Is there anything in your home they can’t make smarter these days? From your vacuum cleaner to your coffee machine and even your bed, tech companies have been hard at work to make sure they can slap a smart label to anything and everything in your home.
Some of these things are more useful than others. Is it handy to be able to turn your oven on remotely? Sure. Are you likely to use it? In my experience, not very often. In contrast, smart lights and wifi-controlled plugs have proven their worth time and again, at least in this house.
I’m still on the fence about smart curtains. In theory, it’s great to be able to push a button and have your curtains swish open and closed without any effort on your part. Even better if they can do it on a schedule or a trigger whether you are home or not – light level, sunset time, a sensor being triggered and make life even easier.
But is it just technology for technology’s sake? And is it worth the investment? The good news is that it’s not as expensive as it used to be to get this particular bit of automation into your home. The SwitchBot Curtain is under €100 for one motor, although most people will need two unless you plan to have just one curtain opening and closing.
The device itself is quite simple: a motor that fits to your existing curtain rail, and moves itself along, dragging your curtains along with it. You can schedule it to work at certain times, or use the app to open an close the curtains at will.
Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to. It took three tries to find curtains in my house that it would work with. The first – a set of lined ring top curtains that I wouldn’t have considered particularly heavy – sputtered about halfway through closing and eventually ground to a halt. This was even with the fitting of a string of clips that was supposed to help – I hate how they look, so that would have been an instant no even if they had fixed the problem.
The second set, also ring top and lined but less weighty than the first, fared similar. At this point, the SwitchBot was in danger of being packed back into the box and never looked at again. I tried plugging it in for a while thinking maybe a dwindling battery was responsible for the false start. No different.
It was third time lucky when we tried it with some simple hook and ring curtains – and finally, the SwitchBot found its groove. Noisily, mind you. There was no silent swishing closed; the motor was definitely audible as it moved back and forth. If you were looking for a way to wake yourself without an alarm every morning, you might want to keep looking. There is a silent mode, but the app warns you that choosing this mode may mean your curtains may not close. So that makes it at best a gamble and at worst kind of pointless.
The device requires a bit of calibration before it will work properly on your curtains. The set-up took fewer than five minutes, including fitting the device to the curtain pole (the third one, mind you) and connecting to my smartphone over Bluetooth. You calibrate each motor separately, naming it and moving it to fully open and then fully closed position. Once you’ve done that, you are good to go – at least while you are in Bluetooth range.
If you want to control your curtains remotely while you are out of the house, you’ll need a hub. Yes it is an added extra that pushes up the cost of the system again, but the same hub can also be used for other Switch devices in your home, or even to replace remote controls in your house for your TV and other devices. So it is a multifunctional purchase.
That all worked seamlessly, once the initial hiccups were solved. But those hiccups were a lot to deal with in the initial set-up. My seven-year-old, whose room these ended up in, loves the Curtain more than I did.
It’s a relatively cheap way to make your curtains automatic. If you buy an extra hub, you can add voice control to your curtains through Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, and you can also access the functions remotely, out of Bluetooth range.
In my experience, it worked best on curtains with hooks and rings rather than grommets, and the more lightweight your curtains, the better.
The not so good
The SwitchBot is designed to take up to 8kg, but our tests found even moderately lined curtains caused it to struggle. It also may leave gaps when closed, even after multiple attempts to calibrate it.
The motor can be noisy too, although there is a silent mode – which is hit and miss by SwitchBot’s own admission.
The trial-and-error approach to find curtains that will work with this device may not suit everyone either. It seemed to struggle with telescopic curtain poles too, which was an issue here as almost all the poles are that type.
The SwitchBot Curtain is available in several different types to fit different curtain rails, so you should find one that suits your set-up. It can also form part of a smart home system that includes smart switches, lights, cameras, thermometers and so on.
And you can still open the curtains by hand if you want – just be prepared to hear the whirr if the SwitchBot motor as you do.
A novelty that has its uses if it works well for your curtains – but it needs some refinement.