Insulation and energy-efficient appliances aren't the only way you can reduce your home's overall energy usage. When it comes time to install new windows, you can also take advantage of the leaps and bounds in window technology by installing smart windows in your home. The following offers an in-depth guide on smart windows, including how they work and how their energy saving advantages outweigh those of ordinary blinds and window tint.

How It Works

The whole idea behind making windows energy efficient involves cutting down on the amount of light and heat that typically passes through unprotected windows. Curtains and blinds accomplish this by blocking all available light and heat at the expense of visibility. Window tints cut back on a portion of the light and heat that passes through, depending on the type of tint used. Typical low emissivity (or low-E) glass coatings use a fine metal coating embedded within the glass to reflect light and heat.

While most energy-efficient window technologies work passively, smart windows take a more active approach to blocking excess heat and light. Unlike window tints and even some forms of low-E glass, smart glass automatically adjusts itself according to the amount of light passing through. This makes smart glass highly effective during the daylight hours without sacrificing visibility at night or on overcast days.

Different Types of Smart Glass

There are several types of smart glass available, each one with its own unique method of controlling the amount of light and heat that enters your home:

  • Photochromic glass automatically lightens and darkens your windows according to how much light is already present. In essence, photochromic glass works on the same exact principles as sunglasses that darken under bright conditions. Photochromic glass responds to light but not temperature, which could prove disadvantageous in sunny winter weather.
  • Thermochromic glass, on the other hand, adjusts based on temperature and not light. This makes the glass ideal for use in homes under fall and winter conditions. However, thermochromic glass is designed to turn opaque when exposed to high temperatures, making it unsuitable for forward-facing windows. Instead, thermochromic windows are typically used as skylighting.
  • Electrochromic glass uses an electrical current to lighten and darken your windows. Electrochromic smart windows can achieve a greater level of darkness than photochromic glass, making them ideal for use as privacy windows.

How It Helps Your Home

Researchers have found that incorporating smart window technology into your home could provide a significant boost to its overall energy efficiency. Under average summertime conditions, smart windows can be up to 70 percent more energy efficient than typical dual-pane window glass. During the winter, smart windows can be up to 45 percent more efficient than ordinary glass.

Smart windows can also be used alongside energy-efficient HVAC equipment and properly installed insulation to help curb excess energy usage throughout your home. By blocking much of the heat that radiates into your home through your windows, you can take a significant load off your air conditioning system, allowing it to use far less energy to keep your home cool and comfortable.

Potential Drawbacks

In spite of the advantages, smart windows do offer a couple of noticeable drawbacks. For starters, smart windows can prove expensive for homeowners to purchase and install. According to the MIT Technology Review, existing electrochromic window technology costs $100 per square foot to install, whereas windows with low-E coatings cost $10 per square foot to install.

There's also the overall cost of operation and upkeep to contend with. For instance, electrochromic windows depend on electricity for their operation. The cost of supplying these windows with electricity could potentially negate the savings offered by installing these windows in the first place.

For more information and options, talk with local window supply companies, like Solar Shield Windows.