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Most of us already have window shades installed, whether it's at home, the office, or any other space. It would be such a waste of money if we had to replace them, just to experience the magic of motorized shades.
Founder, Trung Pham, discovered this when he moved into his new apartment. He had installed a set of beautiful floor-to-ceiling 9’ by 9’ roller shades - ones that were controlled via beaded chains.
When summer came around, the heat from the sunlight made his apartment feel like a sauna! So he went back to the same retailer he purchased his roller shades from and asked to buy a motor that he could DIY install on his existing shades at home.
And that’s when he learned that once you buy manually controlled window shades, it was impossible to motorize them - you’d actually have to replace them with brand new motorized shades, which was quoted at over $1,500 per window!
The astronomically high cost makes it a deterrent for any customer, and once you decide against motorized shades, there were no retrofit solutions or accessories to allow you to motorize them.
That’s when Trung had his eureka moment! Trung thought of a simple DIY product, one that anyone could install on the window frame and would mimic a pulley to control the shades’ chains or cords. It would be the first ever retrofit or after-market device to motorize any window shade, regardless of size or weight, and a true affordable luxury.
And of course, it had to be smart - controllable via smart phone or voice, with the ability to set schedules and routines. As we began working on developing the device and learned about automated shades, the more we realized that there were huge benefits beyond the cost and convenience of our idea.
How does it do this? By automatically lowering shades when your space gets too hot and sunny from direct sun (something known as “solar heat gain”). By doing this, you rely less on your thermostat to cool your space.
The Department of Energy (DOE) reports that lowering your shades can reduce heat gain by about 45%, and thereby reduce energy spent on cooling. Blocking this “solar radiation” can make you feel 10-15 degrees (F) cooler. What this means is that, instead of having your thermostat use energy to cool your space, simply lower your shades to passively achieve your desired indoor temperature and improve your comfort level.
Just try it for yourself. Imaging yourself lying down in a park, directly under the sun - you’ll feel all that solar heat. But if you lie under the shade of a tree, you’ll feel significantly cooler - this is the same effect of having your shades automatically lower to cool your space!
While we thought SmartShades would primarily be sold to residential households, commercial buildings began reaching out to us. They wanted a simple solution to automate shades, not only for solar heat gain management, but also for something known as “daylighting” or “daylight harvesting” during overcast weather - this was a fancy term they used to say they wanted more natural lighting to illuminate their office space.
By reducing a buildings reliance of artificial indoor lighting, the building could save up to 74% in lighting energy use, as well as improve occupant morale and employee productivity by providing better views.
The more we looked into this, the more we learned about “LEED”, where SmartShades could contribute up to 15 out of 110 LEED NCv4 points.