HomeHome AutomationThe quietest roller shade driver I used!

The quietest roller shade driver I used!

This thing is pretty quiet!

If you were paying close attention to Aqara releases, you should see this coming. Aqara brought their ZigBee ecosystem from Xiaomi to western consumers. First were Aqara hubs with sensors to follow. Now another device is making the cross over: Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 (AmazonUK, AmazonUS) joins the family of ZigBee 3.0 powered devices. It’s the 3rd chainlink driver (I have similar Zemismart and Tuya devices) I have on my hands, so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1

Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 on the wall
Installed and ready for action

Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 has one job, to drag a very familiar beads chain to lift/open/unroll whatever blinds you have attached to it. The support for blinds, shutters and rollers is pretty extensive thanks to extra wheels compatible with different beads chains. It’s a great choice for anyone looking to expand their ZigBee ecosystem. It’s £59 on Amazon here in the UK, and other countries should have it available natively soon too.

The device is surprisingly small (the smallest of the ones I have). Thanks to ZigBee 3.0 protocol, it will use less power to stay connected and with a built-in battery, the Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 is completely wireless. The device is being released on the same day as my article, so I can’t verify how long it will last on a single charge, but if Zemismart one can last up to 4 months thanks to a connected dongle that uses an RF signal to lower the power consumption, the Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 advertises 2 months, but the actual battery life will strongly depend on the weight/length of the shades you will drag around.

Extra points are given for USB-C charging port. Even when you run out of power, the device is easy to detach for charging, but the inclusion of the USB-C port allows you to recharge the shade driver by connecting it to a portable battery overnight. Alternatively, they can stay connected and operate wired.

To control it, you will need a ZigBee hub. Aqara has you covered and you are spoiled for choice in that regard. You can pick a wireless M1S, ethernet equipped M2 or an IP camera that doubles as a ZigBee hub too if you prefer a hub with more utility.

Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 and chainlink
Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 and 4 wheels fo match your chain

Aqara ZigBee 3.0 line up so far:


Installation

Intentional breakage to expose the chainlink
Intentional breakage to expose the chainlink

Unfortunately, there is some room to improve things. Take time with marking the distance for the installation bracket. You can fit it with 3M tape or 2 screws (provided) but the bracket itself doesn’t have any height adjustments, unlike other drivers I have been using. While you will only need to do it once, I do appreciate the freedom of having one after screwing one of my brackets a little too low.

You are also expected to remove the teeth from the cover yourself. An idea I thought was strange at first until I realised that some users could be installing Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 in other than horizontal positions. In that case, exposing slots yourself makes sense. Don’t worry they are easy to remove without leaving marks on the cover.

In use

Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1

Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 is surprisingly quiet. It was no match to my banshee driver. It has a decent amount of torque and it should roll up even the widest roller blinds. Which gave me an idea to automate something else (more on that next time). The driver moves the shades quietly at 1m per 18 seconds. It’s not the fastest one out there but it’s pretty quiet.

Buttons on the controller allow you to fully open/close and pause the action, while the app menu comes with more granular controls including slider and custom buttons which you can define to your liking. It’s possible to create an action that will close the blinds for 2h and open it again, which is perfect if you just want to fire up a movie on a projector. The drivers will stay in my office as my bedroom curtains already have a custom solution to automatically close my curtains when My Xiaomi DLP projector (review) is on.

App

I mentioned before that the Aqara app is very zen-alike. The surgical aesthetics shows only options needed, and it’s very much the same for the Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1. There are customisations to change the way the blind look in-app – to match your blind type, but let’s face it! You will be automating it for sure!

The dedicated automation panels allow quick and simple linking with other Aqara sensors and setting up timers and policies based on input from other devices, but for most western consumers it’s the Alexa and Google Assistant support that matters. With relevant skills, you can quickly link Aqara cloud and enable the functionality for your preferred assistant. It’s refreshing to see after battling different SKUs on Xiaomi ecosystems across Chinese mainland and European servers.

Google Assistant integration is already operational for Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 while Alexa skill wasn’t configured at the time of testing, but it should be released the day after. I used Aqara stuff before, and I don’t anticipate any problems. (I will update this post if there are any). Google Home integration is working swift without delay, although Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 isn’t linked yet as a curtain device with a mobile interface. This should change soon, but voice integration is already functional.

Final thoughts

Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1 is very good. Anyone looking to expand their ecosystem should really consider automating windows. Take it from my experience, these are the most satisfying automation to have after smart lights. After all, you are automating light in your house – sunlight to be precise. I have 3 of these for a very specific reason. I’m planning to automate my conservatory blinds, something I had been quoted almost £2000 for! Do you think I can pull it off on the cheap? Obviously, this will happen thanks to my custom ZigBee coordinator and NodeRED. Your thoughts? Let me know in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Battery life
Operation
App
Installation

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If you were paying close attention to Aqara releases, you should see this coming. Aqara brought their ZigBee ecosystem from Xiaomi to western consumers. First were Aqara hubs with sensors to follow. Now another device is making the cross over: Aqara Roller Shade Driver...The quietest roller shade driver I used!