You’ve probably heard about refrigerators that warn you when the milk is getting low or kitchen tables that double as stovetops. But there are a few innovations that aren’t getting quite as much attention, even though they could seriously impact the way we design, build and live in our homes.
Smart windows are one of those innovations. It’s a technology that is currently being used in high-end commercial structures, but one day soon, it might make the leap over to residential buildings.
One type of smart window is currently being produced by Sage – a product called SageGlass that has been used in several office buildings and commercial facilities. These windows have a specialized coating that can reduce glare or apply a tint to block sunlight. They can be entirely automated – that is, the window’s control system can account for energy efficiency, brightness and other factors to choose the correct setting – or they can be fully manual so that you can choose the settings you like.
The other technology, developed by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, isn’t commercially available yet, but it looks promising. With this technology, an electronically controlled nano-crystal coating is applied to windows. That coating can be used to filter out heat-producing near-infrared light or visible light. In other words, you can have the light without the heat, the heat without the light, both or none at all.
Both of these technologies have major implications in the future. To start, the ability to dim your windows – or even filter out heat-producing light – could turn into a great way to save money on heating and cooling costs.
Even more interestingly, however, is the idea that technology like this could revolutionize the way we use light within our homes. Window treatments and blinds will become merely a decorative feature since the windows themselves could provide you with all the shade or sunlight you need. The ability to adjust window tints on the fly would make it easy for people to change their indoor lighting based on the weather or even their particular mood that day. If you have a floor-to-ceiling wall of smart windows, you could opt to dim the lower windows for increased privacy but leave the upper windows alone so that you can enjoy the sunshine.
Of all the innovations out there, smart windows are among the most interesting. Not only would the ability to control the quantity and quality of the sunlight in your home save on energy costs, but it would also make your home an even more enjoyable place to be.
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