Automated shades can be a cool feature for any living space, but when you start looking at the market, you might be surprised how expensive outfitting a whole home can be. That said, smart shades and blinds have a lot of potential. They can make windows in hard-to-reach places more accessible, and can be important tools for the disabled or elderly.
Lutron’s Serena Remote Controlled Shades can’t solve the price problem (each unit costing around $350 at the least, plus $150 for the Caseta Bridge starter pack that integrates with Apple HomeKit). But their hefty price tag makes a little more sense than what you’ll pay for other smart shades. Not only do they boast features like Siri voice control and geofencing-based automation, they also integrate with plenty of other smart home gadgets, like thermostats and lights.
Despite the pricing and a few performance hiccups, those who need smart shades for a few vaulted windows or a particular bedroom will find a helpful solution in Serena.
How do they work?
Serena Shades are pretty easy to set up. With a power drill and a couple screwdrivers, I was able to set it up within 30 minutes. Add in the 15-minute setup of the Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge, the 10 minutes for the app and the five minutes for the remote, and the whole thing can be up and running in about an hour.
I wish there were fewer pieces to have to worry about (and pay for), but the good news is, besides the Caseta Bridge (that comes with a remote), you’ll only have to buy shades. No extra hubs, no extra remotes. In fact, the only reason you need the bridge is to cut down on battery usage, since Apple HomeKit — the home integration system Serena uses — relies on Wi-Fi, which drains batteries fast. So your mobile app communicates with the plugged-in Caseta Bridge, which in turn communicates with the Serena Shades using a low-energy communication protocol.
Once everything is set up, using the Lutron app to control the Shades is a breeze. You can set timed scenes, use Siri voice control, automate commands with Geofencing, and integrate with other smart home gadgets. Here’s how each feature stacked up.
Scenes: These are simple to set up in the app, but too basic in their capabilities. Setting your shades to open or close at certain times is nice, and the astronomic time clock even lets you personalize your scenes based on when the sun rises and sets where you live. The problem is, these scenes can’t be triggered by anything except time. So you can’t set the cellular shades to close and conserve heat if the thermostat’s temperature is drifting too low. The only way to use triggers like these would be through IFTTT or Elgato, compatible third-party apps.