Architecture,  Engineering,  Green Technology,  Materials Science

High Tech Green Windows

Window Lights Rain

Using traditional glass as a building material can tend to raise energy costs. This is because glass naturally raises the temperature of sunlight that is filtered through during the summer months. This can generate so much heat that the use of air conditioning is necessary to cool the building, making them cost prohibitive. However, smart windows are able to harness the power of the sun in an efficient manner.

How smart windows work

Smart windows are able to reduce energy costs because they can take in heat only as needed, while preventing heat from entering when not needed. A chemically composed film covers the glass on smart windows. This film contains properties that make it able to conduct electricity. A controlling device is able to command the particles in the film to either block sunlight by appearing in random clusters, or absorb the sunlight by aligning them. The film changes colors during the process.

Saving energy

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cooling and heating costs account for as much as 40 percent of energy budgets for average households. Office buildings account for 33 percent of the power generated in America, 25 percent of that energy will be lost. This is primarily due to the inability of regular windows to repel heat in the summer and absorb heat in the winter. The use of smart windows could drastically lower these numbers.

Saving money

Thanks to smart windows, a simple turn of a knob can now control and filter the amount of light entering through windows. The EPA estimates the savings on air conditioning, lighting and heating could be between $11 billion to $20 billion every year. Even if the savings were only $7 billion per year, this would mean the carbon emissions at power plants would be reduced to such a point that it would equal taking 330,000 vehicles off the road. This would be an energy savings that would be sufficient to power all of New York City.

Saving the environment

Aside from lowering the energy consumption of households and business, widespread use of smart windows can also have a long-lasting positive effect on the environment. When less power is consumed, the carbon footprint of these households and businesses is reduced. With so many news stories about constant threats to the environment, this is an easy way for everyone to help the planet and save money. It is a win-win situation.

Added privacy

Along with the obvious cost saving and environmental advantages, smart windows can also offer privacy to a room in a way that has never been seen before. Before the advent of smart windows, blinds were the only method of preventing people from seeing into a window. However, in closing the blinds, you would also be blocking out the light. This would necessitate the turning on of an electric light. Smart windows allow a person to block out just as much light as is necessary to prevent anyone from seeing through the window, while allowing natural light to come through the window. There are various tint settings on smart windows that allow for “one way” glass. This is where the people inside can see out, but the people outside can not see in.

Return on your investment

While more expensive than standard windows, smart windows present a significant cost savings in the long run. Smart windows are capable of producing a savings of $0.21 per square foot, based on $0.08/kWh electricity costs. This means that after an initial cost of $161 per square meter, the smart windows will be able to pay for themselves in roughly four years.

There is seemingly no downside to smart window technology. The ability to save money, help the environment and add an effective amount of privacy to any room makes them attractive for homes and businesses alike. They are now being incorporated into the designs of many new office buildings, as businesses look for more efficient ways to cut costs.

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Brian Turner is a freelance home improvement blogger from Houston, Texas.

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