HomeHome AutomationEveryone is making curtain drivers: Aqara Curtain Driver E1

Everyone is making curtain drivers: Aqara Curtain Driver E1

Curtain Automation that Matter(s)

I’m under impression that everyone is making curtain drivers this year. SwitchBot has introduced me to the concept of moving curtains with tiny robots followed by Zemismart with their all-in-one driver. Now Aqara is jumping the curtain train, bringing Aqara Curtain Driver E1 to their ecosystem. I’m not complaining, as the choice is always a good thing from the consumer’s perspective.

Aqara Curtain Driver E1

Aqara Curtain Driver E1

I will write this once again (and probably 10 times more eventually): if you are not automating your curtains, you are missing out. After light automation, moving windows fittings back and forth is the most impressive automation I can think of. It also brings tangible benefits like boosting your privacy or even lowering your bills. After all, you are automating daylight – another light source in your life.

Aqara Curtain Driver E1 is massive! Aqara established a long time ago, that if you going to automate your home, gadgets are available in all colours as long as the colour is white. Well… with the exception of M2 Hub which is black for some reason. Stacked against other curtain drivers from SwitchBot and Zemismart, Aqara Curtain Driver E1 is almost twice the size. Is it a good thing? As long as your window fittings aren’t flimsy – you will be ok!

Aqara caters to 3 types of window fittings: U-rail, I-beam, rod, and rail. If you have one of these, pick the driver suitable to your use case, as the accessories inside the box are matched with your fitting type only (Zemismart was more generous in that matter). Aqara Curtain Driver E1 driver has a big button, LED indicator and light sensor on the front face. It’s also 21st century enabled thanks to the USB-C port present to charge the internal battery. It’s too early to tell how long this monstrosity will last but the product page promises a year of use on a single charge thanks to a 6000mAh battery inside.

I picked the rod version of the driver, so my set comes with a clear tape that you can use to draw the curtain evenly (optional) and 8 clips. Bear in mind, that Aqara Curtain Driver E1 isn’t compatible with telescopic rods. If your rod has a joint point in the middle, you will need two drivers to drive your curtains from both sides. SwitchBot Rod 2.0 has it figured out with their spring-loaded mount that can traverse rods like this (although a 3D printer can get handy to make transitions easier). With my model, I can support rods between 25-32mm with grommets that should be thicker than 4mm.

You’ll need a ZigBee 3.0 hub to talk to Aqara Curtain Driver E1, but their ecosystem has got you covered with a rich selection of hubs. These are available with build into IP cameras like G2H Pro or G3H with gesture recognition or more traditional hubs like M2 with IR blaster and built-in speaker. For my tests, I’ll roll with M2 Hub, but I will be tempted to give it a go later in NodeRED paired with my custom coordinator (Electrolama, Sonoff Dongle) – but more on that later.

Will it Matter?

Just like Aqara Motion Sensor P1, Aqara Curtain Driver E1 will support Matter in the future via OTA update. The device already comes with compatible hardware and Aqara promises to deliver a new protocol once Matter is fully fleshed out. It’s a great move on the Aqara side, as home automation enthusiasts can buy devices now and use them with ZigBee 2.0 without worrying about protocol support down the line.

In use

The pairing process is uneventful. Aqara knows their stuff and their devices pair in seconds. It’s worth checking all available functions for the only button present on the Aqara Curtain Driver E1:

  • hold 5 sec – pairing mode
  • Single Click – open/close
  • Double Click – release/close hooks
  • Triple Click – set range limit
  • Press it 5 times – delete range limits

What’s really fancy about Aqara Curtain Driver E1 is the motorised hook deployment. While other drivers I used, take advantage of the spring loading, Aqara’s gadget has a dedicated motor to move the hooks into position and tension them accordingly. The rod bracket closes around the rod with a click.

Thanks to this, the installation is very quick, and simple and tensioning the drivers remotely feels almost luxurious. I remember hating this on Zemismart devices. Either way, you’ll get to do it once. The whole process takes about 30 sec.

In-app instructions will walk you through the setup process which will depend on the curtain’s type and the number of the Aqara Curtain Driver E1 installed on your window fitting. It’s well explained with text instructions, assistive beeps from the device and in-app illustrations.

Calibration is also done in an intelligent way. Whether you use single or double drivers, setting limits can be done with 2 in-app clicks. Awesome.

Get Aqara devices:

Find out more about Aqara ZigBee 3.0 range and outfit your home with their excellent sensors and smart devices:

But how loud?

It takes about 8 seconds to clear the rod and the device is relatively quiet. You will hear it rolling that’s for sure, but it’s annoying. To see how these stack with the quietest driver I have – SwitchBot Curtain, I placed them side by side.

I think the loudness levels are very similar on both devices, with the SwitchBot driver operating at higher RPMs. Even in silent mode, SwitchBot wasn’t necessarily quieter, I found Aqara Curtain Driver E1 more pleasant to listen to due to the lower pitch of the motor inside.

If you are looking for a near-silent performance that won’t disturb your sleep (Aqara Curtain Driver E1 wouldn’t wake me up), take a look at this Zemismart motorised rail. It’s a more elaborate installation and may not suit you, but it’s almost silent.

Aqara app

As usual, the app has a clean interface with everything logically laid out. Each driver can have a dedicated icon assigned depending on the curtain orientation or if you got 2 drivers, you can easily combine these into a single-window controller. What’s interesting, doing so won’t remove individual controls like in other ecosystems. You can use the app to open individual sides of the window.

Other than custom icons for the driver, expect typical controls. Aqara Curtain Driver E1 appears as a card for each driver and an additional card if you combine the drivers into a curtain set.

Earlier, I mentioned the light sensor. You don’t have to have fancy motion detection sensors with luminosity sensors to link your Aqara Curtain Driver E1 to brightness levels. Apart from typical schedules and voice activation available thanks to the Aqara skill for Alexa and Google Home, you can use the luminosity to drive the curtain’s behaviour. It’s great, as it will save you some money if you don’t have any other devices from the Aqara ecosystem.

To take advantage of the complete automation and link your curtains to temperature event, or enable it as part of your security system, you can always look into expanding your device list further. Aqara already supports a very rich ecosystem:

As the whole ecosystem is ZigBee based, it’s responsive and works well. I had no range issues, and the drivers were tested with the window in the furthest corner of my house (in relation to the hub) across 2 floors. If you live in a mansion, get a couple of IP Cameras from Aqara that also serve as ZigBee hubs and you will extend the reach of your ecosystem.

Missing?

I’m not sure what’s going on, but the Amazon listing promises 3-speed modes including a silent one, but I checked the app several times and I can’t find this setting. Perhaps this is subject to a firmware update down the line. I will reach out to my rep and update the article once I have the answer.

Final thoughts

When I saw the size of the Aqara Curtain Driver E1, I worried that the price would be prohibitive. After all, Aqara makes high-quality devices but also charges accordingly. I’m pleased to say that price of the Aqara Curtain Driver E1 is very competitive. At $99.99, this driver is just a little more expensive than SwitchBot or Zemismart. Go on, I know you want to have fancy curtains at home… and if you already have roller blinds, Aqara has you covered too with their ZigBee driver. As for now, it’s time to fire up NodeRED and do some testing! Let me know what you think about these in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.

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