Is Dynamic Glazing the Future?

John G. Swanson
July 9, 2012
THE TALK... | Energy Efficiency, Materials & Components

"We think the future is dynamic windows," said Marc LaFrance, the Department of Energy's technology development manager with oversight over the agency's windows and building envelope programs speaking at a recent Windows Technology Roadmapping Workshop. Dynamic glazing was also high on the agenda at the Window & Door Manufacturers Association Technical Conference, which preceded the DOE session. 

The idea of windows that can go from clear to tinted or opaque is not new.  Such products are on the market, but high costs and other issues have prevented widespread adoption for many years. The technology continues to advance, however, as do manufacturing capabilities for such products.  So are they the future?  Will the potential energy savings dynamic glazing offers–as well as such benefits as cutting glare, increasing comfort and enhanced privacy–enable these products to achieve significant market penetration?  

That's our poll for the week, and specifically, we'd like to hear from you about the opportunities for dynamic glazing in the residential market.  It is easy to foresee demand for dynamic glazing in offices and other commercial buildings, but will homeowners want these products or will they remain more wedded to traditional blinds and shades?  Are there specific applications in homes where dynamic glazing is likely to gain favor?  Is your company selling such products?  Post a comment and tell us more. 

Survey Results as 07/16/2012:

 

Is dynamic glazing the future?

Yes, I see it gaining significant market share in next 5-10 years.

  

 

74%

 

No, I don't expect it will ever catch on.

  

 

18%

 

Yes, but I think it will take more than 10 years for it to see significant demand.

  

 

7%

 

The days of windows that switch from clear to opaque or tinted and back may be soon upon us.  That's what much of the industry thinks at least, and I think this week's results reflect a fairly substantial change in attitude.

Ten years ago, I bet most window and door manufacturers and dealers viewed these technologies more as concepts. Now, it looks like electrochromic, thermochromic and "smart glass" products are seen as coming realities.  It will be interesting to watch.

 

Comments

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Exactly! The future is dynamic windows. EHR

Great to see articles about dynamic glazing! I agree with you that dynamic glazing in commercial buildings has a much greater impact on energy savings as there is an incresased percentage of glazing to work with. The energy savings from products like our RavenWindow (available mid-2013) allow for hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings in a commercial building and once they have paid for themselves (in 3 years and becoming shorter) they continue to save money. This makes it an easy decsion for the building owner to go with dynamic windows and helps the owner's bottom line and he can pass those savings on to the tenants.
In a residential building there are fewer windows so energy savings are less, but still very significant. From a pure payback point of view, our technology can pay for itself in 6-7 years with savings on heating and air conditioning. But,while the dynamic window must have a reasonable payback period,the feedback we are getting from builders, architects and home owners is that they are more concerned about occupant comfort, maintaining the view outside and glare mitigation than with payback. RavenWindow allows free solar heat in when it is desired and then transitions from its clear state to the tinted state, blocking out the unwanted heat. Not only does this allow for savings on heating and air conditioning, we also control glare, increase comfort and unlike blinds or window coverings, the occupant can still see outside. The biggest complaint we hear is that a homeowner has a large window with a beautiful view, but they have to put up a window covering as the glare and heat caused make it unbearable to leave open.
With products like our RavenWindow, which installs the same way as a standard window, so no increased installation costs, saves on HVAC, mitigates glare, increases comfort and pays for itself in a reasonable amount of time, dynamic glazing in residential buildings will gain a significant market share in the next 5 years or less.
Chris Ketchum-VP Sales, RavenBrick

While dynamic window technology has no direct correlation to the automotive industry, I believe there is some insight to the consuming public's attitude regarding technology in the advances made over the past ten years in engines.
Who would have thought that you could get greater horsepower and fuel mileage out of smaller displacement and often fewer cylinders? I have personal experience with Ford Motor Co. products and can point to two Ford examples of technological change that the consuming public are voting for with their hard earned money. The first example, my 2005 Mustang GT with 4.6L V-8 rated at 305hp, avg fuel economy 17 city/23 hiway. In 2010, Ford introduced a new 3.7L V-6 rated at 305hp, avg fuel economy 17 city/31 hiway. I am already looking at purchasing one in the next 12-24 months. Meanwhile, to make my wife happy, I traded said 2005 Mustang recently for an F-150 SuperCrew with the new EcoBoost 3.5L V-6 rated at 365hp which gets 17mpg city/ 23mpg hwy. This motor is marketed to folks like me, and Ford actually does a great job of promoting this motor over its stablemate, the new 5.0L V-8. The V-6, because of the turbochargers, outperforms the V-8 in towing capacity, an accepted truck comparison standard. I had the choice of both engines and went with the V-6 because torque rules in the truck kingdom. I also chose it over the V8 in spite of my muscle car affinity and lifelong hot rod addiction. So you see, consumers like myself, are choosing technological advance where it makes sense.
Also, in the realm of government influence, you have seen successive Presidential efforts to push CAFE (corporate average fuel economy)standards up. This is analogous to what we are seeing at DOE and the kerfuffle over EnergyStar values in the past few years. Throw rising fuel prices in the mix and there you have it...consumers adopting new, more efficient technologies, mostly at elevated prices (relative to income over time).
The fenestration industry, and particularly the glass and spacer manufacturers are already pushing the envelope on technology. Who would believe that dynamic glass and similar (maybe unknown today) technologies will move us toward windows that will perform at affordable and beneficial levels? I believe that the technological momentum is there, but a few years into the future.
As a final comment, I am beginning to see, the "green" movement in building move us back to common sense construction. Architects and builders are seeing the benefit and selling the attraction of age old techniques like proper solar and wind orientation, the use of tree shading, and products that mitigate heat transfer in and out of the home. I read an article recently where an architect worked with a home owner to tailor the entire design of the house with this larger vision of energy movement relative to the structure. Shaded sides of the home with no direct sunlight got clear IG because of shade trees and non reflective surfaces. LowE windows were used where solar heat gain was an issue. Take these factors into account, and I could easily see a consumer purchase dynamic glazings only where necessary and regular glazings elsewhere where good old practicality and common sense are applied. I believe ten years will see us there.