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Lutron’s wooden, battery-powered smart blinds start at $599 – CNET

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Lutron

Smart window shades are an oddly mesmerizing bit of opulence for high-end smart homes, and with a fully customizable lineup of app-and voice-enabled Serena roller blinds already in the portfolio, Lutron is one of the biggest names in the game. This week, the Pennsylvania-based company added luxurious-looking wooden blinds into the mix — but with prices starting at $599 each for a standard-size 3-foot-by-5-foot blind, they won’t make it any less expensive to smarten up the natural light coming into your house.

Dubbed Serena Smart Wood Blinds, the new app-enabled window dressings join the existing Serena collection of roller blinds, and work more or less the same. You’ll still need a Lutron Bridge plugged into your router to act as the system’s hub, and you’ll control them alongside your other Lutron Serena and Caseta devices in the Lutron app on your Android or iOS device. That app lets you group devices by room to control them all at once, or create schedules for devices to follow throughout the day. Like the existing Serena shades, you’ll be able to control the new wood blinds using voice commands via Alexa or Google Assistant or, thanks to Lutron’s integration with Apple HomeKit, via Siri.

Lutron’s Serena wood blinds will automatically track the sun throughout the day, tilting accordingly to minimize harsh glares and maximize comfortable daylight.

Lutron

One key difference — the wood blinds will automatically tilt, but unlike the Serena roller blinds, you’ll still need to raise and lower them by hand.

The wood blinds do come with a couple of extra tricks, though. For starters, Lutron will use your phone’s built-in compass to quickly determine which direction each window is facing. From there, the system’s Natural Light Optimization feature will automatically assign each blind to an automated schedule using preset angles designed to diffuse harsh sunlight and maximize comfortable daylight throughout the day. The blinds also promise to protect flooring, furniture and artwork from the fading effects of excess sunlight, and at the end of the day, they’ll automatically tilt closed to help ensure privacy during evening hours. None of that requires any special scheduling or programming on your part.

Each blind comes in your choice of eight finishes, and you can customize the look of the valence at the top of the blinds, too.

Lutron

Another show-offy feature called Precision Tilt Positioning promises to keep slats aligned across multiple blinds on the same wall for a uniform look. Good luck keeping up with that, Joneses.

Speaking of looks (and judging solely from extremely well-lit press shots), the new wood blinds appear to be appropriately fancy for the price. Each one is made from North American basswood and available in a variety of stains, and they can also come painted in a range of neutral whites and grays. Same goes for the valence at the top of the blinds, which can come in a traditionally-decorative Easton shape or a more modern and minimalist rectangular shape. If you really want to go modern with bright blue blinds or some other pop of color, Lutron says it can offer custom painting, though prices will vary.

As for power, Lutron promises “industry-leading battery life” for each blind using store-bought D-cell or AA batteries, but wired versions are also available if you’d rather just plug them in. If the batteries ever run out, you’ll still be able to raise and lower the blinds, but you won’t be able to tilt them by hand.

Sizewise, the blinds start at 20 inches wide but can go as large as 72 inches, and Lutron says that you can group multiple blinds under a single valence for something like a large double window. The four wooden finishes will each add $20 to your total cost per blind. For full pricing specifics, Lutron retailers include Budget Blinds, Lutron’s network of dealers, and Lutron’s Serena Shades website, where you can customize your blinds and see what they’d cost.

When I customized a Lutron wood blind to fit the same, smallish 27-inch window where I recently installed and tested an Ikea Fyrtur smart roller blind, the asking price came out to about $645, including the relatively steep cost of a Lutron Bridge ($80) and a blind-specific version of Lutron’s Pico remote for handheld control ($55). For comparison, the Ikea roller blind I reviewed came with its own handheld remote, and when paired with Ikea’s Trådfri Gateway hub, the cost was still well below $200.

That’s obviously a big gulf between the cream of the category and the value pick, but Lutron’s expensive blinds will still attract interest from upper crust connected homes in search of fancy showpieces. To Lutron’s credit, the system’s proprietary Clear Connect radio signals (which the hub translates for your router) have long proven to be some of the most reliable transmissions we’ve tested in the CNET Smart Home, where the Serena shades we’ve already installed are often the first things visitors ooh and aah over.

To that end, I’m willing to bet that plenty of smart home enthusiasts will come to covet these blinds, but how many of them will spend thousands on them? Time will tell. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if we end up testing the things out for ourselves at some point in the near future.

Correction, June 17: A previous version of this article contained incorrect information about using Lutron’s blinds manually. The blinds can’t be tilted by hand when the battery runs out.  

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