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THE 9 STEPS TO DESIGNING A LOW VOLTAGE SHADING SOLUTION

The Next Generation in Engineered Shading Solutions

DESIGNING A LOW-VOLTAGE SHADING SOLUTION

1. Defining Expected Functionality

2. Basic Motor Requirements 

3. Wireless Control 

4. Wired Control

5. Network Control 

6. Selecting Power Supply 

7. Correct Wiring and Layout 

8. Complimentary Controls, Automation Inputs and User Interfaces

9. Shading Integration with Third-Party Systems

 

1. Defining Expected Functionality

Every project comes with its unique set of prerequisites. A lack of a detailed outline or a grasp of the desired user experience can lead to a project being either underdeveloped or bloated with unnecessary features. It's crucial to clearly understand the control hierarchy for managing systems at the local, group, and global levels.

 

Incorporating automation demands careful consideration of environmental inputs—like temperature fluctuations, wind speed, precipitation, solar radiation, seasonal changes, and the time of day—is vital for selecting appropriate system components. Additionally, understanding whether the shading system needs to be integrated with other building systems—such as lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), audio-visual (AV) setups, security, and fire alarms—is essential to project planning.

 

Finally, determining the necessity for advanced user interaction through smart devices, computers, and home automation systems is imperative. This includes local and off-site access, offering remote capabilities that give users control wherever they are.

 

2. Motor Selection Guide

Motor lift capacity is measured in Newton Meters (Nm), with 6 Nm typically being sufficient for most shades and allowing multiple units to be connected for cost efficiency. For larger or special shades, consider a 10 Nm low-voltage option.

 

Quiet operation is crucial for quality shading systems. Aim for motors with noise levels at or below 35 dB. Super quiet 33 dB options are available in a larger 45 mm size for spaces where noise reduction is paramount.

 

Integrated motor controllers with multiple inputs can replace external control hardware, adding design flexibility. Dry-contact control, which consolidates electronics within the motor for simple switch operation, is preferred.

 

Soft start and stop functions and programmable rolling speeds enhance the user experience by preventing jerky motions and noise and adjusting to specific needs. Consistent speed, regardless of load, ensures synchronized shade alignment—a must for large window facades.

 

Obstacle detection is essential to protect motorized shades from blockages. Smaller 35mm motors offer an aesthetically pleasing option without large mounting requirements, while 45 mm motors support wider shades.

 

Ease of installation and programming is important, with low-voltage motors allowing for extended operation without overheating—check for at least 5 minutes of continuous run time. Energy efficiency is also key, with optimal motors using under 70 watts in operation and less than 0.5 watts idle.

 

Lastly, ensure your low-voltage motors are UL-certified for quality and safety, as poorly manufactured options often lack such credentials.

 

3. Wireless Control Overview

Wireless control comes in two forms: uni-directional, where motors receive and controllers send commands, and bi-directional, enabling two-way communication of commands, acknowledgments, and status updates for real-time system interaction.

 

Integrated wireless and dry-contact motor controls offer a versatile and cost-effective solution for managing shading systems, supporting local to global operations. This approach provides a scalable control infrastructure suitable for various project needs.

 

Wireless Mesh Network motors enhance range and functionality beyond the standard 65-foot limit, re-transmitting signals to extend coverage. This networked approach ensures seamless control, even over large distances, and supports real-time position feedback for precise shade adjustment through slider control.

 

For security, meshed motors utilize encrypted rolling codes, minimizing interference and unauthorized access while ensuring faster and more reliable command execution.

 

4. Wired Control Simplified

For larger projects, dry-contact input is often necessary, allowing up to 8 motors to be controlled by a single switch. It's ideal for integrating master timers, sun, wind sensors, HVAC, and security systems for comprehensive control.

 

Integration with various systems like lighting, HVAC, and security should prefer dry-contact over software solutions, which depend heavily on the expertise of systems integrators. Dry-contact, using relays managed by a master controller such as a home automation processor, simplifies integration by directly issuing commands to shades without complex programming.

 

This approach also clarifies vendor accountability, as the absence of shared software and digital data exchange makes it easier to identify system issues. Dry contact is a protective measure, preventing a malfunction in one system from impacting others and ensuring independent operation.

 

5. Network Control Essentials

Networked motor systems offer advanced control for large-scale projects, combining digital and dry-contact capabilities for sophisticated shading solutions. Centralized controllers digitally dispatch commands to motors, enhancing functionality.

 

However, designing and implementing networked systems demands expertise in digital communication to achieve optimal performance with minimal maintenance. Inadequate setup can lead to complex commissioning and operational challenges. Consulting with shading experts is advised for digital control projects.

 

While offering extensive control, networked systems also increase project costs. Evaluate the necessity of such advanced control against project needs and budget, as many projects may be efficiently managed with simpler wireless or wired control systems.

 

6. Power Supply Options for Shade Motors

Shade motors can be powered either by wired connections or internal batteries. Wired motors typically need 24V DC from transformer panels or plug-in units, while battery-powered motors offer a self-contained, easy-to-install solution.

 

NEC codes set safety standards for 24V systems, limiting single transformer/wire combinations to 100 watts to reduce fire and electrocution risks. This translates to a maximum of 4 amps per transformer, usually necessitating one motor per transformer for safety.

 

Power arrangements often involve one transformer per motor to prevent overloading, with most motors using less than 3 amps. Calculations for power requirements and transformer capacity are crucial to ensure system safety.

 

Safety certifications like Limited Power Source (LPS Pass) or Class 2 are essential for all low-voltage power supplies, indicating protection against common hazards. Larger power supplies using fuse panels must comply with NEC regulations to prevent overloading and ensure safety.

 

Panelized transformers are preferred for large installations, while plug-in transformers suit smaller setups. Both options are safe, though plug-in variants may not support larger motors due to their lower power capacity.

 

To avoid proprietary issues, battery-powered motors should have internal rechargeable batteries, ideally with USB charging. Look for motors that offer hundreds of cycles per charge and maintain quiet operation similar to wired models.

 

7. Wiring and Layout Tips

Use the correct low-voltage power supply wire to prevent voltage drop, which can affect system performance, especially over long distances. A 24V motor, for example, won't work well if the voltage drops significantly. Utilize online calculators to determine the right wire gauge, avoiding anything thinner than 16 gauge. Strategically place power panels and transformers for larger projects to reduce wiring costs.

 

Adjustable DIN Rail transformers can help maintain a consistent 24V supply to motors by compensating for voltage drop over various wire lengths. Ensure all wiring is correctly rated for insulation, especially when running near higher voltage lines; CL, CM, and UL-rated cables for 150 and 300 volts are recommended, with 300V cables preferred for all installations.

 

8. Simplified Control Options and Automation

Control systems for shading vary across four main levels: motorization, automation, integration, and Wi-Fi connectivity, each adding complexity and cost. Understanding client expectations upfront is crucial to defining system requirements effectively.

 

Motorization offers "Set and Forget" and "Supervised" controls. "Set and Forget" allows shades to move to preset positions with a single button press, while "Supervised" requires holding the button for movement, enhancing safety around children.

 

Automation enables shades to react to sensor inputs or predefined conditions, executing movements without manual intervention. This can include adjustments based on timers, light levels, or temperature, allowing for automated, consistent shade positioning.

 

For safety, use riser or plenum-rated wires in appropriate spaces to minimize risks like flame spread or toxic emissions. Wire lengths increase with routing through walls and ceilings, significantly affecting voltage drop and installation costs.

 

Networked shade systems require specific data cables like RS232, RS485, or CAN bus rather than standard Cat 5 or Cat 6 Ethernet cables. Manufacturers will specify compatible cables, often proprietary, which could impact the budget and warranty if substituted. Always consult a professional shading consultant for networked systems to ensure compatibility and avoid costly post-installation fixes.

 

9. Simplified Integration and Control Methods

Integration links the shading system with other building systems like lighting, HVAC, AV, and security, typically managed by a central controller for coordinated operations.

 

There are two integration approaches: "tenant" systems, which react to centralized commands without direct control, and "access permission" systems, offering full shading control with third-party access. The latter simplifies troubleshooting and clarifies vendor accountability, with options for discrete master controls for aesthetic preferences.

 

User controls vary from wall-mounted switches and handheld devices to advanced sensors and apps, allowing for flexible and customizable operation. Integration should support easy updates or additions without overhauling the system.

 

Dry contact wall switches, available in multiple button configurations, should be installed safely, separate from high voltage sources. Wireless switches offer convenience and are powered by AA batteries, supporting extensive control ranges when paired with bidirectional motors. Gesture-based controls cater to hygienic or harsh environments.

 

Handheld remotes provide mobility and advanced features, including multi-channel operation and programmable settings. Wi-Fi apps extend control capabilities, enabling remote access and complex command execution through a local network bridge.

 

For comprehensive building management, advanced network devices integrate shading into larger systems, necessitating professional consultation for design and implementation.

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