Reviewed by Cath Joyce
This week I received a parcel of home automation goodies from a company called SwitchBot. I’ve heard of them before but until now hadn’t tried any of their products so was really excited to see what they could do.
Opening the box I found several devices, a remote control switch, a temperature and humidity sensor, a mini hub and a pair of curtain controllers complete with solar panels.
Often home automation is seen as just a lazy way of controlling devices, turning on a light with a phone rather than getting up and using a light switch, for me nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst it is true that I can do that, the strength of a home automation system is controlling devices without user input. One great example is the ability to turn on lighting around the house at dusk and then off again later in the night. Whilst we’re at home it is a helpful feature but when we’re away from home it becomes a great security feature, making it look as if we’re actually in when we’re not. I have looked at the automation of our curtains in the past but never got quite around to it so the chance to try out the system from SwitchBot was particularly exciting.
The devices are really well put together and come complete with everything you’d possibly need to install them, whatever type of curtain hanging you have. We received the SwitchBot suitable for wooden curtain poles but there are two other versions to suit different types of curtain track. One point to note is that if you have a pair of curtains then you’re going to need a device for each side, they’re available as a pair but inevitably this does add to the cost. Also, there is a maximum weight of curtain, they’ve been tested up to 8kg, I don’t know how heavy our curtains are but they are larger than a standard window and the SwitchBot coped with them!
First the devices need charging, USB cables are provided for that so I left them overnight. According to the user guide battery life should be around 8 months from fully charged but we were also provided with the optional solar panels so they shouldn’t need charging at all.
Really extensive instructions are provided, I’d definitely recommend reading through them as there are different instructions for each type of curtain and also some parts that you might or might not need depending on your set up. The first step is to download the app and to add the devices. This is simple enough requiring a simple button press on the device and then following the prompts on the app.
Our curtains are quite tall so out came the ladders and with only a bit of wobbling the two devices were soon fitted to the rails. The next step is to calibrate the devices so that they know where to open and close to. Again, it is simple enough to do this through the app, moving each device to each end of its travel and checking until you’re happy.
At this point the curtains are ready to control, there are several ways to do this, from the app on your phone is the obvious way but let’s look at the options available for true automation. Through the app we can set the curtains to open and close at different light levels. This feature is marked as beta and I haven’t tried it yet but in theory it should do exactly what we want. Another option is to setup a schedule of timers, up to five on the device that will open or close the curtains at pre-set times and days. This sounds great but the time will change throughout the year so probably only suitable if you want the curtains to open at a set time every morning, perhaps to wake you up?
I decided to integrate the curtains into my existing setup which uses Amazon Alexa to automate my home. So far the devices have only been connected to my phone with bluetooth but I need them to connect to my wifi so that Alexa can see them. This is where the mini hub comes in. The hub acts as a bridge between the curtains and my network. Setup of the hub is easy enough, first adding it to my phone and then the network. Once this is done, I added the curtains to the hub and with a few clicks on the app they were now available within Alexa.
It was now a simple job to add the curtains into my existing schedules so that they open at dawn and shut automatically at dusk. Just what I was after.
It’s probably worth mentioning that even though the curtains are now opened and shut automatically, it is still possible to operate them manually. If the curtains detect that you’re trying to move the curtain then they spring to life and open or close accordingly. This is a feature that SwitchBot calls Touch & Go.
Whilst the curtains were the highlight of the goody box, also included was a temperature and humidity sensor and a tiny remote switch. Both of these also attach to the hub and can then be used to control other devices. For example you could setup a routine so that the curtains close if the temperature falls below a certain level and it was simple to setup the remote control to open and close the curtains. Alarms can be setup from the temperature sensor so in addition to turning on a fan if the temperature is too high, you could get an alert about it too from the SwitchBot app.
Obviously adding more devices from SwitchBot would allow even greater automation, the original SwitchBot bot is a tiny device that can be fixed to pretty much anything with a switch easily adding remote control to many devices. Other sensors such as PIRs and door contacts are also available.
Whilst I chose to integrate the device into my Alexa setup, other integrations are available including Google Assistant, Siri and IFTTT.
Products can be purchased from their website or Amazon, I was really impressed with the products and I’m going to enjoy adding more of them into my automated home.
SwitchBot Curtain (each) from £75
SwitchBot Bot £25
SwitchBot Meter £18
SwitchBot Hub Mini £35
SwitchBot Remote £18
SwitchBot Solar Panel £23.99
This product can be purchased from Amazon here.