Automating Your Curtains with a PowerCord Motor

PowerCord Curtain MotorFancy automating your curtains / drapes? What about having them close at dusk each day, or perhaps having them open automatically at a certain time each morning.  Having the ability to open and close your curtains can be a serious deterrant against break-ins whilst you’re away from your property too. Along with a slightly randomised replay of your normal daily lighting routine it gives a house a very convincing lived in look.

Powercord – We purchased a PowerCord Series 1 (£184) and Series 2 (£240) motor to replace our aging Butler Add-a-Motors.  The pictures in this review are of the larger motor (Series 2) which we’ve installed downstairs on a Silent Gliss 5100 track which has two sets of two bends in it (inner bends in a bay window, plus reverse bends round the outside of the bay) and for half the year has very heavy full length lined velvet curtains which weigh a total of about 14-15KG.  This track/curtain combination did, believe it or not, work perfectly well with a Butler Add-a-Motor despite the fact that it looks and feels about as weedy as a gnats’ toe!

Installing – The PowerCord motors are trivial to install, with just 4 screws required to attach them to the wall. There’s no adjustment possible of the mounting position other than getting the holes drilled in the right place, since there are holes in the backplate, not slots, so the motor position cannot be adjusted at all after fixing.

PowerCord Curtain Motor

 New PowerCord Series 2 beside the old Butler Add-a-Motor

We just offered them up to the wall, marked the hole positions, then drilled and fixed them in place. Then looped the track cord around the pulley and adjusted the cord tension via the track itself. The pulley wheel has a groove in it which the cord sits in and thus the pulley doesn’t seem to rely on the cord being taut in order to exert enough friction.  There’s no adjustment within the motor of the cord tension either, that needs to be adjusted via the curtain track itself.  Most half-decent corded track will allow adjustment of the cord length although to be honest, during fitting and adjustment we ran ours a few times with a fair amount of slack in the cord loop and it didn’t seem to worry it one bit.  The units use a bog-standard IEC mains lead and plug into a standard 13-amp socket.

The units detect the end of travel by sensing when the motor has stopped moving when it hits the end of the track.  The level at which it senses the increased resistance can be adjusted to account for very heavy curtains that cause a fair amount of load on their own.

It’s worth pointing out that unlike some other electric curtain motors and rails these don’t do anything in response to a power cycle so putting them on an X10 module for example would be pointless.

Brute Force – This new motor is about 5 times the size, and about 20 times the weight – it weighs a ton! (well almost).  I don’t think it would look out of place bolted to the front of a Landrover.  Needless to say with its power it runs this curtain perfectly easily and it’s about twice as fast to travel across the window as the old Butler (maybe even a little faster) with full travel taking just 3 seconds.   It is audible in operation however it’s quieter than the old Bultler motor and as it’s faster the duration is shorter too.  As it sits behind our long curtains the sound is quite muffled too.

Interface to Automate – The unit can be interfaced to many other systems using their purpose made connection unit.  While it’s little more than a chocky block in a box it does have the all-important connector on it for the motor end, which looks very much like a 5-pin DIN style round connector.

PowerCord Curtain Motor
Inside the Connection Unit

While PowerCord sell their own range of control units (local switches, timers, etc) we of course want to add more advanced logic, control and automation.  So we always intended to control them via our Comfort

intelligent security system and our C-BUS setup.  From the connection box it’s wired back to a couple of spare relays on our Comfort (one for open, one for close) each relay needs to pulse for 1 second to activate the motor.  These dedicated control lines are a joy as they provide discrete Open and Close commands, there’s no faffing about with a toggle and trying to keep track of the state of the curtains.  The connection box also has a discrete STOP control line as well, so in theory, it’s possible to stop the curtains part way if you wanted to, but I haven’t bothered using that option at this point. (It’s not something I find I want to do very often!).

PowerCord Curtain Motor
Interfacing to Comfort Relay Board

There’s also another control line called “SEQ” – this does a full open/close (or close/open) sequence, and again, I haven’t connected that line up to comfort, since the comfort relay board has 4 relays on it, and by only connecting up the Open and Close lines, I can accommodate two sets of curtain motors with a single relay board.

Curtain Bus – We programmed responses into Comfort (4 events in total) which pulse the appropriate outputs and thereby open or close the curtains. There are events programmed to open/close them automatically at certain times of the day (some linked to sunrise/sunset, some are fixed times). There’s also a response in Comfort which opens/closes the curtains trigerred by a counter value change, – this mechanism enables us to have manual control over the open/close via C-BUS buttons (C-BUS group numbers map onto Comfort counter numbers.  So when C-BUS group 22 switches on or off, comfort counter 22 changes to value of 0 or 255). The C-BUS UCM makes this very easy, it’s all completely automatic and so whatever happens on the CBUS network, Comfort always knows about it immediately, and thus can use it to trigger actions.

C-Bus Saturn
Our Existing Saturn Switches

For the downstairs curtains, we’ve used two buttons on a Saturn switch, again discrete Open and Close buttons – mainly because in the C-BUS Saturn pre-labelled button caps there are a couple with “Open” & “Close” labels, but there isn’t a pre-labelled cap that’s appropriate for a single button that toggles them (no pictures of curtains etc.). A nice upgrade for the future here would be to swap out the standard Saturn switch and replace it with a DLT allowing our own custom graphic labels.

C-Bus Saturn DLT

 Upgrade? – Saturns with DLT (Dynamic Labelling Technology)

Upstairs I have Neo’s and a mechanical Clipsal momentary switch with a bus coupler behind it (a leftover from the bad old days of X-10 DIN Rail modules and earmarked to be replaced with a Saturn very soon).  In this case I have used a single button for the curtains which toggles them. Now both SWMBO and I have the ability to open or close the curtains from our individual bedside C-BUS Neo’s, in addition to the wall switch by the door.

Remember the newly announced C-Bus Shutter Motor Control Relay too for those of you that have C-Bus but no Comfort setup.

Conclusion – Our upstairs motor is considerably smaller than this one and having seen them both in action, I’m pretty sure that the smaller (Series 1) would almost certainly have been adequate for the heavier downstairs curtains too.  The PowerCord motors are certainly well engineered and their sturdy construction should give years of service.  Automating your curtains is a fun task and a pretty straight forward install.  Give it a try in your home too.

powercord.org.uk (now closed down?)

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10 Comments on "Automating Your Curtains with a PowerCord Motor"

  1. Paul Gordon | July 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm |

    Powercord no longer appear to be present at that website address…. – it now brings up a site selling AV Mains leads…

    Looks like the curtain motor vendor is now at http://www.powercord.org.uk instead…

  2. Michael Johnson | January 26, 2011 at 7:13 pm |

    its powercord.org.uk now 🙂

  3. Thanks Michael – we’ve updated the URL.

    M.

  4. Phil Brunton | July 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm |

    There is a new product on the market now (2013) http://www.windowboss.co.uk
    UK supplied curtain and blind controller which includes a power supply all for under £50.

  5. I have had Powercord motors working well in my house for over 25 years drawing Interlined curtains with no problems, just changed the rubber on one cord wheel.
    Frank

  6. Would love to know where to get the rubber replacement for the powercord wheel. If you can tell me, much appreciated.

  7. I emailed Powercord Engineering last week and was informed that the company has ceased trading. Have their products been taken on by another company or are they no longer available. It seems most curtains are marketed with track included whereas I need to motorise an existing track with wooden pole of 5 metre length

  8. James Neasham | January 10, 2017 at 11:25 am |

    Does anyone know where you can get Power Cord spares from?
    One of my units has a faulty motor.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  9. I too want to replace my PowerCord motor with a new PowerCord or something similar. Have PowerCord gone out of business? Can anyone help please? Thanks.

  10. I would also like to know where to obtain spares for PowerCord motor. I need replacement rubber tyre and more red pins for the Timer.

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