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What are the operational considerations for roller blinds?

By: Category: Insights

Roller blinds are the most frequently specified type of window blind on commercial, education and high-end residential projects. Their simple construction with minimal moving parts and the plethora of fabric choices make roller blinds the product of choice in offices, classrooms and living areas. There are four types of operation for roller blinds – spring, side chain, geared crank rod and electric. This post explains the pros and cons of each so you can decide with confidence which type of roller blind to use on your next project.

Spring operated roller blinds rely on a spring tensioned clutch mechanism to hold the fabric in the desired position. The blind is lowered by pulling on a centrally fixed cord or hand grip on the bottom hem bar. The blind is retracted by a gentle tug on the cord. The pro’s of this system are it is ‘safe by design’ according to BSEN13120 child safety legislation. On the downside, spring operated blinds are limited to a maximum width of 1m and a height of 2m. They are also notoriously troublesome – springs lose their tension. Not recommended in the office or school environments.

Roller blinds with side chain operation are the most commonly used blind. A decent quality blind will have a stainless steel chain which is not only more robust but also hangs nicely. Larger blinds can be fitted with a booster spring which is concealed inside the roller tube making large and heavy blinds easy to operate. Make sure the side chain is fitted with chain stops (small metal balls crimped onto the chain) to ensure the fabric is not over roller when raised and lowered which can cause damage to the fabric. Chain operated blinds need to comply with BSEN13120 child safety legislation if they are being installed in areas where children under the age of 42 months are likely to have access. Read more about that here.

Geared crank rod operated roller blinds are used widely in schools. They are an exceptionally robust blind making them a favourite with facilities managers. The 4:1 ratio makes the blinds quick to operate. The option of removable crank handles allows operation of the blinds to be limited to authorised persons (i.e. teachers) which save the blinds from being damaged by children or the general public. Geared crank rod roller blinds are also ‘safe by design’ according to BSEN13120 making them ideal for school and buildings where the general public have access. The operation of geared crank rod roller blinds becomes difficult if the blinds are mounted more than 4m above the finished floor level. For high-level blinds or blinds installed in hard-to-reach situations then consider electric roller blinds.

Electric roller blinds are becoming increasingly popular in commercial offices and high-end residential properties. Electric roller blinds typically require a 13amp fused spur within 1m of where the blind is to be installed. Hard wired motors also require cables to be run to a wall mounted switch. Radio motors are very popular with the possibility of handheld or wall mounted remote switches. Recommended for high level or hard to reach installations the growing trend towards home automation and building management systems make electric roller blinds even more popular as they can be interfaced with these control systems to provide the ultimate in functionality. Whilst more expensive than manual blinds and requiring electrical provision which can be costly and invasive, electrically operated blinds offer so much in terms of ease-of-use and the potential to work in tandem with energy saving software such as sun sensors and lighting control systems.

There are a number of well-known brands in the electric roller blind market including lighting control specialists Lutron who boast a silent motor and easy interface with their home automation systems. Silent Gliss are also widely specified by architects and interior designers with a wide range of roller blind systems to suit any application. The ShadeTech and Draper ranges of electric roller blinds are ideally suited to the commercial office environment.

View case studies where roller blinds have been used

Find out more about how BS EN 13120 child safety legislation might affect your projects.

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