"Smart Windows" Could Be the Future

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably spent the majority of your time looking through your windows instead of at them. You’re most likely to notice the window itself when something is wrong—say, there’s a smudge on the glass or a draft coming in.

This is normal: after all, we live in a period of history when windows are everywhere. Every single home—whether it’s an apartment, condo, or house—has windows. But this wasn’t always the case!

Windows: A Short History

For millennia, homes didn’t have windows; instead, fires and candles supplied the light inside. Even after window glass was invented around the Roman era, not everyone had windows. Windows were expensive, which meant that only the very wealthy had them in their homes—and not in every room.

Historic windows also looked very little like the windows we see today. They were much less transparent, and each pane was much smaller—meaning that a single window could be made up of dozens of panes (think stained-glass windows).

Over hundreds of years, up to the 20th century, window advancements revolved around the glass itself: glassmakers worked to make the panes of glass bigger, flatter, and more transparent.

It is in the last hundred years, however, that window technology has seen significant changes.

The development of other materials has affected how windows are built and buildings are designed. We can now make windows in frames made not just of wood but also of vinyl, clad wood, and fiberglass. Windows now come in a variety of types—from picture windows that don’t open to casement-style windows that open outward. The invention of steel allowed architects to design buildings with walls of windows (the steel holds the building’s weight instead of the walls).

In the past few decades, as energy efficiency has become a priority, inventors and manufacturers have been focused on how windows can help heat and cool a home. Double-pane and triple-pane windows—which add insulation—have replaced single-pane windows as the standard. Glazings and coatings—such as low-E coating—reduce the amount of visible light, UV rays, and/or glare that enter through a window.

What’s Next for Windows?

You might think that we’ve reached the end of the line for window advancements. In fact, we’re just getting started!

The next big change in window technology looks to be “switchable glazings,” or smart windows. Glazings, as we mentioned above, can affect how much light, solar radiation, or glare comes through a window. “Switchable glazings” promise to change these amounts based on an electrical current or even the weather.

Here are a few types of switchable glazings you might see as a window option in the not-too-distant future:

  • Electrochromic: This type allows you to change a window from transparent to almost completely dark at the press of a button, thanks to its electronic conductors placed between the panes of glass.
  • Photochromic: This type changes the tint of a window based on the amount of light outside, helping to reduce glare (great for rooms with a TV!).
  • Thermochromic: This type changes from clear to reflective based on heat.
  • Liquid crystals: This last type doesn’t affect the energy efficiency of a window but may become popular for privacy reasons. A window with this film can go from white to clear when its electric current is turned on.

The latest in window technology isn’t available everywhere: it will take more demand before manufacturers and retailers invest. Someday soon, however, we’ll wonder how we ever got along with our old windows!

If you’re looking to upgrade your windows, the experts at Jack’s Glass can help. We’d be happy to help you find the right windows and window features for your home. Call us today.

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