If you have ever wanted to control your home blinds or shades, you must have came across various curtain driver motors while searching the web. Of course, the design and operation of these kind of devices creates certain doubts of the functionality, durability and potential points of failure.
Aqara is one of the companies manufacturing a couple of curtain control devices and in this review I’m testing the Aqara Roller Shade Driver E1. This is a geared motor, ZigBee operated gadget used to open or close your drapes by mechanically pulling the beads cord in both directions.
- Model: RSD-M01
- ZigBee Model: ZNJLBL01LM
- Wireless Protocol: ZigBee 3.0 IEEE 802.15.4
- Dimensions: 43×38.5x175mm (1.69×1.52×6.90 in.)
- Power Consumption: 5w
- Power Supply: 5V1A (Adapter not included)
- Battery Type: Lithium
- Operating Temperature: -10°C-55°C (14°F-°131F)
- Operating Humidity: 0-95% RH
- Roller Shades Max Size: 180x180cm
- Roller Shades Types: Venetian blinds, Honeycomb shades, Triple shades, Roller shades, Zebra shades
- Cord Beads Size: 3-6mm in diammeter
The Aqara E1 Roller Shade Driver comes packaged in a high quality printed box containing the device itself, a manual, a double sided adhesive sticker and some screws for installation, 3 different rotating plates for different bead sizes and a USB-A to USB-C cable. The only thing missing is a 5V1A adapter, you will have to supply it yourself.
My first impression is the device feels very heavy, compact and premium. Maybe I was expecting an empty shell (the weird PS-HPS scarred me) but that was not the case.
The front of the body contains buttons for manual operation (up & down) as well as a small LED indicator. The two buttons are also used to indicate the max positions of the curtain. On the top of the shell, a can slides off so you can install your bead cord. On the back, there is some labelling and product information under the mounting plate. The plate itself, has two small holes for firmly mounting the device in place.
Underneath the Open labelled cover, the bead rotating plate is placed on the motor axis. If you need to change it to accommodate different cords, it can be removed by simply pulling it upwards.
At the bottom of the case, the reset button is conveniently placed next to a 5V USB-C port. Aqara installing a USB-C instead of MicroUSB port gives me some assurance of the quality of the device and the company’s willingness to follow and adapt newer standards.
The case is held together by 4 hex screws and once those are removed, we can see the components inside. The battery is connected to the main PCB with a short 3 wire cable. The motor lies in the middle and connects to the PCB with a flat cable.
What I like is that the ZigBee communications module is connected to an antenna on the side of the case, improving its signal. This is good practice to ensure stable ZigBee connectivity.
The battery itself is a rechargeable Li-polymer battery with capacity of 1000mAh. Even though Aqara says the battery is not replaceable, this is just a standard Lithium battery which can be found online.
The motor is labelled as model SZ29Z370, on which I could not find any information online. Appears to be a small geared motor, which is properly lubricated and produces minimal sound. You could barely hear it in a standard home atmosphere.
The top view of the PCB reveals the Aqara communications chip, labelled model LM19-ZGB-CN-B-T1 which is based on NXP JN5189 MCU. These chips are low power, high performance Arm® Cortex®-M4 based wireless microcontrollers supporting Zigbee 3.0 and Thread networking stacks to facilitate the development of Home
Automation, Smart Lighting and wireless sensor network applications.
On the back of the PCB, the two buttons that manually control the device are laid out. The smaller PCB sticking out is the communications chip and here you can see its labelling.
The Aqara E1 Roller Shade Driver is easily installed by following the instruction manual.
If you need to replace the rotating plate, make sure to first measure the diameter of your cord beads. You want to leave a little space for the beads to move freely and not get stuck.
The cover of the rolling plate has these plastic teeth that you need to brake off. These are not removed by default because some users might be installing the E1 in a horizontal position, so they would need to remove different two teeth.
Setting Curtain Limits
To ensure the correct operation of the Aqara E1 Roller Shade Driver, you need to set the correct fully open and fully closed positions of your shades. To do this:
- The fully open position can be set by setting the shade to the desired position and then pressing the up button 5 times in succession. If successful the light turns blue and flashes 3 times.
- The fully closed position can be set by setting the shade to the desired position and then pressing the down button 5 times in succession. If successful the light turns blue and flashes 3 times.
If the up and down buttons are working in the opposite direction of how your blinds operate, they can be swapped by pressing the reset button 3 times. If successful the light turns solid blue for 1 second.
Home Assistant Integration
The Aqara E1 Roller Shade Driver is compatible with ZHA and ZigBee2MQTT. Your coordinator must have the following minimum firmware version, for this device to operate correctly:
If your coordinator firmware version is older, some entities are not completely functional in ZHA (eg. the cover entity does not know the exact position of the roller blind)
To pair it, press and hold the reset button on the bottom for 5 seconds.
Once paired, it exposes the following entities to Home Assistant:
- charging_status: Whether the device is currently charging
- running: Whether the motor is currently running
- update_available: Whether OTA update is available
- cover: Main entity for controlling shades, value 0-100
- battery: Battery percentage in %
- device_temperature: Temperature of the device
- motor_state: Current state of the motor, declining, rising, pause, block
- linkquality: Signal quality in LQI
Aside supporting OTA updates (Visit this page to see how they work in Z2M), the Aqara E1 Roller Shade Driver also has two available specific settings:
- invert_cover: Inverts the cover position, false: open=100,close=0, true: open=0,close=100 (default false). The value must be true or false
- device_temperature_calibration: Calibrates the device_temperature value (absolute offset), takes into effect on next report of device. The value must be a number.
The Aqara E1 Roller Shade Driver is nothing more than I expected nor it is anything less. As is Aqara’s standard, this is a good quality device, which operates very quietly. It’s battery is reported to last up to 2 months, with opening a large curtain twice a day.
In a ZigBee network, the gadget is very stable and operates as an EndDevice. This is expected, as the gadget will spend most its life running on battery.
The main cover entity receives feedback for the position of the shade correctly, so you always know the exact level of your curtains. This is great for automations and voice control (eg. Hey Google, living room blinds to 50%)
So, if are looking for something to control your venetian blinds with a beaded cord, this is the proper gadget. Aqara also produces a couple of other products specifically for blinds and curtains control to which I will leave links bellow.
Please note: The Aqara E1 Roller Shade Driver is currently out of stock on AliExpress and Amazon.com, with the only listings on European Amazon stores. MoesHouse sells the same device, which I have not tested, but users reported the device is almost identical, carrying the same motor/hardware. Links will be updated when the E1 is available for purchase again.
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