How do Smart Windows and Double-Glazing Technology Benefit the Environment?
Innovative technologies are helping humanity tackle some of the most pressing issues facing us today, namely climate change and exhaustible energy resources like non-renewable natural resources (NNR). These include oil, gas, and coal, which are finite resources on a finite planet. Energy conservation and efficiency are, therefore, a vital necessity if we are to head off these issues and transition into a more sustainable world.
There are a broad range of technologies that are helping to achieve this transition, like solar and wind power generation. However, factors such as population growth and increasing living standards are working against the introduction of green energy. This is where smart technologies and better designs can help achieve greater energy efficiency in new developments such as Ancoats Gardens in Manchester.
The energy we use in our commercial buildings and homes makes up between 20-40% of our usage, resulting in over 30% of global CO2 emissions in industrialised countries. Window technology plays a crucial role in helping to achieve energy efficiency as it operates on three heat transfer mechanisms: conduction, convection, and radiation. The total thermal transmittance or U-value of a window is used to measure its effectiveness as an insulator.
Smart windows and double or triple glazing are a technology that is very important in improving building security and energy efficiency, and thus reducing CO2 emissions.
Smart Windows and Smart Glass
Looking in from the outside, you would not be able to tell if a window was “smart” or not. They would be visually indistinguishable from conventional window technology. Smart window frames contain cutting edge technology and sensors, letting the homeowner or occupant know if a window has been left open or unlocked. Leaving windows open, even slightly, can have a significant impact on the home or building’s temperature.
Smart glass utilises a different technology than smart windows, with the technology integrated into the glass itself. For example, self-cleaning glass helps keep the windows clean, cutting down on the water and time needed to clean them. Water is another precious resource we need to be more efficient with. Self-cleaning glass is built with two coatings, the first consisting of titanium dioxide that uses sunlight to break down dirt particles. The second coating makes the rinsing process much easier and requires less water to do so. Smart window glass can also contain films that can change from clear to opaque at the flick of a switch, providing privacy when needed.
One version of the smart window technology allows occupants of the home or building to control the level of light entering through the window, either partially or totally. Controlling light input in this way can potentially save billions on heating, cooling, and lighting costs.
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Double and Triple Glazing
Double glazing windows are usually comprised of two layers of glass with an insulating layer of argon gas in the middle, separating the panes. This allows for better efficiency because argon gas, with a 67% thermal conductivity of air, is not very good at conducting heat and therefore helps to keep the warm air inside from escaping outside. The two panes of glass also help keep noise levels down by acting as an effective barrier. Triple glazing technology consists of three panes of glass and works by trapping even more heat inside the house.
Sometimes homes are not able to have double glazing installed for some reason, perhaps due to local planning restrictions. Secondary glazing is a suitable replacement option which consists of installing a “slim-line” window just inside the existing window reveal. They are quite discrete so should not detract from the building’s aesthetic appearance and character.
Window Energy Ratings
Energy ratings for windows help guide homeowners and builders to purchase the best windows for their needs. Like how electrical goods are rated, the ratings go from A++ (very efficient) to G (very inefficient). However, it’s important to note that a rating of at least a grade C is required to comply with building regulations.
The energy rating system uses a set of values to calculate a window’s energy efficiency. These values are:
- Thermal transmittance (U-value) – the amount of heat that can escape through the glass.
- Solar factor (G value) – the energy level gained through the windows from the sun.
- Air leakage (L value) – refers to the air leakage through a window.
Taking good care of your double-glazing windows will help reduce things like condensation which, if found on the inside, indicates that there is air somehow getting into the sealed window unit. Likewise, if a draught comes in, this likely indicates that there’s a fault in the unit’s seal around the frame.
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