What Happened to Window Technology?

Technology Update

What happened to the grand dreams of advanced window technology we heard about 30 years ago? We were all told to expect window innovations that would revolutionize our lives. We were told to expect such things as windows that would open and close themselves according to a schedule or by some smart technology that would regulate inside temperature more effectively. There was also speculation of windows that would darken or lighten to filter out light, heat and UV by merely turning a knob or flipping a switch. Yet here we are decades after those promises were made with limited window technology available.

About the only window technology available to consumers that is readily available and cost effective is low e glass or multiple thermal pane windows. Sure we can apply electric motors to some types of windows, or add different films to windows to achieve different degrees of darkening but we don’t really consider these as high technology promise fulfillment.

When I think of high tech windows I tend to think of such things as star trek. OK so Star trek might be a little over the top but when the idea of high tech windows comes to mind I tend to think of more than a simple window that opened with a crank handle or sash pull. Granted windows have come a long way in technology that we don’t see. Low e glass is one that we often don’t think about. A technology that has been around for many years, it cuts down on the harmful UV light that enters our homes fading our carpets and furniture, it also reduces the amount of excess heat during warmer weather cutting cooling costs by a large percentage. It can also be used, depending on how the film is applied to the window, to reflect heat back into the home during cold months thus saving on heating costs.

I can remember as a child seeing those late fifties early sixties news real type shows that depicted the home of the future with smart appliances as well as smart windows and doors. Much of those shows that dealt with early concepts and early ideas about how technology might be used in the future have seen those ideas come to fruition.

You can go into almost any home and find smart appliances such as refrigerators and ranges, heating and air conditioning systems, even water heaters and washing machines. All of these types of appliances have come of age and adopted some type of smart technology. But what happened to the innovations we were told would be coming for windows?

S P G or switchable privacy glass was one innovation that was predicted to be commonplace in the home by the year 2000. That technology does exist but isn’t commonplace. Photo gray windows such as the glass used in optical lenses were believed would also be commonplace by now but are not.

The actual photo gray technology like that used in optical lenses proved to be too expensive for window application. But other tinting or automatic darkening technology does exist but is generally still too expensive to be commonplace in consumer windows. It is however a technology that is in use in some commercial applications.

Other technology such as switchable privacy glass has actually made it into consumer based product production at one time or another but with very limited success. Not for lack of interest in the technology by in large but rather because of the failure of the technology to meet the needs of consumers or simply the failure of the technology to deliver as promised.

The Milgard window company actually put a version of smart switchable privacy glass windows into production for consumer windows. The windows seemed to be well received but Milgard was forced to abandon production because of technology failures resulting in an unacceptable rate of return and general dissatisfaction of consumers with the product. They have abandoned the idea for now at least in favor of an auto tinting window technology which is still under development.

Other window companies as well have had similar experiences with switchable privacy glass. But the idea is not dead in fact it has had a recent revival at Indiana university where the largest switchable privacy glass project ever undertaken has been complete on the Health Information and Transitional Sciences Building using SPD light control film produced by Hitachi.

Although this again is a commercial application for a new technology it speaks of hope for future consumer window products. Generally speaking, new technologies that arrive in the consumer market place are first proven in the commercial arena.

Many of what were once thought of as “space age” window technologies have come to be realities, but not many of them have become consumer affordable realities yet, and I stress the word yet.

Scott Best is a freelance Author in association with Brand New Windows.Com []. Scott Writes for many websites.