Blind tilt controller is designed to fit onto existing window blinds so it’s a perfect match for people that want to do some smart retrofitting on their current home! They say that the blind controller will fit 99% of the existing blinds and I must admit that I was a bit sceptical at first that how will it fit into my blinds and does it really work as promised.. well, continue reading if you wish to find out how did everything work out 🙂
Disclaimer: I was contacted by a SwitchBot representante few weeks ago and we agreed that I will try out their devices and write an article about it. So even though the products to be tested are sent as a gift, all the reviews and discoveries in this article are all 100% honest as always!
The promised specifications of the tilt blind are:
- Support for 99% of tilt blind types
- Easy installation
- Solar panel charging
- Precise alignment
- Light sensing
- Automations and voice control (with the HUB)
- BLE 5.0
Pretty impressive specifications I’d say, but let’s have a closer look if any of these are actually true!
What’s inside the box
When opening the box and checking the contents, there’s LOTS of items inside. The blind controller and solar panel are of course the most important ones, but when having a closer look there’s also three blind wand adapters, a plastic blind wand connector, few connectors to connect to the window frame, couple of different measurement templates, a wet wipe (!), extra adhesive stickers and of course a installation manual and an USB-c cable for charging.
It might get a bit confusing at first to think how does everything comes together, but in the end, only half of these are going to be in actual use. It just that the device has support for many types and sizes of different tilt blinds. Which is good, of course.
My blinds are not the most common type used in the Europe, but common in Finland, so I was a bit sceptical if I really can fit the controller in my existing blinds. My tilt blinds are located in between the two inner window glasses and the rod is coming out through the window frame. Also, the size of my blind wand is just two millimetres! However, there’s a joint connector in the upper part of the wand that connects the spring coming out of the blinds and the rotating wand it self, and the diameter of that is exactly 6.7 millimetres which is the minimum size supported. So maybe there’s hope after all.. In the SwitchBot manual examples they only show the guide, how to install over the window venetian blinds.
Another thing I was worried about in the beginning was the stiffness of the wand rod and the fact that the rod is only rotating 360 degrees (180 to fully close down and 180 to fully close up. In the middle fully open).
Setting up the solar panel
In the manual there’s instructions to set up the solar panel behind the blinds. But, my blinds are in a quite tight fit between two glasses, the blinds won’t turn properly if the solar panel is installed in guided position. The provided solar panel is somewhat thick from the upper part of the panel, so it needs some space to install, which I did not have.
A bit of planning and I decided to install the solar panel behind the most outer window and bring the charging cable through the sealant. I was a bit worried (again) that the cable will break since it’s in a quite big compression between the window glass and a sealant, but luckily it worked and no cables were harmed! However, if installed this way in a window that is opened and closed frequently, it could break at some point eventually. I might have to do a small hole for the cable at some point..
The solar panel did have preinstalled an adhesive sticker that just needed to be placed on the window and voila, it’s in a place!
Now solar panel is now in place, next it’s time to install the actual controller!
Installing the controller
Since there are lot of parts and the user guide has many alternative options for installation, it can get a bit overwhelming to actual get an idea how everything works. But, in the end, it’s actually very easy! Here are the steps I did:
- Measured the blinds wand diameter using provided measurement tool
- Selected proper adapter (small in my case)
- Set the adapter in place to the wand connector part (the wand itself was too narrow)
- Set up the gear wheel part on the adapter
- Installed the connector itself to the gear wheel
- Cleaned the window frame with provided wet wipe
- Sticked the controller to the cleaned part of frame
- Set the small cover to the upper part of the connector
- Connect solar panel cable
Ready! Not that bad of a chore, at least on my environment. In most of the blind types, probably would need to use the template that marks the proper height position of the wand adapter. But in my window blinds, I did install the controller in the window frame. That’s where the wand is coming out of, so I did not need use the template and mark the position for that at all.
22.10.2023: I designed and 3d printed an adapter for thin rods (3mm) to make the installation more solid. This method requires an 3D printer plus some two sided gorilla tape. The model can be downloaded from thingiverse.
Configuring the device
When first time powering the device and starting the SwitchBot software, it will scan a new nearby BT devices and guide through the full setup process.
At the beginning, the software asks to pair the device by pressing the button few seconds from the device itself. Once paired, a name and area of the device is queried from the user.
Second we need to calibrate the tilt control! Once again, this is fully guided through by the software. Basically there’s a need to turn the blinds to fully closed down, in the middle open and fully closed up. After this is done the device is ready to use!
Optionally, if used the HUB, the software asks kindly to enable cloud connection in order to use voice voice commands and automations. To use the voice, the user needs to have Alexa and/or Google Home device of course.
Usage and the SwitchBot software
And then the most interesting part of the controller, does it really work and Is it any good? Well, short answer is absolutely yes. Continue reading to find out more details..
As said in the installation part I was a bit worried if the controller motor is too weak to actually tilt my blinds, but fortunately I was totally wrong in here. The motor does not have any issues of tilting my blinds what so ever. In addition to that, the motor is quite silent and wouldn’t even bother if placed in the bedroom and opened/closed during the sleep.
The adhesive tapes are very strong and keeps all the parts in place firmly. Only thing I’m a bit concerned that will the solar panel sticker actually hold the panel in place for years? It’s at outdoor temperatures all the time (in my installation setup) and is exposed directly to the sun light. That’s actually a good thing, so it can charge the controller. 🙂
Another concern is that will the solar panel charge the controller enough during the darkest winter time in Finland? Only time will tell and I will give you an update next winter once had longer experience with the device.
One more important thing about the mechanical quality: its wife approved! The motor does not block manual usage of the tilt blinds like my own DIY approach, so the original wand can still be used along with the smart control.
Blind tilt controller can be used with or without a SwitchBot HUB, but I’d suggest to use the HUB in order to enable voice commands (Alexa, Google) and automations. Unless you have Home Assistant or other compatible HUB already of course.
Anyhow, I really like the SwitchBot software and will continue to use it along with my Home Assistant. SwitchBot app is clearly very well designed and easy to use. Everything is guided through and corresponding devices and functions are easy to find out. Features like open, close and setting the blinds in a specific position are all supported and well placed within the app itself.
In the app there’s also a possibility to check the light status of the solar panel. Solar panel has a light sensor included and that data is provided all the way to the app and can be seen in scale from 0 to 10. I really would like to see the raw lux values also, but that’s not a big issue 🙂
The app also provides you the information about blind controller battery and charging status. It will display the solar charging with a simple solar+battery icon in the top of the view.
If using the HUB, there’s also possibility to add schedules, delays and automations triggered by other SwitchBot devices.
Integration to Home Assistant
You probably already know, that I’m using Home Assistant in my home to connect all the devices with each other, so Home Assistant integration is a crucial thing to me.
In the previous article I wrote a guide how to use ESP32 with ESPHome as Bluetooth Proxy and obviously I’m using this method to connect the controller in my Home Assistant instance. When the device is in ESP32 range it’s automatically discovered and notified in the Home Assistant notification area. The bluetooth proxy uses internally official Home Assistant SwitchBot integration, so the tilt controller provides blinds controls along with light level and battery percentage! Very nice!
This is one of the most useful devices I’ve got my hands on in a long time! I really like the quality of the hardware and software with this device. In the end it was almost too easy to install and has all the features needed for daily use, no more manual tilting!
However, I don’t think the device will fit 99% of the tilt blind types (as mentioned in SwitchBot website) and I really suggest to do a preliminary compatibility checks and only order one device for test before filling out rest of the house with these. If it fits, just order more 🙂
The device is actually so good (and compatible with my tilt blinds), that I will be ordering one for all of our bedrooms! No more manual blind tilting in our house, I can automate all the day/night routines to contain all window blinds as well!
One note though: this review is written with a short time of usage and still need to see if the provided solar panel charging will be enough during the dark winter times in Finland.
- Solar panel charging
- Mechanical quality
- Supports many types of blinds
- Easy to install
- Blinds can still be used manually (wife approved)
- Not too expensive (retail price of 69.90€)
- It’s difficult to be certain if the blinds are supported before ordering one
- Bluetooth.. I still prefer something like ZigBee 🙂
Smart Home Score: 5/5
Need a SwitchBot device? You can get 10% off with the creatingsmarthome.com code 10UPF4RLGELVDV directly from the SwitchBot store.