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What Is Smart Glass Technology and How Does It Work?

Jan 27 2021

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A woman reading behind smart glass windows

Smart homes began trending around 1998 and increased in popularity in the early 2000s. Since then, smart homes have been adopted far and wide. In the United States alone, there are 42.2 million smart homes; and by 2021 an expected 28% of all households will make the upgrade.

Additionally, our homes are equipped with smart devices such as smart ovens, smart lights, smart beds, smart refrigerators, smart locks, and more. What’s next? 

The answer is smart glass technology via smart glass windows. It’s not surprising that this part of the home was next in line for technological innovation, but what are smart glass windows, what are their uses and just how accessible are they in the present market? In this blog, we will answer all these burning questions and more!

Office space with smart glass windows

What Are Smart Glass Windows?

Smart glass, also known as switchable glass, is a type of glass that has changeable light transmission properties. As such, the glass can be changed from transparent to translucent or opaque when voltage or heat is applied to the glass. This kind of glass can control light, glare, and UV radiation, thereby presenting new exciting possibilities for architects, interior designers, and of course, property owners. 

Types of Smart Glass and How They Work

Electrochromic Glass Windows

As suggested by the name, this type of glass responds to electricity. This, however, does not mean that electrochromic smart glass windows will always use electricity; once the user gets the desired level of light transmission or the desired opacity, no more electricity is needed to maintain it. 

The main advantage of this type of smart glass is that the user gets full control over when and how much light and heat pass through. This is typically done through the use of a remote control or a fixed switch. For example, if you need opacity or more light, it’s only a push of a button or a flick of the switch away. Different panels can also be set up to have separate controls.

There are three common ways of how electrochromic smart glass works:

1. Suspended-Particle Glass 

The nanoparticles used in this type of electrochromic smart glass are placed in such a way that they block light. As electrical current is applied to this glass, the nanoparticles align and allow light to pass through the gaps. The particles, as well as the gaps they form, are not visible to the naked eye.  

2. Micro-Blind Smart Glass 

In this type of electrochromic smart glass, micro-blinds, which are small rolled metal blinds, are controlled using electricity. When a current is passed through these rolled micro-blinds, they flatten out, thereby blocking light. The degree of the flattening of the rolled blinds is determined by the electric current passed through it – this allows for control over how much light and heat passes through the glass. 

3. Polymer-Dispersed Liquid Crystal Glass 

This type of electrochromic smart glass makes use of dissolved liquid crystals. They form droplets on the glass which scatter light, thereby giving the glass a milky appearance. However, when electricity is applied, these dissolved liquid crystals align and allow light to pass through, making the glass completely clear.  

Thermochromic Glass

Not all smart glass windows, however, are controlled by a remote or switch. As you may have guessed from the name, thermochromic window glass responds to heat. When heat is applied to the glass (such as when the external temperature rises), this activates the thermochromic filter on the glass within a matter of minutes. The tint darkens, thereby allowing less light to pass through. Through this process, these glass windows are able to block light, heat, and glare while still maintaining a clear appearance.

Do I Still Need Window Treatments If I Have Smart Glass Windows?

Electrochromic smart glass windows can usually take the place of blinds or curtains since the user has full control of how much light and heat is entering the room – but not just any type of electrochromic smart glass window will do. If you plan on eliminating the need for window treatments like blinds and curtains, it is best to look for electrochromic smart glass windows that are specifically marketed as “blackout glass.” Blackout glass allows for the maximum blocking of light, thereby giving the owner full privacy.  

Unfortunately, thermochromic smart glass windows are not the best choice if you intend to completely do away with curtains and blinds, as they are controlled by external heat (and not by the user). This, however, doesn’t discount the value of thermochromic smart glass. It can still effectively block out light and heat, thereby helping you to save on energy costs when temperatures rise. 

Blackout glass on sliding doors

How Much Do Smart Glass Windows Cost?

At this point in time, smart glass windows are still quite expensive, however, they are a great investment for your property. Smart glass can help in lowering energy costs by keeping heat and UV rays out, ultimately minimizing damage to your home’s interiors and furniture. 

The cost of smart glass windows is usually designated per square foot. Electrochromic switchable glass can cost around $85 per square foot. Meanwhile, thermochromic smart glass can cost $40 per square foot

That concludes our comprehensive guide on smart glass technology. Now that you understand smart glass windows and how they work, the possibilities are endless for window replacement options. Browse our list of trusted window companies to inquire about how you can implement smart glass in your home!

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