In our home we all want a safe and comfortable place to live, while feeling connected to outside. This is primarily done through the design and use of windows. Can you imagine a home without windows? It feels dark and confining, like a bomb shelter. The safety the dwelling provides can quickly turn into an oppressive experience without a connection to the outside. Windows create the necessary link to the world around us. In order to understand the role films play in windows, we must first look at the origins and evolution of the window.
Windows started out as a hole or slit in the wall of a home. Materials such as cloth, animal hide, and wood were originally used to cover these early windows. While this was crude, it still served the same purpose as today: connecting us to the outside, controlling the light coming into our home, manipulating the internal climate, and providing an insulation barrier. This was especially important when homes did not have electricity to power lights and air conditioners. Then came the use of glass in windows, which has its origins during the Roman times. Fast forward, our large scale windows only became possible once we were able to industrialize the glass making process.
To understand the present it is important to look at the past, and how people were using various types of film and fabric to protect and allow light into their homes. What was once animal hide is now more sophisticated. Today’s window coverings can control the amount of light entering the home from 80% to total blackout. Common window treatments we see in the home include blinds, drapes, and shades, which all incorporate film into their products. Light filtering is achieved by incorporating a metallized film into the shade structure. Other modern methods to improve energy efficiency include reflective or UV blocking films integrated into window systems and argon gas captured between window panes.
As technology continues to play a disruptive role in our lives, it is also changing the window industry as we know it. Instead of having a drape or blind, we are starting to see glass windows that can be directly controlled and manipulated through electricity. These smart windows incorporate a conductive film that incorporates a nano coating. Depending on the voltage that flows through the window, the nanoparticles will change their orientation, which regulates the tint of the window. Think of it as a dimmer for your window.
In addition to smart windows, we are beginning to see solar cells being integrated into windows. Work is being done to develop transparent solar cells that can be combined into window systems. Once again, film will be an important component in the development of this new technology. Not only will you be able to harness the sun’s energy in your home, but large skyscrapers that absorb large amounts of UV energy will now be able to harness the sun’s energy to power the building.
Whether you have a traditional blind or you decide to be an early adapter of the new high-tech smart windows, the future looks bright for windows.