Automating Mini Blinds The Rental-Friendly Way

xxx super skinny[Chris Mullins] wanted to automate opening and closing the slats of mini blinds in his apartment, and came up with a system to do it as a fun project. Manually opening and closing the slats means twisting a rod. Seems straightforward to automate that, but as usual when having to work around something that already exists, making no permanent alterations, complications arose.

xxx super skinnyThe blinds are only 1 inch wide, leaving little room for mounting any sort of hardware. While there is a lot of prior art when it comes to automating blinds, nothing he found actually fit the situation [Chris] had, so he rolled his own.

The rod that is normally twisted to control the blinds is removed, and the shaft of a stepper motor takes its place. [Chris]’ mounting solution is made to fit blinds with narrow 1 inch tracks (existing projects he found relied on 2 inch tracks) and the 3D printed mount is fully adjustable, so the 28BYJ stepper motor can be moved into exactly the right position. Speaking of the stepper motor, the 28BYJ motor is unipolar but the A4988 driver he wanted to use is for bipolar steppers only. Luckily, cutting a trace on the motor’s PCB is all it takes to turn a unipolar motor into bipolar.

To drive the motor and provide wireless functionality, the whole thing works with a Wemos D1 ESP8266, an A4988 stepper driver, and a buck converter. While it worked fine as a one-off on a perfboard, [Chris] used the project as an opportunity to learn how to make a PCB using KiCad; the PCB project is here on GitHub and the ESP8266 runs the ESPHome firmware. Be sure to check out the project page on his blog for all the details; [Chris] links to all the resources there, and covers everything from a bill of materials to walking through configuration of ESPHome with integration into the open-source Home Assistant?project.

Looking to control natural light but blinds aren’t your thing? Maybe consider automated curtains.

Let There Be Automated Blinds!

More than once a maker has wanted a thing, only to find it more economical to build it themselves. When your domicile has massive windows, closing what can feel like a mile of blinds becomes a trial every afternoon — or every time you sit down for a movie. [Kyle Stewart-Frantz] had enough of that and automated his blinds.

After taking down and dismantling his existing roller blinds, he rebuilt it using 1-1/4 in EMT conduit for the blinds’ roll to mount a? 12V electric shade kit within — the key part: the motor is remote controlled. Fitting it inside the conduit takes a bit of hacking and smashing if you don’t want to or can’t 3D print specific parts. Reattaching the roller blind also takes a fair bit of precision lest they unroll crooked every time. He advises a quick test and fit to the window before moving on to calibrating and linking all your blinds to one remote — unless you want a different headache.

Now, to get Alexa to do your bidding.

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Automated Blinds Open The Window To Our Heart

[Brian Harms] made his living room window blinds open and close automatically?using servos, an Arduino, and a SmartThings Arduino shield. Best of all, it’s connected to his Amazon Echo so that merely saying “Alexa, turn on/off the blinds” will open and close them.

To accomplish the feat [Brian] used two laser cut acrylic gears; one of which was attached to the servo horn, and the other to the long square rod running the length of the blinds. Despite using the bulky Arduino and shield, the finished product is inconspicuous and streamlined, and the single Arduino controls all three of the blinds in the living room. [Brian] answered a bunch of questions on a Reddit thread.

Blinds are a common connected home hack, and while none of the hacks?we’ve covered in the past were voice activated, we have seen temp-sensitive blinds and a Raspberry Pi-based solution.

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Raspi AC And Blinds Controller

raspiBlindsACController

[Chris’s] bedroom has a unique setup with an air conditioning unit perched on the wall next to the top of the blinds that cover his window. Normally, to open the blinds he had to tug on a cord and operating the AC meant fiddling with a remote control. Not anymore. Now [Chris] has an all-in-one Raspberry Pi-based solution to drive both.

The build uses a stepper motor salvaged from a printer to directly drive the blinds, with a familiar-looking Easy Driver connecting it to the Pi. The motor spins the blinds’ mechanism either open or closed, though at a modest pace that’s slow enough to provide the needed torque. [Chris] added an IR diode plugged into the Pi that imitates the air conditioning unit’s remote control, and simply pointed it directly at the unit’s receiver. An inexpensive WiFi dongle gets the Pi onto the network, allowing [Chris] to interact via a custom web interface. The interface itself not only provides a couple of clickable buttons, but a cleverly-designed status image indicating the position of the blinds.

Make sure you see the video below for a demonstration and for more details on the build. This is one of the better examples of home automation devices we’ve seen recently, especially considering it actually fits the “autonomous” implications discussed in our Ask Hackaday post from a few months back—although a relatively simple automation, [Chris’s] interface does allow for operating both the blinds and the AC on a preselected schedule.

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Temp-Sensitive Automatic Blinds

blindMinder

Any opportunity to shave a few bucks off your power bill is probably worth considering, especially if it’s a device like [Steve Hoefer’s] Mini Blind Minder.?This little guy staves off (or welcomes) the sun by monitoring the room with a temperature sensor and checking against a setpoint. If the room is too warm or too cool, the top-mounted servo will spin the wand and close or open the blinds, respectively.

[Steve] started by building a homemade Arduino shield from some perfboard to which he added a handful of discrete components: some current-limiting resistors for the RGB LED indicator light and a 10k trim pot for fine-tuning the temp sensor. Although this build forgoes an LCD readout to display precise information, it does provide feedback by stepping the RGB LED’s color through a spectrum of blue to red to indicate how the current room temperature compares to your setpoint. The two momentary pushbuttons beneath the light allow the user to adjust the setpoint up or down.

See the video below for a detailed guide to building your own, and take a look at a similar automatic blinds build from earlier this year that opens and closes in response to ambient light.

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Hidden Servo Automates Slat-style Window Blinds

slat-blind-automation

[Home Awesomation] has been working on automating his slat-style window blinds. His focus has been on adjusting the angle of the slats, not on completely retracting the shades. Since the slat angle adjustment requires little torque a servo motor turns out to be just perfect for the job. The good news is that the existing blinds in his house have room in the top enclosure to completely hide his add-on hardware.

The image above is a screenshot from the demo which you can watch after the break. The top enclosure for the blinds is just shown at the top of the frame. Here [HA] is demonstrating a few different control designs which he has been trying out. You can see what looks like a Molex connector with some type of component attached to it. That’s an IR motion sensor and he’s really happy with its performance. He feels the same way about the black momentary push switch sticking down next to the power cable. But his DIY solution that works quite well is the pull string attached to a flexible piece of metal. When that metal bends enough to touch a stationary conductor it completes the circuit, telling the Arduino to start driving the servo.

The main idea behind the project is to poll a temperature sensor, closing the blind automatically to help keep the place cool during the day. We figure if he’s already using a microcontroller to drive the project he might as well throw a cheap Bluetooth in module there and make it controllable with a smart phone.

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Automated Blinds

Inspired by the multitudes of other automated window blind projects, [John] decided to build his own simpler design. Knowing his Arduino was massive overkill (yes, we hear you all cheering) he picked up a picaxe 08m starter kit. ?Looking at his very simple circuit, you’ll notice there are no resistors or capacitors. ?He designed it to take commands from his PC via IR. The final product is fairly well hidden, and should his girlfriend ever be upgraded to wife, we assume he’ll hide it better. Good job [John]. We’re no strangers to automated blinds, we’ve seen them a few times.