‘The way you see and interact with the surroundings and the way you feel is governed by advanced materials.’
There are days when the sun keeps coming or going affecting your space’s visibility, and you have to make constant alterations. With the arrival of electrochromic glass, popularly known as smart glass, this can become a problem of the past. How? The smart glass goes from transparent to opaque and back at the push of a button. The Department of Energy of the United States believes that the energy consumption for electricity will increase by 45%, which means a higher price has to be paid by consumers. Smart windows can offer a solution to this, along with significant environmental benefits. Let’s look at it in detail!
Need for Smart Windows
Windows are an integral, fascinating, and fragile part of a place’s architecture. They add to the aesthetics, provide ventilation, allow sunlight to enter, and save up heating costs. But inefficient and old windows can add on one-fourth to the heating/cooling cost of your home. More use of air-conditioning means more exhaust and heat outside.
Windows don’t last long. Their average life is about 20 years. Also, the cost of window replacement can go up to ten thousand dollars. This is where smart windows step in. It is a low-power consuming technology in the wake of America’s concentrated research on ways to increase its energy supply. It is a cutting-edge window technology that offers light control, reduces solar heat gain, and can save billions of dollars as residential windows amount to two percent of the used energy in the States.
How does it work?
Smart windows can be made of different types of smart glasses. A glass can reduce its visibility and become translucent or become opaque and mirror-like. The technology behind each one of them is different. The usual windows are either a single vertical pane of glass or double glazed with space between two panes to improve insulation and acoustics. Some are advanced, having a layer of metallic chemicals to keep your house at a reasonable temperature. Smart windows also work like this. The coating is much more sophisticated, and sputtering-the manufacturing process is intricate. The side facing the inside has five ultra-thin layers double sandwiched. The layers include a separator, electrodes, and transparent electrical contact layers. The basic building blocks are lithium ions. A voltage supply is required to change them from bright to dark state and back again.
Pros and Cons
As mentioned earlier, smart windows come with environmental benefits. They can reflect about 98 percent of light in their darkened state, reducing the installation and running costs of air conditioners. As they are operated electrically, they can be controlled like other smart-home IoT devices. Some distinct advantages of having smart windows are convenience, improved security, and no fumbling around with dusty blinds. The cost of treating standard windows to reduce sunlight is higher than the installation of smart ones.
The major drawback of smart windows is the expense. A single, smart window costs about $500–1000 per square meter, which is several times the ordinary glass. As the technology is comparatively new, the durability is a doubtful parameter. Another issue is that some technologies can take up minutes going clear back and forth. Stick- on electrochromic films are a better option as its process time is in seconds.
Glass buildings have been on the run for the past two decades, and clear glass is undoubtedly a desirable building material. However, with alternatives and substitutes around, it has reached its peak in building design. The demand for the future is a sustainable material. Smart windows can fulfill these expectations. The question now is ‘How to encourage replacing the regular glass with smart glass?’. The answer lies in after-market solutions for window replacement.
Another probabilistic venture is the combination of solar cells and smart windows. This can transform the absorbed light into a source of energy rather than reflecting most of it, which can be stored in batteries to power up your home. But it suffers from a drawback. The combination will have a lower efficiency because a window cannot do both the tasks simultaneously. But, electrochromic is here to stay, and it would find its way.
An essential part of our homes is now high-tech. The available options require less maintenance, are more energy-efficient, and integrated with the smart home system. Smart windows are a unique light and privacy control option, along with being the future opportunity for smart home integrators.
Jose Mario Douglas is the CEO and founder of Industrial Glass USA, a high end glass and windows distribution company. Jose has over two decades of experience in the commercial glass business. In 2009, Jose, along with his wife Vanessa , founded Industrial Glass USA Inc. to expand international distribution of their Colombia-based family enterprise. With a well-established reputation for high-end glass manufacturing products, including residential and commercial windows, Industrial Glass USA capitalized on Florida’s real estate recovery following the 2008 financial crisis. The company has since expanded to neighboring states in the southeastern region. Jose attributes his success to forging friendships with boutique construction and remodeling companies, who sought a superior glass offering at a more affordable price point. Jose is responsible for all aspects of the business. He led expansion to Spain and the United Kingdom in 2016 and 2017 respectively.