FAQ: Can your blind motors be battery operated?
Our motors run on 12 volts DC (safe for kids and adults) and can be powered by battery operation, providing backup blind operation if the main AC power grid fails.
You can install a high capacity closed cell RV battery (or a zero maintenance car battery) in a convenient central location with a trickle charger (or solar panel) to power your entire system. If you choose the solar option, you can have a system that is completely 'off the grid'.
Another option is to conceal small rechargeable batteries somewhere near each individual motor (or group of motors), perhaps behind a valance. A better solution would be to use our motors with rechargeable batteries built right into them, for a completely wireless installation. They have an 'in window' solar panel option that extends the recharge time to many months.
Having said that, it is important to understand we have two distinct classes of radio motors, when it comes to battery powered operation. The key to understanding the difference is that a remote control motor (either IR or RF) is actually 'always on' because it has to be constantly 'listening' for a command. It is this 'always on' state that is actually the main consideration when determining battery size - the actual operation of the blinds a few times per day consumes very little power.
Please note: this discussion is only about our remote control radio motors; our manually switched motors do not consume any power when they are inactive.
Two Distinct Classes of Radio Motors
Type 1, Normal Stand-by Power at Idle:
Our regular radio motors have a standby idle current flow of approximately 20 to 30 mA (1,000 milliAmps = 1 Amp). Amperes (Amp) are a measure of the rate of flow in an electrical circuit, much like the volume of water flowing through a pipe.
Here are some different ways of expressing the current rating (these are all synonomous terms, they all mean the same thing):
30 mA = 30 milliAmp = 30/1000 Amp = 0.03 Amp = thirty thousandths of an Ampere = 0.03 A
If you want to know how much power this represents in a DC circuit, you can convert it to watts with this simple formula:
Volts x Amps = Watts
So each of our regular motors uses 12v x 0.03 A = 0.36 Watts, and if you had 10 blinds in your home, you would be consuming 3.6 watts of power and 0.30 Amps of current (in standby mode - more when the blinds are actually operating).
If you decide to use the battery option instead of one of our 12v power supplies plugged into the AC mains, a small RV, car, or motorcycle battery with a trickle charger would do nicely for 10 blinds. Trickle chargers typically put out an Amp or two of current, so you would have plenty of capacity.
If you were to choose the solar option, a panel with an output capacity of about 10 watts would likely be sufficient, depending on your latitude, climate and panel location. Keep in mind that it will have no output at night. You could also use a timer or light sensing switch that would turn the blinds circuit off at night, so that there was no power drain (here's an adjustable light sensing switch we use) .
Type 2, Ultra-Low Stand-by Power at Idle:
One of our key technological break-through features has been the development of an ultra-low standby radio receiver for our motors. We consider it to be a major engineering accomplishment. These units use 0.03 mA of current, which is 3 orders of magnitude better (one thousand times less current) than our regular motors (30 mA). Here are the equivalent expressions:
0.03 mA = 30 microAmp = 30/1000000 Amp = 0.00003 Amp = thirty millionths of an Ampere
So each of our regular motors uses 12v x 0.00003 A = 0.00036 Watts, and if you had 10 blinds in your home, you would be consuming .0036 watts of power and 0.0003 Amps of current (in standby mode - more when the blinds are actually operating).
These motors put us squarely into the realm of autonomous solar power, opening up all kinds of possibilities. We have these low-standby versions available as stand-alone motors, but this technology is also what is used in our built-in rechargeable battery motors. The 'in window' solar power option means you can have a virtually self-powered radio controlled unit, without the need for any wiring on (or in) your walls. We also have wall mounted battery operated switches, to complete the system; please see the remote control section in our online store.
The solar panels for these motors are long and skinny, specially designed units, made to fit unobtrusively at the top or bottom (or sides) of your window.
Battery Powered Motor with Built-in Rechargeable Battery: No Wires Needed!
As explained above, we have a battery powered series where the rechargeable battery is built into the motor housing itself. These motors typically operate for 3 to 6 months without recharging (depending on usage), and the recharge interval can be greatly extended if you install the optional window mounted solar panel that we provide for these motors.
We currently have 3 sizes available:
The 'Mini' series of battery powered motors which can be used to retrofit many off-the-shelf shade brands (4 lb - 1.8 kg lift):
The 'Standard' series of battery powered motors which can be used for custom installations (16 lb 7.25 kg lift):
The 'Maxi' series of battery powered motors which can be used for custom installations (45 lb 20 kg lift):
This is a link to a list of all battery motors, starter kits, and accessories:
'Future Proofed' Battery Motors
Our battery motors use RF radio control with multi-channel remotes for individual and group control of shades and blinds). Very easy to set up and operate, these systems are also 'future proofed' because you can later extend your system and use a web-enabled device (tablet, phone, PC) to control your roller blinds and other devices.
Please see this article series on how to install Veralite™ for shade and blind control.
Other Options for External Battery Motors
If you want to use our remote control radio motors with external batteries, don't forget to consider the standby current of the motor while it 'listens' for an up/down activation signal. Our regular motors use about 20 to 30 mA (1 mA = 1/1000 Amp) of constant current, and will drain a small battery after a few days, but they can be used with a larger battery sytem as described above.
We do have the special motors to use with smaller external battery systems with trickle chargers or solar panels that have an ultra low standby 'listening' current of only 30 microAmps:
Keep in mind that these units uses the same motor as the built-in rechargeable battery series (with solar option), so it may not make a lot of sense to set up a central power system, since you can do a completely wireless installation right at the window location.
We sincerely hope you enjoy using these advanced motors; if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time!