Walter Shillington writes about products he knows firsthand. His articles focus on healthcare, electronics, watches, and household items.
Every night is movie night at my house. I turn off the lights, close the dining room curtains, and flash up my fancy projector. Then I choose a movie—last night it was The Terminator—and grab a bowl of popcorn. Yes, life can be good!
Closing the dining room curtains can be a challenge. I need to reach over the piano and tug the drapes closed without knocking over any of my vast collection of family photographs.
I decided to alleviate this problem by installing a pair of curtain drivers that would, with the assistance of my A1 guru, Alexa, adjust the curtains with a simple voice command.
My dining room window is fitted with a pair of heavy red drapes. They hang from a thick wooden rod that extends through a series of grommets that pierce the top edge of each drape.
I required two curtain drivers and a hub to set up a system that adjusts both drapes. I chose a pair of Aqara smart curtain motors and their M2 smart hub.
The M2 Hub allows the Aqara motors to take advantage of Zigbee, a popular communications protocol that permits smart home accessories to benefit from power efficiency, reliability, and fast response. It provides compatibility between a wide range of Aqara devices, smart home ecosystems, and voice assistants.
This hub connects to the Internet via a secured 2.4 GHz WiFi network connection or via an Ethernet RJ45 port. The Ethernet connection option allows the user to decrease the burden on their WiFi network.
This black plastic device is 1.2 inches thick with a diameter of 3.9 inches. It is equipped with a LAN port, a USB mini-B input, and a reserved USB-A port.
Curtain Driver Description
A hanger, curtain driver, rubber strip, and eight clips are included in this package.
The driver is fitted beneath the hanger, allowing this pair of devices to encircle the curtain rod fully. As the driver's powered wheel turns, the device will travel left or right across the window.
The rubber strip and clips are not required for curtains equipped with top rings but must be employed when the driver is attached to grommet-fitted curtains. While my system is intended for use with a curtain rod, variations are available for windows matched with U-rail and I-rail tracks.
The curtain driver is powered by a 6000mAh battery. A rear-mounted pushbutton is used for local control and setup.
Name: M2 Hub
Dimensions: 31 x 100 millimeters (1.2 x 3.9 inches)
Power: 5 volts
Compatibility: Android 6 and iOS 12 or above
Bluetooth capable: Yes
Zigbee Protocol: Yes
Curtain Driver Specifications
Name: E1 Curtain Driver
Rated current: 1.5A
Rated torque: 0.2 Nm
Wireless Protocol: Zigbee 3.0 IEEE 802.15.4
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (not replaceable)
Battery life: Up to one year
Rated voltage: 5V
Rated power input: 7.5W
Rated rotor speed: 100 r/min
Moving speed: 12cm/s
I used the provided cable to connect the Aqara Hub's micro-B port to my USB hub. Then I downloaded and installed the Aqara Home application.
Once the software was installed, I pressed the button on the side of the M2 hub until its greenish-yellow LED began to flash. Then I used the application to add the hub to the system.
Curtain Driver Physical Setup
The first step was to watch the setup video that Aqara provided. Several methods can be employed to mount the driver, depending on the number and type of curtains used. While the video is very descriptive, I did need to watch it several times.
Before beginning the setup, I recharged my new curtain drivers, using the provided cables to connect them to a power source.
I first fitted this system to the drape that covered the left-hand side of my window, aligning the hanger atop the curtain rod between the drape's far-right pair of grommets. Once it was correctly positioned, I fastened together each of the two pairs of hanger arms, completely encircling the curtain rod.
The next step was to double-click the driver's back-mounted button. Then, painfully slowly, two metal hooks rose into position. After placing the driver directly beneath its hanger, I pushed both metal hooks through the appropriate holes. While doing this, I ensured the driver's pushbutton faced the window. I then tapped the pushbutton twice and watched as the driver recessed its pair of hooks.
If I'd been installing a ring top curtain, my task would have been almost complete. However, because I used a grommet-type curtain, I needed to install a set of clips onto the provided rubber strap and connect them to the top edge of the drape. This strap ensures the pleats form correctly when the curtain is opened or closed.
I repeated the procedure, installing the second curtain driver on the drape that covers the right-hand side of my window. Note that the hanger and driver must be installed between the two far-left grommets and that the clips are connected to their strap in reverse order.
I opened the Aqara Home application and searched for the first curtain driver. Once it was found and added, I repeated the procedure, adding the second driver.
This application also allowed me to move my pair of curtain drivers to a group. Then my curtains could be set up to move in unison. Using the application, I can select the curtain driver group, and as I slide a button across, both curtains will move in opposite directions.
This system is compatible with HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Assistant. I set it up with Alexa and can use simple voice commands to either open or close the set of curtains.
As each motor is fitted with a light sensor, the brightness of the outside environment can be utilized as a trigger to open and close the curtains. They can also be scheduled to open and close at specified times.
I have integrated this system into a larger, more comprehensive routine. When I go to bed at night, a simple command of “Alexa, good night,” turns off the downstairs lights and closes my dining room curtains.
I like this system, although, if I were starting from scratch, I'd invest in a set of ring-top curtains rather than one that uses grommets. While guests probably won't notice them, I would prefer not to have clips attached to the top of my drapes.
The curtain drivers work great. I simply state, "Alexa, open the curtains," and, within five seconds, the curtains will slide open, revealing my neighbor's unpainted fence. When I become bored with the view or want to turn on my projector, I say, "Alexa, close the curtains," and they will close. The Aqara E1 Smart Curtain Motor is recommended.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Walter Shillington