What’s the difference between a manual and motorized exterior retractable Roller Shades?

Making my manual outdoor roll shades.

The cost difference between the two types of retractable roller shades is substantial.

You can not leave roller shades down when it is windy. Regardless of being a manual or motorized roller shade, you are not to leave them down all of the time. The purpose of roller shades is for temporary sun shade, not as a permanent shading solution.

Comparatively, the motorized zipper tracked high-end systems can withstand the wind MUCH better than a manual non-zipper tracked system.

I manufacturer and altogether install my own line of budget priced, extremely effective at providing sun shade, manual retractable patio-shades. 

My manual outdoor patio shades I make here in Austin TX myself out of a small workroom at 183/Burnet Rd and I install them all myself.

Every aspect of each of my manual retractable roller shade jobs has my hands personally all over them.

My outdoor manual roller shades are very well made, and I use as many Made in the USA materials as possible.

I source as much of the materials that I use as I reasonably can from American manufacturers.

As the manufacture, I believe that product is made better here in the US than most elsewhere. I try to make my roller shades robust to last.

Making my manual outdoor roll shades.
Here I am at my shop making my outdoor roller shades.
Retractable grey white patio roller shade.
Looking through grey white 97% dense, installed in Austin TX, manual retractable roller shades. This is what my manual solar patio shades look like. This patio now has plenty of sun shade. My grey white 97% sun shade fabric is a beautiful color.

What are manual exterior patio Roller Shades?

Exterior retractable roller shades come in either a manual or a motorized version. You control outdoor manual retractable roller shades by that of a pull chain clutch or a crank system with the wand.

Rollease clutch for retractable roller shades
Showing a Rollease manual by pull chain clutch w/ a 2.5″ tune adapter and a 2.5″ strong tube. For retractable manual shades up to 16′ in width.

Manual Outdoor Roller Shade Clutch, Chain Driven

The pull chain option allows you to easily and quickly roll up and down the manual retractable roller shade.

On balance, you are going to want a good clutch alongside a good stainless steel pull chain.

The two strong outdoor clutches that I after all my research led me to use are from a company called Rollease Acmedia.

I use their R24 and G400 Exterior Clutch

The R24 and G400 are super strong Made in the USA exterior clutches.

However, the limitation is that you do not want to use a clutch for extremely heavy retractable roller shades. Not for retractable shades that weigh more than 56lbs.

Manual Outdoor Crank for Roller Shades

Rollease Acmedia make cranks for outdoor shades. I wouldn’t say I like to use them for smaller shades, but for larger heavy shades over 50lbs, I am not opposed to using them.

Cranks are not a bad idea simply because they are stronger. And there are no gears to strip out. For the larger, heavier shades, I am okay with using a crank system.

Using a crank system does make it take a LOT longer to roll the shade up and down, like a lot longer. This is why people typically with crank systems leave their shades down, which is a big no-no to do.

Crank for outdoor roller shades.
Example of a crank system for outdoor roll shades.
Manual pull chain clutch for patio roller shade.
Showing what a Rollease R24 pull chain clutch installed looks like. This pull chain clutch is controlled by a made in USA stainless steel pull chain.

What are motorized outdoor Roller Shades?

Zipper Track Motorized Roller Shades
High end motorized zipper track roller shades.

There is a motor automated roller shade system called a zipper track system.

These Zipper Track systems out there are super high-end and super nice.

The zipper track system is super nice because the roller shade slides down into a sidetrack.

Being rolled into that track makes the roller shade more wind tolerant. Not 100% wind tolerant, but more tolerant to the wind than other roller shades. It can handle up to 50 really good mph gusts.

On the sides of the fabric are zippers that are glued to the edge of the fabric. It’s these zippers that slide into the side tracks.

There’s a channeled groove there for them.

The zippers can not be pulled out of the tracks, making these kinds of systems more wind tolerant.

Zipper track systems also are nice for bug protection as they are as close as roller shade systems can get to being sealed all the way around the fabric.

They also have that very nice bottom rail that makes for a very nice look once down.

Motorized shade with tracks.
Motorized roller shade that slides down and into side tracks.

Zippertrack costs may be too much.

The hold back for many moreover is the installed costs. Installed motorized zipper track systems comparatively come at a premium. Typically installers double the material cost of the roller shade as a total installed price. A shade that comes landed to them for $4k will sell to you as a turn-key product for $8k. At least that’s been what I know to be true as an observant Austin TX Solar Screen installer. I do not sell or install the motorized zipper track systems, but I know now in 2021 what the costs are from the manufacturers, and I know what installers around Austin, TX, are selling them for.

To implement a zipper track motorized system, you need to run electricity to the motorized roller shade. Therefore, that alone will most likely have a substantial cost, which is part of the installer’s markup. It is important to realize that running an electrical circuit can be tricky and costly for the installers. As a result, the installers may even have to go through the city to get an electrical permit, and there’s a whole lot of time and cost to that alone. You can instead run a long cord from the motor to an outlet to save on cost as a money-saving option FYI.

Batteries or Hard wired?

There may be a rechargeable motor out there that you can run a zipper track system off of, but rechargeable systems come with drawbacks.

One of the major drawbacks is that while batteries sound cool and all for the motor, you will be replacing those batteries over time. By using batteries you do not need to go through the cost of running electrical wires, which is great. This is great of course, but expect to be replacing those batteries.

If you are building a new home, then now is the time to run the electrical wires, in preparation for the motorized roller shades.