Controlling Solar Gain with SI’s Zen® 2 and Nano® Motorized Shading

When the indoor solar gain soars on sunny winter days, homeowners keep their cool by adding more than two dozen motorized shades from SI.

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About this Project
Perched high upon a Montana mountaintop, this 7,500-square-foot custom home basks in fresh air, spectacular views, and sunshine. The sensational scenery is a big reason the owners elected to keep the windows undressed, despite recommendations from their systems integration firm, Mountain Audio Video to adorn the panes with motorized shading. Having installed technology in many high elevation homes, Mountain Audio Video knew all too well the damage the sun can inflict on energy bills, comfort, and fine finishes and furnishings. “We always encourage our clients to have motorized shading installed, and while most do, these homeowners needed to experience the issues for themselves before giving us the green light,” says Mountain Audio Video owner Arnold Mendez.

The Challenge
Situated 6,000 feet above sea level, this luxury home was taking a beating; after battling an uncomfortable indoor climate from solar gain during their first few months in their home, the owners were ready to reconsider motorized shading. “Heat gain is just one problem that persists when windows have no shading,” says Mendez. “Over time, the UV light can fade wooden surfaces, upholstery, and artwork.” The challenge for Mountain AV was retrofitting motorized shades into a home already constructed and fully occupied.

Mountain AV SI Zen 2 Motorized Shade Installation

The Solution
Fortunately, Mountain Audio Video had the foresight to prewire the home while it was under construction for an eventual addition of motorized shading. Based on similar solar gain issues in other homes, it’s now their standard practice. They fully expected the owners of this home to eventually change their minds. Access to wiring certainly simplifies retrofit projects, but Mountain Audio Video was able to button up this job even faster using SI’s battery-powered shading solution, Nano, on the interior, and next generation outdoor shading system, Zen 2, on the expansive deck. “We would be working in the home as the owners were living in it, so our retrofit timeline would be even shorter than normal,” Mendez says. “We needed shading solutions that would go in quickly and easily.”

We would be working in the home as the owners were living in it, so our retrofit timeline would be even shorter than normal. We needed shading solutions that would go in quickly and easily.

— Mountain Audio Video owner Arnold Mendez

Requiring no wiring, the twenty-eight Nanos installed in a fraction of the time of similar size hardwired options. This, plus the Nano’s angular, streamlined profile, and decorator-inspired Fossil color, made it the perfect choice for an extensive retrofit. Housed within the Nano are shade fabrics ranging from blackout for the bedrooms to sheers for brighter spaces. Integrated with the home’s Lutron architectural lighting system and Control4 automation system, the Nano motors can be controlled conveniently from flush-mounted keypads, handheld remotes, and a smartphone app.

Mountain AV SI Zen 2 Motorized Shade Installation

A few of the southwest-facing windows remained Nano-free, as Mountain Audio Video had a different SI solution in mind: “The expansive deck on the southwest side of the house required some sun protection too, so why not use SI’s Zen 2 outdoor shading to kill two birds with one stone?” Recalls Mendez of his decision to try Zen 2 for the first time. In the past, his team has struggled with the complexities of outdoor shading installations but were ready to give SI’s Zen 2 a chance. “Unlike interior spaces which are plumb and straight, there is a lot more structural ‘give’ on patios, decks and other outdoor areas, which makes the installation difficult.” This was a non-issue with Zen 2, however. “We installed three shades in less than half the time it ordinarily takes us to install a single outdoor shade,” Mendez says. The biggest contributor to the time savings was the “deconstructed” housing. Traditionally, shading fabric comes pre-installed, which makes the shade housings extremely heavy, requiring lots of muscle and manpower to mount. Recognizing this common pain point, SI designed Zen 2 in two separate pieces. “We were able to easily install each of the three cassettes, then snap in the fabric,” Mendez explains.

We were able to easily install each of the three cassettes, then snap in the fabric.

— Mountain Audio Video owner Arnold Mendez

Mountain Audio Video chose a lightly woven fabric that would shade the deck and part of the interior without obscuring the view. The owners control the shades via Control4 remotes, keypads, and app, and rely on the integration of a Somfy Eolis RTS wind sensor to trigger the Zen 2 motors to raise the shades automatically when the wind reaches a certain velocity. It’s just one more mode of protection that SI provides through its thoughtfully designed and engineered shading products.

Mountain AV SI Zen 2 Motorized Shade Installation

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  • Tucker

    It’s confusing to see your installation include assembling parts that come assembled. Why are you messing with the end clips that hold the roll and the ends of the bottom of the screen??


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