remote control, these systems remain the most affordable and functional products available for controlling light, heat and the view. TrimLight products are simple to fabricate onto a new blind or retrofit onto an existing blind, allowing for additional sales opportunities for those windows that can benefit from the convenience of automated control. They install as a typical manual product.
StyleLight™ is Techniku's second family of products operated with unit control. Similar to TrimLight, StyleLight uses batteries or a small, low-voltage power supply to control the lifting and lifting/tilting functions of shades or blinds. Once again, these systems are controlled with a hand-held, three-channel remote. Even with enhanced lifting features, this system remains simple to fabricate and install.
DayLight™ is the family of products that relies on central control. Like other central control shading systems, these shades also have several control options beyond a remote control, including a master wall switch and the ability to be linked with home automation through the central control unit. With central control, these automated window treatments respond in terms of groups, so they would have one receiver and power source hooked up to the central control unit, which sends the commands to the shades at the same time. These systems are targeted to more specialized functions and higher-end applications.
For the customer who has both unit and central control systems, Techniku offers the convenience of compatible control. A universal remote control can operate both unit control and central control systems by simply selecting the appropriate mode for the system you wish to control. In addition, the Chronolux™ Timer takes window treatment automation to the next level. It is a wireless, battery-operated remote control unit that mounts on a wall or tabletop. You can program your automated window treatment to open and close at desired times for privacy and view. It also can be used as a master wall switch to open and close blinds and shades any time.
By understanding the differences in how motorized systems are controlled, you can guide your customers with confidence to the automation solution that best fits their needs.
Robert W. Collett is the president of Techniku Inc. located in Denver, CO. He has been involved in the automation industry for more than 17 years.