Lutron makes one of our favorite motorized shades, but the company also offers motorized blinds. What’s the difference? Window blinds are considered “hard” window coverings because they consist of slats—wooden, in this case—that drop down from the top of the window (or that slide left or right, in the case of vertical blinds).

The motor mounted in the headrail of the Serena blinds tilts the 2-inch slats for privacy and light control. The accumulated weight of the slats, however, makes them too heavy for the motor to lift—even though Lutron fabricates the slats from a soft, fine-grained timber called North American basswood. If you want to fully expose the window, you will need to lift the blinds by hand and pull them back down to close.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart shades and blinds, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

The upside is that tilting the slats from their closed position to allow maximum light into the room takes just a couple of seconds, versus 20 to 30 seconds to lift or roll up a fabric shade. The tilted slats in a blind can be adjusted to allow more light into the room than even a light-filtering shade, and they won’t entirely block your view out. Also, you can tilt the slats even if the blinds are partially lifted.

Lutron

Each of Lutron’s smart wood blinds can respond independently based on the time of day and the window’s exposure to the sun.

Lutron sells its Serena product line through custom installers who will take all the anxiety out of accurately measuring your windows and installing its products, or you can purchase them direct and install them yourself. We took the latter approach for this review. You can order single blinds in widths from 20 to 72 inches and in lengths up to 72 inches. The blinds are made to order, and it takes about two weeks for them to arrive at your home.

Styles and power options

Serena Smart Wood Blinds are available in four stained finishes (dark walnut, light oak, red mahogany, or walnut) and four painted finishes (arctic white, mist grey, soft white, or stone grey). Whether you choose an inside or outside mount (I went with the former), the blinds come with your choice of two valance styles that cover the headrail. The valances come in the same finish as the blinds, but one is slightly more ornate than the other. If you have very large windows or windows that are close together, you can mount two shades under a single valance (in widths from 40 to 96 inches).

Lutron offers these shades with battery (four D cells) or hardwired power options, the latter being either a $40 wall wart attached to a 15-foot cord for each shade, or a professionally installed Lutron Power Panel. The Power Panel can support multiple blinds and shades, but it costs $800, plus installation. I chose the battery option, as I believe most DIYers will. I ordered a pair for matching windows because I wanted to see if they would open and close in sync. They don’t quite manage that trick, but the delay hasn’t proven to be a bother because the transitions happen so quickly.

serena wood blind battery compartment Michael Brown / IDG

Serena Smart Wood Blinds operate on four D cell batteries mounted in the front of the headrail.

As with Lutron’s Serena motorized honeycomb shades, the batteries for its Serena wood blinds install in the front of the headrail. But rather than tilting the headrail down to expose the battery compartment, as you do with its shades, you slide the front of the valance down when you need to replace the batteries in the wood blinds. Battery life will, of course, depend on how often you adjust the tilt of the blinds, but I can report that the batteries in the company’s smart shade are still running strong after a year’s use with typically two operations (open at sunrise, close at sunset) per day. Having the battery compartment in the front of the headrail means there’s not much to see when viewed from outside the window, which is a good thing.

Control options

This is a good time to discuss control options. I’d say the simplest solution is to use Lutron’s Caséta smartphone app, but that depends on the presence of the Caséta Smart Bridge ($80), which I’ll get to in a moment. A less-expensive alternative is Lutron’s wafer-thin five-button Wood Blinds Pico remote, a $25 option with dedicated square buttons at the top and bottom for tilting the shade slats open and closed, respectively, triangular tilt-up and tilt-down buttons in the middle of the remote that adjust the tilt of the shades as long as you hold them down (until they reach their limits, that is), and a round “favorites” button in the middle of the remote that memorizes your preferred tilt position.



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