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SwitchBot Blind Tilt: The simplest way to automate existing blinds

Your mind may be stuck in the '90s but your home doesn't need to be: SwitchBot's new device reliably retrofits to automate your old blinds and comes with a bonus solar panel for only $69.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer on
Pros
  • Easy installation
  • Low price
  • Reliably responsive
  • Solar panel included
Cons
  • Visually noticeable
  • Needs separate hub to be truly smart

SwitchBot has found its niche in retrofitting existing home appliances and products, such as door locks, to make them smart. And now the company is making a blind tilt mechanism with an included solar panel that automates window blinds for you. This smart SwitchBot Blind Tilt just launched for presale on Kickstarter pitched as the world's easiest smart solar-powered blinds, with units shipping out in November.

It's a small device that attaches to the vertical twisting wand on horizontal blinds, and twists it to tilt open the blinds or close them, all controlled by you from your mobile device or via a voice command to Alexa or Google Home. 

Your phone communicates with the SwitchBot Blind Tilt via Bluetooth, but it can also connect to Wi-Fi if you add a SwitchBot Hub

The SwitchBot Blind Tilt box on a table next to a potted plant and a printer.

This little box includes everything you need to make your blinds smart.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The Blind Tilt comes with its own solar panel, which makes it an easy, plug-and-play option, especially at only $69. You never have to worry about climbing up on a chair to charge it or finding a long-enough charging cable; I found it a simple, hassle-free solution to my blind woes.

The preordered devices are slated to ship at the end of November (bear in mind that not all Kickstarters pay off as described).

Specifications

Weight 4.6 ounces
Dimensions 1.9 x 1.1 x 5.7
Color White
Material ABS plastic with UV-resistant coating
Battery life 10 months or almost unlimited with solar panel
Connectivity BLE - Wi-Fi with SwitchBot Hub
Noise level 37dB in Silent Mode - 47dB in performance mode
Home automation systems Alexa, Google Home, Siri Shortcuts, IFTTT SmartThings
Extras Light sensing, create schedules and automations on SwitchBot app

Why would you need a smart blind tilt?

Upgrading your current blinds to make them smart can seem unnecessary for most windows, but if you've got hard-to-reach windows, or have always wanted to wake up to the morning light and don't have a butler to open your blinds like you're royalty, then  smart blind tilts were made with you in mind. 

Also: Best smart blinds: Schedule a real sunrise alarm for yourself

View of the window blinds with SwitchBot Blind Tilt

A look at the SwitchBot Blind Tilt after installation.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Out of all the things we had to fix immediately in my 23-year-old home, do you know what was not on my priority list? Replacing window treatments. I'd love to have crisp, new smart window coverings in every room, but when you're talking about at the very least $200 to $300 for each window, the cost adds up very quickly.

Since spending thousands of dollars on new blinds isn't my priority right now, it was easy to let it go. How hard is it to twist a wand to open your blinds every morning, anyway? I present to you: my bathroom blinds. 

Blinds with SwitchBot Blind Tilt installed

These are the offending blinds above the tub: You can see the SwitchBot Blind Tilts installed.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

We have corner windows in the main bathroom that let in a lot of light during the day, but also let everyone outside see into our shower at night. The problem? These blinds are right above the big soaker tub, so whenever we want to open them, we have to step into the tub to reach them. We would do this in the mornings, only to forget to close them until one of us was already in the separate shower each night, frantically calling for someone else to close them so the neighbors don't get a free show. 

Also: Best soundproof curtains: Cancel noise and block light

We had settled for keeping them closed at all times to avoid this hassle and just turning on the lights when in the bathroom during the day. This is why as soon as the SwitchBot Blind Tilt arrived, I knew exactly where it was going: the main bathroom blinds.

So off I went to install it the same night, figuring it would be the answer to my prayers -- I'd watch the blinds open to yield the morning light while a chorus of angels sang in the background. I was so excited.

Closeup view of the Blind Tilt
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

You see, I've researched blind tilts in the past, quite extensively actually. I've tested automatic blinds in different homes and when I researched replacing ours with smart ones and was hit with the overwhelming cost of it all, I decided to look into retrofitting options.

What I found is there are very few options for automating existing blinds. And it's not for lack of trying; at different points in my research, I found countless small companies trying to sell their retrofitting options for blinds. From wand attachments, to replacing the entire tilt mechanism at the top, there are two things that stood out to me from the different retrofitting options: that the reviews are abysmal as to how reliable they are, and that the ones that actually work cost upward of $170. 

So I was glad to see SwitchBot, with all its retrofitting experience, try its hand in the blind tilt market, especially starting at $69.

Installation process

Hands installing a blind tilt
SwitchBot

When I unboxed the first one, I quickly got out the instructions and began the setup that was sure to change my life. The box includes the blind tilt mechanism, charging cable, solar panel, and setup guide.

Compatibility:

  • Blind wand diameter: 15mm - 40mm
  • Wand circumference: 47mm - 125mm
  • Blinds size: Blinds must be less than 9.8 feet wide
  • Charging: If solar panel doesn't receive enough sunlight to charge the battery, the unit can be charged with the included cable.

The SwitchBot Blind Tilt is essentially a small robot that spins your blind wand for you, powered by a battery that is charged by the included solar panel. Because of this mechanism, the unit needs to grip your wand quite tightly in order to work, so you have to attach an adapter and coupling to your blind's wand, but SwitchBot includes several adapters in the box to ensure that you get the right fit. 

After that, you just have to connect the unit to the solar panel and stick the panel to your window with the 3M backing, where it'll receive enough sunlight to keep the battery charged and the smart blind tilt running. 

SwitchBot Blind Tilt

Most of the SwitchBot pieces that need to be attached come with a 3M backing.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

It took me about 10 minutes and zero tools to install the first one, and the other one took less than 5 minutes, since I was now familiar with what to do and expect, so it's a very simple process.

Once the Blind Tilt is installed, just open the SwitchBot app, go to add new device, and your phone will pair with the Blind Tilt via Bluetooth. 

If you have a SwitchBot Hub or Hub Mini, you can use it to control the Blind Tilt via Wi-Fi, from wherever you are, and add automations. It can also be added to Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Siri Shortcuts for voice control.

We have the Hub Mini as well as a SwitchBot remote. I was disappointed to learn that I couldn't group both of my blind tilts to control them both at the same time with the remote, however.

Eyesore or eye-opening?

Blind Tilt on one window

Though it's not a "seamless" fit, I don't mind the addition to the twisting wand.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Yeah, you can see it, it doesn't blend seamlessly into your blinds or replace a blind wand, but it isn't terribly noticeable or something that bothers me, personally. One: My blinds are white, as is the blind wand. Two: I don't think anyone would notice the motor because who would be looking for it? However, if anyone did notice it, it'd be an awesome opportunity to whip out my phone and do a demo of the blind tilt mechanism.

Could this be the smart blind tilt that changes it all? SwitchBot sure wants it to be. The company is also known for its SwitchBot Curtain, which automatically opens and closes existing curtains, so doing the same for blinds seems like a natural step.

Bottom line

I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this SwitchBot Blind Tilt. It's been responsive and consistent any time we've used it, and it runs quite smoothly on a schedule: Our blinds are always open in the morning and close promptly at 6:00 pm, rain or shine. 

It's not a loud device, though you can hear a faint whirring if you're within a few feet of it though the review unit I received is a bit louder than the units hitting the market, which will range from 37-47db in volume. I keep expecting it to fall off or break down but it continues to stay strong. I do wish it were a bit quicker opening and closing the blinds, though it only takes about 15 seconds for each step, but that's something that could be worked out in subsequent models. 

The only thing that left me wanting was that I added a SwitchBot remote and I can only control one Blind Tilt device with it. I wish there were a way to group them in the SwitchBot app to control both devices at once.

In the end, I never heard the chorus of angels as my blinds unfolded for me in the morning light. Instead, this became an invisible part of my everyday life -- something I don't even notice. And with a retrofitting endeavor like this one, I think that's one of the biggest wins: It's so conveniently reliably that you never have to worry about it. It just works.

Alternatives to consider

SwitchBot isn't the first to try to automate existing blinds, though it was successful in combining affordability with good performance. Here are some alternative options to consider if this one isn't right for you:

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