New Addition to Smart Home: Light and Heat Regulating Smart Windows

By Special Guest
Alex Pop, Writer on behalf of The Window Experts
December 20, 2016

Smart homes are here to automate everyday processes for us while making life more efficient for homeowners and guests. Their aim is to offer a greater command to residents, who are able to control their home's features such as lighting, heating, and electronic devices. The newest addition to the smart home market is a defiant material invented at the University of Texas that just may revolutionize the way we look at windows.

Let’s take a look at the various window options currently available for homeowners:
1. Traditional (dumb) windows
2. Hurricane impact windows
3. Modern light and heat regulating smart windows

The Dumb Window
Standard windows tend to be a single or double paned pieces of glass. Thin and permeable, they allow for inside air to escape, resulting in increased energy bills. Homes in colder climates have higher heating bills during the winter, while homes nearer the equator experience a loss of cool air during scorching summer months that demand the air conditioning units to be on for longer.

Simply put, these windows don't function as well as high-quality windows. They will shatter if debris were to hit them at moderate speeds and they will also easily crack if a burglar were to break in as they do not boast added security features. They are relatively flimsy and, while functional, the amount of air they let escape the home leaves much to be desired. 

Hurricane Impact Windows Are a Step Up from Dumb Windows
Hurricane impact-resistant windows are constructed in a much more intricate way that standard single-paned windows. Impact-resistant windows are comprised of several layers of glass sandwiched between gases like argon, krypton that insulate better than regular air. Energy Star models are made of thicker panes of low-e glass, which add further insulation while reflecting damaging ultraviolet light. These windows are coated in a glazing, and inserted into durable, heavy-duty panes that hold the window in place.

Since these windows are high in quality, they also come with a much higher price tag. In areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornados, impact windows provide increased protection to homeowners. For the price you pay, you’ll enjoy:

-increased impact resistance from debris flying about during a storm
-better energy efficiency
-greater deterrent to burglars
-lowered homeowner’s insurance rates when installed throughout the house
-dampened incoming noise 

The Modern Smart Window
In 2015 a new window material was recently developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. Researchers under the lead of Delia Milliron, a professor of chemical engineering were able to compose a material that regulates incoming light and heat. Through a framework of nanocrystals embedded in a glassy material the window can change their optical properties to block out 90 percent of near-infrared light and 80 percent of visible light. Milliron developed a startup from this venture and is set to debut the material for commercial use in 2017.

These unique windows have the ability to self-tint and defer heat transfer. In addition, to high cost savings, they do look pretty cool. Where previous electrochromic glass materials were marked by an unpleasant brown hue, Milliron is proud to say that the new material she helped develop creates a more neutral blue tint - which she notes is of particular importance for the consumer market.

For now, the material enjoys niche applications such as the windows of a new jetliner or space shuttle. Players such as Space X and Boeing are most likely to purchase first. In time, as the technological arc swings prices downward, I hope the material will gradually work its way into commercial buildings, luxury homes, and finally, the bulk of middle class consumers. There is no doubt that architects will want to get their hands on this new material in order to offer up newer, cooler, and better tech for the market. 

About the Author: Alex Pop is a writer on behalf of The Window Experts, a Florida state licensed and Energy Star approved installer of hurricane windows and doors. He enjoys educating people on the issues faced by homeowners during the hurricane season, as well as new technology in the housing market.  

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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