O C F I T B L O G Business Opportunity Marvin’s new automated windows are a big-ticket addition to your smart home

Marvin’s new automated windows are a big-ticket addition to your smart home

Marvin’s new automated windows are a big-ticket addition to your smart home post thumbnail image

Hey Siri, open the window.

Minnesota-based manufacturer Marvin has launched a line of smart doors and windows that take the meaning of “smart home” to a whole new level. Marvin Connected Home products include casement and awning windows, sliding doors, and skylights that can be fully automated. You can set your ideal temperature and humidity level through an app and the system will take care of the rest.

If it gets too hot inside, the system will crack open the windows; if it starts raining, tiny on-unit sensors will alert the system to close them. According to the company, the products took six years and “double-digit millions” to develop.

[Image: Marvin]

Our homes are already loaded with smart thermostats, fridges, garage doors, light bulbs, and speakers. Now Marvin is betting that behind your automated shades, you’ll want to automate your windows, too. The goal isn’t necessarily to free you from a perfunctory task that humans have performed perfectly well for as long as we have lived indoors. It is to help you open your windows more often so you can get more fresh air into your home.

[Image: Marvin]

The 112-year-old company is currently led by the fourth generation of Marvins. When it launched in 1912, it was known as the Marvin Lumber and Cedar Co., before spinning into Marvin Windows and Doors post-World War II. Today it employs a staff of 7,000 across 16 cities, and the company’s purpose is no longer solely about windows.

[Image: Marvin]

Six years ago, the team sat down and asked a fundamental question about windows and doors: What does the world need? That question, CEO Paul Marvin admits, sounds a bit grandiose, but it marks the beginning of a journey to the smart products the company launched this week. The answer, at least as far as doors and windows are concerned, included energy efficiency and beauty. But soon the team realized that health and wellness factor in as well.

[Image: Marvin]

Over the past few years, Marvin’s team interviewed 3,000 homeowners plus dozens of architects, builders, and smart-home integrators. The most common phrase they heard throughout the process? An emphatic “Yes, finally!” Apparently, homeowners (at least those who took part in the mass-market study) find it cumbersome to open their windows, and believe that automating them will simplify their lives.

“The desire to invest in this sort of solution was greater than we had anticipated,” says Christine Marvin, chief marketing and experience officer. “We thought we were at the beginning of the adoption or innovation curves but we may be further along.”

[Image: Marvin]

The app that the team built is a useful interface, but it’s not necessary on a day-to-day basis. You can use it to open the windows, but a much likelier scenario would be to press a wall switch, press a button on the windows themselves, or delegate the task to Siri or Alexa. If you have a power cut, the units will continue operating thanks to a small reserve of backup power. And if anything else happens, be it a longer outage or a malfunction, you can still lock and unlock your windows manually.

[Image: Marvin]

Marvin’s offering seems like a natural step toward a fully smart home, but automating windows isn’t easy. As Jim Flaherty, director of digital product and engineering, explains, the team faced a few design challenges. The first, and by far the biggest, was how to motorize windows that weigh hundreds of pounds (as is the case with big sliding doors) and fit motors inside a 1-by-1-inch frame (or in the case of the slider, inside the wall cavity next to the door).

[Image: Marvin]

The challenge was compounded by the fact that the windows had to be whisper-quiet so they could, say, open or close in the middle of the night to adjust for a temperature change without waking you. “Most people don’t know that the smaller the motor is, the louder it wants to scream,” Flaherty says.

After much R&D, the team used tried-and-tested, off-the-shelf motors, but they designed patent-pending hardware and firmware that are much smaller and narrower than those on the market. The resulting technology is fully self-contained in the window frame, which requires a power-supply unit that could live in your basement. The resulting window is minimalist, hands-free, and comes with a 15% price premium on a typical window.

For now, Marvin smart windows are available in the Northeast, Northwest, and Minnesota, with the goal of expanding to other U.S. markets by the start of 2025.

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