Whether you're aware of it or not, home windows have been evolving and improving for years now. Gone are the days of rooms that never seem to warm up because of a drafty window. Today's windows are thicker, double and sometimes triple glazed, with insulating gas between layers, all the better to keep the cold out and the heat in. But window technology doesn't stop there. Before too long, you may have windows that are able to do a lot more than just keep the weather outside at bay. Check out three of the window possibilities that are waiting for you in the future.
If you've ever worn glasses with transition lenses, you'll recognize the technology behind smart windows immediately. Using the same technology that allows your glasses lenses to go from clear glass when you're indoors to dark shades when you're outdoors, smart windows can let sun in when you want it, then turn the tint on when you're in need of some shade.
However, unlike your self tinting glasses, smart windows block and allow light when you tell them to, not just in response to sun and shade. Not only that, they can block heat too. The ability to block both light and heat means that smart windows will be able to cut down energy costs significantly more than any standard window can.
Right now, smart windows are expensive enough that they're really only viable in large commercial buildings where the energy-saving benefits of the glass will be enough to justify the the cost. However, developers are working to reduce the price and make the windows more cost-effective. It's safe to assume that these windows will one day be an option for residential as well as commercial buildings.
Speaking of saving money on your energy bills, what if you could actually use your window space to generate electricity? That may be a real possibility with the advent of solar windows.
Today's rooftop solar panels do a great job of generating energy, but they have a couple of drawbacks. They take up valuable rooftop real estate, and they're not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Window based solar panels would leave rooftops free for anything from HVAC systems to rooftop gardens, and there would be no aesthetic concerns; the solar panels would look just like windows.
The technology involved includes spraying a thin film onto a pane of window glass. Within the film are tiny solar cells that are smaller than a grain of rice. These small cells absorb light and convert it into energy. While they aren't currently as efficient as solar panels, scientists are working on improving that. Furthermore, the decreased efficiency might be made up for if the solar windows cover a larger area than traditional solar panels.
The Why-Choose Window
What do you do if energy-saving, self-tinting windows sound good, but so do windows that generate their own energy? Well, why pick just one? In the home of the future, you may be able to purchase a window that marries smart window technology with solar window technology, for the ultimate in energy efficient windows.
Right now, scientists are calling this window a VO2 thermochromic smart window, but by the time that the technology is available to homeowners, it will probably have a catchier name. The important part is that you can control how much light and heat comes through the window, just like with a smart window.
But unlike a smart window, the film covering the glass will scatter the light to small solar cells that will use it to generate energy for the home. Can you imagine how much you could save in energy costs if your windows were not only shutting out light and heat, but also making free energy for your home at the same time?
It's fun to get a look at the amazing things that our windows will be able to do not too far into the future. But if you can't wait for the home of the future to come along before you start saving money on your energy bill, ask a good window replacement specialist to advise you on which energy-efficient windows are best for your home right now.