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The Curtain Rod 2 can be a bit fiddly, but it’s a clever bit of tech to turn your curtains smart. It won’t work for every window though, and it’s not the most attractive addition to one. Eyelet Machine
Want to control your curtains from your smartphone or a remote control, but don’t want to install a brand-new motorised curtain pole that needs wiring into the mains or plugging into a socket?
Well, now you can retrofit your existing drapes with the Switchbot Curtain Rod 2, a smart-enabled gizmo that connects to your phone via Bluetooth and closes or opens your curtains at the touch of a button, or via voice command if you want to connect it to the wider Switchbot universe. It’s an upgrade to the Curtain Rod, with a streamlined design and a fix for some of the issues with the original.
In the box, you’ll get a white plastic unit containing a motor, with two clamps that hook over your curtain pole. Hang the unit between the first and second ring, grommet or tab on your curtain, and the unit will travel along the rod, pulling the rest of the curtain behind it.
It’s ingenious: a cracking bit of crafty engineering.
The motor unit itself is somewhat lozenge-shaped, 11cm long and roughly 4-5cm wide and deep. The clamps that hook onto your curtain pole extend from the top of the unit, and it hangs down with the logo facing into the room. It’s not a handsome device but it’s unobtrusive.
At 135g (0.3lbs), it’s fairly light, but it can pull up to 8kg (17lb) of curtain along a 3m (9.8ft) maximum runway. It does this by turning three rollers, two at the top of the clamps and one at the top of the unit, so the unit travels along your curtain pole. Think of tree logs rolling down a Canadian hillside, and you’ve got the idea – only that hill is your curtain pole.
In the box is a motor unit, a pair of clamps (although one is fitted to the motor unit), a type-C cable, the beads fixer, some curtain clips, and a metal accessory to fit to the junction between the outer and inner curtain rods if you’ve used a telescopic curtain pole to fit your windows.
The first thing to do is read the manual, largely to ascertain whether you have ring top, grommet, tab top or tab back curtains, and double-check that your curtain rod is between 15mm and 40mm in diameter.
Then charge the motorised unit with the type-C cable. We found this a bit tricky because no lights came on the unit when we plugged it in, and we discovered later that you can only see the battery status in the app. The unit was already charged out of the box, hence no light. But at first, we thought there was something wrong with our power adapter.
Then download the Switchbot app (there’s a QR code in the manual to find the right one), register for an account, and add the Switchbot curtain in the app. Bear in mind that the Switchbot app is huge and will take up a fair bit of space on your phone.
It’s then time to install the unit on your curtain pole. The hook clamps stretch out, but it can be a bit fiddly. The app will take you through the calibration process: the motor unit moves left and right, and you tell the app where it needs to stop to close your curtain or open it, and then you adjust the settings.
It’s pretty straightforward.
If you want to retrofit a pair of curtains that meet in the middle of a window, you need two Curtain Rods: one for the left-hand curtain and one for the right.
We tested it first on a pair of grommet curtains.
Because of the way the Curtain Rod 2 works, you need to install the bead fixer for grommet curtains. This is a length of beads that runs from grommet to grommet on the top of your curtain, fixed to said grommets with transparent clips, so that when the Rod 2 moves along the curtain pole, it doesn’t overpull the curtain behind it to the point where the subsequent grommets start to face toward the room, rather than the middle of the pole.
If the grommets are pulled so they face the room, the tension between them and the pole stops the curtain from moving along the pole — it’s like trying to move a Polo mint sideways along a pipe cleaner.
We tried the Rod 2 on bead-free grommet curtains and found it could only pull the curtain two thirds across the window before the tension between the sideways grommets and the pole towards the back of the curtain became too great.
So we installed the beads. It’s an ingenious solution to the problem. The only issue is that you need sufficient width in your curtain to allow for the 8cm bead length between the grommet clips, because these beads constrict how much curtain can span the pole from one grommet to the next, while also having enough spare curtain width to actually cover your window.
In short, we calculated that you need roughly double the curtain width of your window: that is, 40cm of actual curtain for each 20cm length of curtain rod.
We just didn’t have this kind of fabric volume for our curtains, so while the Rod 2 worked with the beading installed, the result was that our curtain, with what were essentially rather deep pleats, only covered about 2/3rds of the actual window. The solution, of course, was that we needed wider curtains.
You also can’t change the length of beads between each grommet clip, so you really do need that fabric volume.
We then tried the Rod 2 on a pair of ring top curtains. You fit the Rod 2 between the first and second curtain ring, and then calibrate through the app. It worked perfectly.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have any tab top or tab back curtains to test the Rod 2, so we can’t speak to the performance for those types of curtain fittings.
If you have a telescopic curtain rail, the Rod 2 may struggle to cross the junction between the outer rail and the inner extendable rail. If this is an issue, Switchbot includes an accessory to solve the problem. It’s a kind of metal stick-on attachment that looks a bit like a large-toothed metal comb. It works well, although it could look a bit messy if you don’t stick it down carefully.
It takes six and a half hours to fully charge the battery of the Rod 2, and Switchbot says it should last eight months without needing a recharge. You simply take the Rod 2 down, charge it up with the supplied USB cable, and refit. As we said before, you can only check the battery status in the app; there isn’t any indicator on the unit itself.
However, Switchbot makes a solar panel for the Rod 2 that slots into the back of the unit; this panel is not supplied in the Rod 2 kit and you need to buy it as an extra accessory (US, $19; UK, £25).
The panel has a plug that fits into the motor unit’s USB slot, and two little claws that hook onto the back of the unit at the top. We managed to fit it with the Rod 2 already installed on our curtain pole, though it was a little fiddly. If your Rod 2 is not in sunlight, you can use the supplied Velcro attachment that allows you to fit the solar panel further down your curtain.
This is where the Rod 2 really comes into its own. The app allows you to not only open and close your curtains to whichever position your wish on the pole, you can also set them to open or close at a specific time, or according to a specific light level.
The latter is made possible by a light sensor in the Rod 2, but do be aware, we set our curtains to close when the light dimmed to below a certain level, only to discover that a subsequent rainstorm, and its attendant thick black clouds, meant our curtains suddenly closed at 2pm in the afternoon.
You can also set your curtains on a timer to open or close after so many minutes or hours.
There’s also the touch-and-go mode. You simply pull or push the curtain along the pole, and the Rod 2 kicks in to take the curtain all the way closed or open.
If you want a remote control for your Rod 2, you can use the Switchbot Remote (US, $19; UK, £19.99). All this requires is simply adding the remote to the Switchbot app and setting the function of the remote’s buttons to close or close your windows.
If you want to use voice control or set up more complex, Wi-Fi enabled smart home systems, you’ll need to buy the Switchbot Hub Mini (US, $39; UK, £35), which allows you to control the Rod 2 with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Smart Things or Clova.
This is also how to connect all manner of Switchbot gizmos together: the Meter Plus (a temperature and humidity meter), the Contact Sensor, the Switchbot Bot (a gizmo that depresses buttons), the Smart Humidifier, the Smart Bulbs and more. You can browse all the devices on the US or the UK Switchbot website.
You could, for example, create a scene in which the Hub automatically closes your curtains, turns your coffee machine on, switches your lights to a low warm white and starts a humidifier, all when you walk through a door that’s been fitted with the Switchbot contact sensor.
The Curtain Rod 2 is the latest Switchbot model for smart retrofitting curtain poles. It has a MSRP of $99 in the US and £85 in the UK. Don’t forget you’ll need two for a set of curtains. It’s available direct from Switchbot, but you may get a better price if you shop around.
The Switchbot Curtain Rod 2 is an inventive and imaginative way to smart-enable your everyday curtains. Okay, it is a touch pricey and the costs can mount if you want to use all of its functionality.
If you have double curtains, you’ll need two units. If you want to solar charge, you’ll need to buy the solar panels separately. To connect to Alexa or Google Assistant, you’ll need the Hub Mini. Even so, it is one of the few products on the market that allows you to motorise your existing curtains without having to fit a new, and more expensive, pole.
Foot Operated Eyelet Machine And it works, so long as your curtains are wide enough if you need to employ the bead fixer. But if you have oodles of curtain, it’s a great and fun product.