At first there are just big holes in the wood framing. But as with any new building project or renovation, those holes get filled with windows. How much technology really goes into windows anyway — they’re just glass in a frame, right?
No matter where you live, windows are an essential element of your home. Over the centuries, very little has changed in their production and use, however, there have been major advances in their technology.
Whether your kids have hit a cricket ball through the window or you’re just due for an upgrade, consider these new or on-the-horizon technologies before you decide on the right window replacement for you.
You likely own a smartphone, but what about smart glass? New materials that selectively block heat and light mean the idea of the “smart window” is now a reality.
Glass composite materials are currently in development, showing excellent promise in blocking infrared radiation from the sun (the type that produces heat). While blocking infrared, these same windows can selectively block visible light, all while remaining completely transparent.
If blocking UV rays in your home is important to you, then new window film technologies are for you. These films can be attached to your existing windows. Up to 99.9 percent of UV rays are blocked, plus 97 percent of infrared rays, while still allowing significant natural light to penetrate the glass.
Renewable energy experts view these new windows as one of the best ways to reduce energy consumption in both commercial and residential buildings. Cooling and lighting Australian homes without an over-reliance on air conditioning and electrical lighting is showing great promise.
80 per cent of residential heat loads are due to solar heat gain via the roof and windows — National Institute of Building Sciences
Scientists have also pursued a similar idea in developing window coatings that act as electrical generators. It’s window meets solar panel. Some technologies even boast the ability to collect power from indoor LED and fluorescent lighting.
The idea of windows being part of a sustainability plan for your home is not just another hip trend or marketing spin from window companies. Brandon Tinianov of the National Institute of Building Sciences stated that “68 percent of a building’s energy consumption goes to lighting, plugs and equipment, while 38 percent goes to conditioning (heating and cooling).” He also states that “up to 80 per cent of residential heat loads are due to solar heat gain via the roof and windows.”
The reverse of this — heat loss in the winter — is also true for windows. Any window technology focusing on energy efficiency is likely to save you a significant amount in heating a cooling your home, while making your carbon footprint much smaller.
Safe & secure
Advances in window technology now incorporate sensors into windows (and doors). Some of these sensors are built right into the windows’ infrastructure. Others are separate and able to be purchased after installation. These aftermarket sensors sync with your smartphone or tablet and let you know if anything is unlocked.
Korner is an example of this technology, though there are other similar products available. If you forget to lock up before leaving the house, the app will alert you. You can then text another family member or neighbour to close up for you. Keep an eye out while on holiday — you’ll be alerted if a window or door is unlocked while you’re away.
Create a new mood in an instant. Electrostatic films are special Wi-Fi-embedded films installed in your windows. You can control them with your smartphone. Instantly switch from transparent to opaque.
Also an option are electronic window shades, which can be controlled with your smartphone. Lower them while you’re watching a movie. Lift them during dusk to enjoy the natural light and lower again when you want privacy. You don’t even have to get off the couch.
Animal lovers & green thumbs
If you live in an environment with lots of bird-life, or you simply want to be kind to your feathered neighbors, consider patterned window coatings. These transparent coatings are visible to birds but not to us.
For the green thumb, hydroponic window systems now exist, helping you create edible gardens on virtually any window of your home. Britta Riley, founder of Windowfarms technology, states there is “no need to find plants to suit your window. With window light & water, crops regrow throughout the monthly harvest.”
If you decide to install any of the new window technologies, it’s very important to remember to insure them against damage. The windows in your home take a lot of punishment. They need to endure harsh Australian weather — strong winds, heavy storms, hail and extremes in temperature.
While new technologies in windows feature some appealing new aesthetic elements, the focus on minimizing energy loss and enhancing security means windows are the most multi-functional structures in your home.
Even if you’re not embarking on a major renovation, window replacement is worth consideration. Purchasing new windows is a big commitment. Not only do they contribute to keeping your home secure from potential intruders and the extremes of the Australian seasons, they need to look good!
Windows frame your view in the same way picture frames complete the look of family photos or a favorite painting. These new window technologies add extra, dynamic elements to these everyday, essential structures. Window shopping is about to get a whole lot more exciting!