Will Smart Home Technology Encompass Windows and Doors?

John G. Swanson
January 9, 2012
THE TALK... | Markets & Trends

The concept of the smart home has been with us for many years. Progress in the market, however, has been limited. Last week's announcement from Lowe's about the launch of the Iris system indicates things are changing. And the residential window and door industry is paying attention.

Therma-Tru Doors, for example, is going to offer doors that allow homeowners to monitor activity with the Lowe's Iris system.  Pella is launching SmartSync at the Consumer Electronics Show this week also. It is working with Ingersoll Rand, parent of Schlage, which is relaunching its Schlage Link system into a broader smart home system. Andersen announced it was working with Honeywell a few months ago on window and door locks that communicated with home security systems. 

Electronic hardware–locks that communicate with security systems or can be operated remotely–is certainly not new.  It's been used in commercial and multi-family applications for years. But is it gaining traction in the single-family market?  Is it poised, as Lowe's suggests, to be the next big category in consumer electronics? That's the subject of this week's poll.  And as usual, we'd like to hear from you. Are homeowners asking for these options?  Has your company installed these products?  Email me or post a comment below and tell us about your experience.

 

Survey Results for 01/11/2012 :

 

Excluding commercial and multi-family applications, has your company worked with door or window locks or devices that communicate with smart home or security systems?

We haven't worked with such products and we haven't had any requests for them.

  

 

88%

We have worked with such products on a few jobs.

  

 

7%

We do so on a regular basis.

  

 

4%

We have been asked by customers, but we haven't worked with such products.

  

 

1%

Based on our poll results, the industry has a long way to go in terms of electronic, smart home type accessories for windows and doors. A little more than 10 percent of our respondents have experience with locks, sensors and other elements that provide enhance security and other potential benefits. I'm left wondering how much enthusiasm there is out there for bringing such products to market. 

Pella, Therma-Tru, Andersen, Schlage. These are all big players in our industry that see an opportunity. Lowe's is even bigger.  These guys don't always get it right, but I think the rest of the industry should pay attention to the fact that they were all out at the Consumer Electronics Show this year.  Advances in wireless technology and the emergence of smartphones and tablets may be changing the landscape for the smart home concept and that could soon translate into new opportunities for suppliers, manufacturers and dealers that are able to find the right partners and package and deliver these products and services in a way that's appealing to homeowners. 

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Ultimately, whether a smart home is an energy efficient home has more to do with the owner than the technology. Adjusting heating and cooling schedules and installing efficient appliances can reduce a great deal of wasted energy, but only when those features are activated.
outlook help
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We have comments to share regarding the increasing use of electronics on windows used on commercial buildings. Our company, Bronze Craft Corporation, has been providing window hardware for commercial window manufacturers since 1944.

In the past ten years we have become increasingly active in the design of window automation systems for commercial buildings and very high end residential projects. Recently window automation projects have included the use of sensors for monitoring indoor and outdoor environmental conditions which may prompt a building automation system to open or close windows. Our research on these electronic sensor devices indicated that all require either batteries or hardwiring for power, and all are made in plastic housings. Our experience with the commercial built environment has taught us that running wire for these devices can be prohibit ably expensive, battery maintenance and disposal for large projects is impractical and plastic housings never hold up.

To provide an appropriate system for use on commercial windows we have applied lessons learned from our experience designing hardware for commercial windows. Our R&D efforts have resulted in a product we call our Smart Window Sensor. This system consists of a housing with an array of solar powered sensors which measure; temperature, available sunlight, moisture, and detect when the window is open or closed, locked or unlocked. A promotional brochure describes this product.

The data measurements are wirelessly transmitted to a modem which will communicate by Ethernet connection to the building automation system or to a dedicated web site which has algorithmic formulas which calculate changes required for optimum energy efficiency. An example is our lighting control. The sensors measure the intensity of sunlight entering the window and shut off the lights near the windows to conserve energy. This system is complex so I have attached a white paper which describes what we have installed in our offices. Our product has won both green and technical design competitions as well. The use of electronics on commercial windows is not widely practiced yet, but what we have learned with our system on 25 year old commercial, bridge/debridge thermal break, insulated glass units promises a greater future for aluminum windows. By measurement we have found that our window profiles may provide a source of heat in the winter on sunny days. While our friends at ASHRAE prefer less windows on commercial buildings, we believe that the use of electronics will provide window designers real world performance data that will spur new product developments that encourage more use of windows in commercial buildings.