Smart windows: Saving energy & consumers money



With an impending energy crisis, the need for modernized insulation methods has reached an all-time high. Currently, almost half of the nation’s energy is used to heat and cool commercial and residential buildings. However, a typical home loses around 30 percent of this energy through its windows and doors. To address this wasteful use of energy, scientists have developed advanced technologies to help control the amount of temperature transferred from outdoors in. While many are still in testing, studies indicate these developments may prevent energy depletion and save customers thousands of dollars annually.

There are three technologies scientists believe will help provide solutions to insulation deficiencies.

Type: Photochromic

Although still in development, these windows adjust automatically to increases in sunlight, similar to how transitional eyeglasses work. This translates to savings on hot, sunny summer days. However, the system may not be energy-efficient all around. One major drawback to photochromic windows is its inability to monitor heat gain. Regardless of the temperature outside, the window will darken when struck by light – even on very cold and sunny days. This makes the internal temperatures of the room even colder resulting in higher heating bills.

Type: Thermotropic

Thermotropic windows do respond to changes in temperature and darken to varying levels when heat is present. Depending upon the amount of how much heat is detected, windows will transition from clear to white and reflective, virtually eliminating the transmission of solar heat. For consumers this does drastically cut down on cooling costs, however these thermotropic films can cause the window to become nontransparent making them unsuitable for view windows.

Type: Electrochromic

These windows are manually-controlled to provide insulation. When an indoor switch is flipped, an electric current runs between the dual-pane window and cause a special glass coating to tint, blocking 98% of solar radiation. They also reduce glare, enable privacy and the system requires very low voltage to work. There is still much to be tested with this new technology, and it is unknown when they will be available for purchase.

There is still much to learn about each of these technologies; many are unavailable for purchase, and experts believe their starting prices will be costly. However, as demand increases and more products are released, prices are expected to fall allowing many to reap their benefits. Not only do these developments provide an opportunity to save customers thousands of dollars, they also provide hope towards a more energy efficient future.

Author Bryan Kenner is a writer focusing on all aspects of construction. From eco-friendly building trends to contractor surety bonding requirements, he’s an expert on the building industry as a whole.