Eco-friendly, Green, Science

Smart Windows

smart windows
Smart windows adjust to the sun’s presence.
Image: Shutterstock

It’s summertime and the weather is beautiful, but it’s still so hot.  You love the sunshine, but wish there was some way to keep your home a little cooler.  There are ways to manage just such a problem.  One way is through “smart windows.”

Smart windows are ones which automatically adapt to the changing light conditions.  They darken as the sun becomes brighter and lighten as the sun goes down.  They help keep a house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Another word for this type of technology is “electrochromic” techology.  The way it works is by sandwiching the reactive elements (electrochromic particles) inside two panes of glass or clear plastic.

Essentially, electrochromic windows “darken when voltage is added and are transparent when voltage is taken away. Like suspended particle devices, electrochromic windows can be adjusted to allow varying levels of visibility. They are not an all-or-nothing technology like liquid crystals.”

The word “eclectrochromic” relates to electricity and color.  What is means is that the materials inside change color when energized by an electrical current.  The electricity kicks off a chemical reaction that changes the properties of the material.  In this case, the material reflects or absorbs light.

For the windows, they darken when the material reflects light of some color and become clear when they are not reflecting any light.  They basically need an electrode system to change the chemical state from colored to transparent and back again.  There are many ways to achieve that effect.

If you could look inside an electrochromic window sandwich, you would see something like this: a pane of glass or plastic, conducting oxide, electrochomic layer (such as tungsten oxide), ion conductor/electrolyte, ion storage, a second layer of conducting oxide and a second pane of glass or plastic panel.

These windows not only help control the temperature inside our homes, but they also are good for the environment and your wallet.  As the temperature and light stabilize in your house, you won’t need to spend as much on heating, air conditioning or lighting bills.  Using less AC, electricity and heat consume less resources and create a smaller carbon footprint.  Everybody wins.

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