Motorized Window Shades – Somfy Vs Lutron – QED and Sonnesse

There are two producers for tubular motors required for motorized movement of window shades. These are Somfy and Lutron. While Lutron offers both, the motor and the shade, Somfy provides only the motor that can be used with any window shade. Both the companies offer the needed controls like wall switches, remotes and interfaces that are needed for the operation of their respective motors.

In late 90’s, Lutron introduced its QED (Quiet Electronic Drive), and sold it with its own brand of shades (roller shades mostly). The product created a stir in the market, being almost noiseless and almost redefining the parameters of competition in this segment of industry. Prior to the introduction of noiseless motors by Lutron, the consumers never thought that noise level would ever influence their purchase of motorized shades. It’s only during the last few years that Somfy too started production of such motors with a slight difference of noise level on the higher side. The difference is negligible and for most of the customers it’s not a deciding factor.

Two versions of ‘quiet’ motors required for motorized operation of window shades are available from Somfy. There’s an AC powered version, ST50 and another recently introduced DC powered version ST30. Ac Motor works on high voltage whereas DC needs a low voltage for its operation. The power supply that comes to your home or office is AC and a motor working on AC can just be plugged in to your socket. Low voltage DC motors can also be plugged into any socket, but you necessarily have to use the original cord provided with the motor because that houses a transformer for bringing down the voltage and converting it to DC voltage. The cord is like your computer cord or cell phone cord that come with a built-in arrangement for power conversion. The advantage of low DC power is that it involves no issues of building codes and you don’t need the services of an electrician for wiring of low voltage powered motorized window shades. So, the absence of an electrician brings down the cost and the complexities of wiring.

The QED comes in three different capacities. These are the QED64, QED100 and QED225. The numbers at the end represent the area in square feet of fabric that the motor is designed to lift up. It means that the QED64 can carry up a shade of 8X8 feet; the QED 100 would lift a shade of up to 10X10 feet, whereas QED 225 is made to lift a shade of about 15X15 feet, though such sized shades are rarely used in residential buildings. It is experienced that the motors are generally able to carry more weight than is indicated by the numbers. The capacity of the motor has a direct bearing on its diameter that determines the diameter of the tube that the motor moves. Tube diameter in turn decided the width of the shades that can be lifted without getting them bent in the process. It is understandable that if the tube bends, it will not be able to lift the shades uniformly and causes the fabric to sag and thus develop creases. So, the motor size not only decides its lifting capacity but also the width of the fabric that has to be moved. Here are the sizes for Lutron motors: QED64 has a 1 5/8″ tube, the 100 uses a 2 ½” tube and the larger 225 comes with a 3 1/2″ tube.

Somfy’s quiet motors, called the Sonnesse line, also use different tube sizes. The ST30 has a 1 1/2″ tube; the ST50 may have a 2″ or 2 1/2″ tube. The lifting capacity of the ST50 can vary from 100 and 225. For very large applications Somfy offers larger motors, but so far they have not been included in the Sonnesse (quiet) product line. For interior applications, a motor larger than an ST50 is rarely needed, and that holds good even if the same motor drives multiple shades.

Both, the QED and Sonnesse motors have proven to be reliable. Both come with a warranty of 5 years.

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