No blinds required
A company in the US is introducing windows that can tint on demand to control how much heat and light they let in, thus reducing HVAC energy usage by up to 25%. Callum Fitzpatrick reports.
With so much focus surrounding products and technologies that promise to reduce the cost of bills or increase energy efficiency, it’s easy to forget about how much heat is gained and lost through our windows. Although there are a range of energy efficient glazing systems available to help you achieve the desired performance, there are a number of companies around the world that are now developing advanced ‘smart windows’ to enable adaptive control over the transmission of heat and light though glass.
One of these companies is US-based Soladigm. Its product, Dynamic Glass, can switch from clear to tinted on demand. This provides comfort and unobstructed views for occupants and controls the amount of light and heat that enters a building, which in turn reduces lighting and heating/cooling costs. Consequently, this also reduces the amount of heating and air-conditioning equipment needed for a property.
Soladigm vice president of products, Erich Klawuhn, explains how this is beneficial for the environment and can significantly diminish the cost of bills.
“In commercial buildings, we estimate Dynamic Glass can reduce HVAC energy usage by 25% and peak load by 30%.
“To put that in context, in the U.S. alone, buildings account for 72% of electricity consumption, 39% of energy use and 38% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. And at a more granular level, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that more than 20% of the energy currently consumed in the country is used for heating, cooling and lighting commercial and residential buildings.”
As well as providing an energy efficient alternative to traditional windows, the product also controls the amount of glare, so Dynamic Glass windows don’t need blinds, shades or other window treatments.
“As well as the comfort aspect, there is also less need for window coverings and HVAC systems, so the initial investment into Dynamic Glass will essentially pay for itself at the time of building construction,” Erich adds.
At the core of the windows’ functionality is electrochromic technology, which provides varying transmission of light and energy with a small applied voltage. Incorporating this technology into Dynamic Glass enables windows that can vary their tint depending on environmental conditions and occupant comfort.
A thin-film deposition process, common in the glass industry, is used to apply the technology on the inner surface of one of the panes of glass of a dual pane window. The electrochromic layer controls the amount of sunlight and heat that is let in, absorbed, or reflected. Even when the window is in its tinted state the glass still provides clear visibility from the inside to preserve views.
“We use standard float glass to make up our dual pane insulating Dynamic Glass unit. We apply the technology/coating directly to the glass and then fabricate the unit similarly to low-e insulating glass,” Erich says.
The technology is attractive for any consumers wanting to improve their energy efficiency, and Erich adds that Dynamic Glass also presents builders with a unique product to present to their clients.
“It provides builders with a distinctive product when they are building a new property and an equally viable option at the retrofit stage. Being able to offer Soladigm’s Dynamic Glass to a client inevitably sets them apart because they can provide an innovative product which improves energy efficiency, reduces bills and increases thermal comfort – all while maintaining unobstructed views.”
Looking to the future, Erich says that Soladigm will keep pursuing ways to enhance the product.
“Soladigm is committed to changing the way the architects, builders, and building occupants use architectural glass.
“We are planning to further innovate our products in the areas of performance and aesthetics. We are also looking to implement advanced automation systems to allow other ways of controlling our windows.”
Although Dynamic Glass is primarily being marketed in the US at the moment, Soladigm is looking into international markets as well. The company also states that incorporating Dynamic Glass into Australian green buildings is of interest, and it will look to do so in the future.