HomeHome AutomationSonoff ZB Curtains have one advantage

Sonoff ZB Curtains have one advantage

Curtains by ITEAD? Wait, what?

This product release surprised me. Up until now, Zemismart was my product of choice to move various curtains using ZigBee, while SwitchBot and Aqara were trying to do the same designing products that don’t require impact drills and hammers to move your window decor. I received an early version of ITEAD’s Sonoff ZBCurtain – a pretty interesting take on curtain automation. Let’s move some drapes!

Sonoff ZBCurtain

Inside an unassuming box, I found a set of drives to move whatever decorates windows. Over time, I used several different ways of automating my curtains. So many, in fact, that I’m consistently running out of windows to automate. While SwitchBot, Aqara and Zemismart had their takes on various curtain pullers, ITEAD springs up with a new design.

The Sonoff ZBCurtain consist of a motor/controller box, powered by a CC2652 ZigBee 3.0 IC and 4000mAh 3.7V LiPo battery. A smaller but similar box carries a guide wheel and the whole thing is linked by a typical chainlink that you may find on various shades and rollers. If you own window blinds, imagine the same mechanism, but in a horizontal position.

Accessories include a charging cable (Sonoff ZBCurtain has a USB-C port to recharge its battery), a dedicated RF remote and 2 rather crude metal clams that I would hate more, if not for the fact that they are completely hidden by the white Sonoff ZBCurtain boxes. Lastly, you will find 2 clamps to drag your windows decorations with the chain. Check your box carefully, I almost discarded the second clamp without a care in the world.

Sonoff ZB Curtain on the inside

I took a peek inside, to confirm my suspicions. A single motor push/pulls the chainlink which drags the curtains from the open to the close position (and back again). To monitor the position, a small magnetic encoder is added to the side of the motor to count the turns of the ferrous brushes.

In theory, CC2652 could act as more than just the EndDevice, given the battery-operated principle, the option is not available to preserve the battery. I hoped at first, that included remote would also support ZigBee, but after gutting it open, I discovered that it uses RF to speak to the main unit of Sonoff ZBCurtain.

Extras

I don’t have it with me, but ITEAD promises a small solar panel to be available at launch, to keep the device charged for longer. It’s too early to tell how Sonoff ZB Curtain will last on the battery, especially since the overall lifespan depends on the miles travelled by your drapes.

The same principle applies to solar charging. I don’t hold my breath here in the UK, but as the local giant supermarket says: Every little helps! Right? If you trigger happy, ITEAD is willing to gift you a free panel with your purchase – providing you are one of the first 100 customers. Otherwise, you have to settle for a discount code.

Price

Speaking of discounts. ITEAD asks for $79.90 on the release day with an additional discount of 10$ with the code: SONOFFS10. It’s a price on par with drivers from Aqara and SwitchBot. The market to move your curtains gets more competitive by the minute and we are here to reap the benefit of being spoilt for choice.

Installation

You can run, but you can’t hide

I have to say, that the design of Sonoff ZBCurtain is practical with one exception. The crude brackets are – well slightly crude, but they clamp well around thin round rods. Something I was wrong about.

What I haven’t anticipated is how easy is to push the control boxes up and remove them from brackets. It’s annoying as the pairing buttons are pushed upwards too. Once the setup is complete, it won’t bother you.

As one of the clips is detachable, it works well with a pair of curtains as well as single ones are drawn across the entire length. You can also set your overlap which is a great help in driving your drapes completely shut. The included chain is easy to tension, set to the right side and long enough for most of the windows. I had plenty of slack left to trim. Provided easy clip will let you finish the task neatly.

The amount of overlap is up to you

Finally, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder – so they say. Sonoff ZB Curtain is not the most conspicuous device. Control boxes offer any way of covering it, the chainlink is on the visible side of your window dressing, and clips while strong and practical will stick out like a sore thumb, especially when coupled with darker curtains. It’s not a looker, and all the curtain pullers I tried so far, do a better way of concealing themselves.

Advantage

Say what you want about the design, but the Sonoff ZB Curtain driver does one thing well. While other solutions leave a very annoying gap when curtains are shut from both sides, this solution allows to close the gap completely and a desired length of the overlap to seal the room from light and trap the heat inside.

In action

In theory, the RF remote is all you need to operate Sonoff ZB Curtains as the buttons include the basic actions and combinations of them allow for setting limits. It’s a ZigBee-enabled set, so I would do you a disservice by not linking it to my old and trusty Sonoff ZigBee Bridge.

My RF remote was not paired. You need it paired to set limits otherwise your app won’t let you control the slider. The pairing was simple enough (once I watched the video as the instructions are not included in the manual):

  • power off the control box
  • push the pair button and power it back again, hold the buttons until the green light comes up
  • Press any button on your RF remote to pair

ZigBee pairing requires a compatible hub to pair. For me, it was the Sonoff ZB Bridge. It pairs in seconds – no problem there.

Speed and noise

This will be the “make or break” deal for many of you. I found Sonoff ZB Curtain to be on pair with loudness with SwitchBot or Aqara Curtain driver. All of these are considerably noisier than a dedicated motorised rail which requires installation. It only takes a couple of seconds to open the window fully so it’s not a big deal but take the noise into consideration if you are planning to buy them for your bedroom.

The curtain travels at the approx speed of 9 sec per meter. Your total distance will vary based on the existence of one or two curtains.

eWeLink

eWeLink offers timers and schedules, and the curtain settings allow you to easily reverse the motor. Other than this, you have to rely on the automation panel to create more complex automation. Of course, the skills for relevant voice assistants are included in the eWeLink suite so that you can control your Sonoff ZB Curtains with voice.

Other ecosystems

No dice with Aqara

The next step is to see where else we could use this driver. I checked Tuya with the Benexmart hub given to me by Zemismart – and that worked beautifully, with the exception of the device not having the option to reverse the motor in software – so be careful how you clip your curtains.

Aqara however failed to pair – pretty much the same result as with the Sonoff ZB Mini Extreme I covered recently. My bet is, that it Sonoff ZB Curtain should work with hubs embedded into voice assistants on Echos or Google Home speakers. That’s a guess, so don’t blame me if that’s not true.

Sonoff ZB Curtains & ZigBee2MQTT

As usual, my experiments are not limited to branded ecosystems. I used Sonoff ZB Dongle Plus to test the kit with my custom setup in NodeRED. As I have hands on the pre-release unit, the curtain isn’t officially supported, so I dove into the converter folder to find something suitable.

It pairs without problems, so the next step was hunting for a correct converter. I had no luck with Tuya converters, but this Zemismart converter worked partially:

{
        zigbeeModel: ['TS0302'],
        model: 'ZM-CSW032-D',
        vendor: 'Zemismart',
        description: 'Curtain/roller blind switch',
        fromZigbee: [fz.ignore_basic_report, fz.ZMCSW032D_cover_position],
        toZigbee: [tz.cover_state, tz.ZMCSW032D_cover_position],
        exposes: [e.cover_position()],
        meta: {multiEndpoint: true},
        configure: async (device, coordinatorEndpoint, logger) => {
            const endpoint = device.getEndpoint(1);
            await reporting.bind(endpoint, coordinatorEndpoint, ['closuresWindowCovering']);
            // Configure reporing of currentPositionLiftPercentage always fails.
            // https://github.com/Koenkk/zigbee2mqtt/issues/3216
        },
    }

It was closing and opening blinds but was unable to return the % values of the shade. It needs some work, but I’m positive in a couple of days from the release the device will be supported by default.

Shop with Sonoff

Take a look at the ZigBee and WiFi range of the devices compatible with eWeLink:

Final thoughts

Sonoff ZB Curtain is an interesting device. I’m always pleased with solutions that don’t require a hammer, nails and a digger to get your home automated, as I’m aware that a lot of people are simply renting. The ability to close the gap shut is ITEAD’s advantage over curtain pullers from Aqara and SwitchBot. What do you think? Let me know in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.

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