It is a universally accepted fact that the vinyl windows and doors that are available on the market today are a vast improvement over the wood and aluminum replacement windows and doors that were commonly used only twenty years ago. But what vinyl window and door technologies can we expect to see in the coming decades to make our homes even more energy efficient? Experts in the replacement vinyl window and door industry agree that the greatest potential for advancement lies in new glazing technologies.
One example is what the vinyl window and door industry calls switchable glazing. Glass and glazing manufacturers have already developed vinyl windows and doors that can darken, lighten or completely block the sun and its heat from entering your home. Once producers can make them affordable, controlling solar heat gain will be as simple as flipping a switch.
Homeowners love big, oversized vinyl windows and doors. They bring in natural light, enhance views and make a house feel homier. However, from an energy-consumption standpoint, even the best vinyl windows and doors currently available on the market are energy-wasters. Switchable glazing will make residential vinyl window and door products significantly better; imagine being able to switch your windows into sun-blocking mode when you’re not home or away on vacation and then switching them back when you return, allowing the sun to flow freely into a room.
Photochromic coatings are another, similar emerging technology for vinyl windows and doors. These coatings would provide the same benefits are switchable glazing, but wouldn’t require the homeowner to do anything at all. The vinyl window or door that these coatings are installed into would change the solar transmittance as a function of light intensity. In other words, the vinyl windows and doors in your house would act like photochromatic sunglasses, getting lighter and darker by themselves and saving you lots of energy in the meantime.
Superwindows are another possibility. Image the vinyl windows and doors in your home with four-pane glazing units, multiple low-E coatings and multiple gas fills. The overall energy performance of these vinyl windows and doors would provide significant energy benefits to any orientation.
Some spacer manufacturers are investigating the possibility of installing microchips in vinyl window and door spacer systems. These chips would communicate with your security system in case of glass breakage or flooding and to your homes heating and air-conditioning system, sending more heat (or cold air) to rooms that need it most.
Finally, with crime and security concerns continuously mounting, vinyl windows and doors constructed with unbreakable glass aren’t far off. The technologies now exist to cheaply manufacture glass for residential use that is almost bullet-proof. Not only would vinyl windows and doors made with this type of glass be ultra-secure, they would have the added benefit of being super-quiet, since the increased strength of the glass alleviates vibration of the glass which causes noise transmission.
Smarter vinyl window and doors are on their way. With the advent of global warming and increased energy costs, the timing couldn’t be better.