Inside or Outside Mount: For the cleanest look, you should install your shades or blinds in the window frame. Measure the depth and account for window handles or anything else that might collide with the shade. Think about where you can drill holes to fit the mounting brackets and whether your chosen spot can handle the weight of a shade. An outside mount doesn’t look as good, but it is easier to install and can cover the window completely to block more light. Inside-mounted shades always have small gaps that light can get through. If you are after a pitch-dark bedroom, combining inside mount shades with curtains is the best way to go.

Material and Finish: You can get shades and blinds in so many different styles. Take your time choosing the material and color you want and think about the opacity. If you just want a privacy shade for a street-facing living room, then choose something that lets a lot of light through. If you’re trying to conserve or block heat or reduce noise, a thicker shade can help. For the neatest look, it’s worth thinking about a valance that will cover the top of the shade (most manufacturers offer these as an added extra).

Power: Smart shades and retrofit smart blinds and curtains all require power. Most come with a rechargeable battery and they can generally be charged in situ with a long enough cable (if you don’t have an outlet close, use a power bank). Some shades take standard batteries you can swap in and out, though we recommend rechargeable batteries for these. Small solar panels are another common option that will keep your shades topped up, but you might not like how they look from the outside. In any case, always fully charge the battery before installation.

Connectivity: Most shades come with a remote control. But to put the smart in smart shades you need a hub that your shades can connect to. This will allow you to control the shades from your phone or using voice commands. Think about your current smart home setup and preferred voice assistant when you are shopping for shades to ensure compatibility. You can sometimes connect to shades via Bluetooth, but it is flaky, low range, and slow compared to Wi-Fi or Zigbee.

Automation: The number one reason to get smart shades is automation, so make sure you research what is possible when shopping. While any smart shade can be automated to open and close at set times, some can adjust to close at sunset and open at sunrise. You can also have motion sensors to trigger some shades to open when you walk into the room in the morning, or have your shades close automatically when a certain temperature is reached in the room. You may need some extra gadgets for more complex automation.