Supersized solar windows

Adrienne SorensenJuly 24, 2018 937 0

Supersized solar windows  

In  solar advancements news, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are working with manufacturers to commercialize a triple-glazed super window that’s   twice as insulating as the most common window sold in the United States today. If commercialized, the window could save $10 billion annually in U.S. energy costs.

Solar technology of super windows 

Some 90 percent of the windows sold in the United States are double-glazed models with low-emissivity (low-E) coatings. Two layers of glass covered with low-E coatings enclose a gap with filled argon gas. The low-E coatings reflect long-wave infrared radiation, felt as heat, while allowing visible light to enter the building, and can be customized to improve both heating and cooling performance based on the climate zone. The “thin triple super window” builds upon this model by inserting an ultra-thin layer of glass between the two existing panes, adding a second low-E coating, and trading argon gas for better-insulating krypton gas in the gaps between the panes. The super window is the same width and nearly the same weight as existing market-leading double-glazed windows. This presents an opportunity for a more efficient drop-in replacement for existing double-glazed windows. 

Promising technologies for commericalized double-glazed solar windows  

The LBNL researchers have built and tested prototypes of the super window in the lab. The research team includes veterans of a previous effort to bring a window innovation to market. They cautioned that it can take many years for promising technologies to gain traction in the window industry. Decades passed before low-E windows became the default technology. LBNL invented and patented the super window more than 20 years ago. But it was a concept ahead of its time. Manufacturers could not then source the large sheets of the ultra-thin glass required for a commercial product. 

About $20 billion worth of energy leaks out of windows in the United States yearly. The super window could cut those energy losses in half. Double-paned, low-E windows have an R-value of R4. R-value is a measure of a material’s thermal resistance. The higher the R-value, the better an insulating material can prevent heat transfer. The thin triple super window has an R-value of R8 to R10.

The payoff for a market-shifting technology can be substantial. Selkowitz said low-E windows have saved a cumulative $150 billion in avoided energy costs in the United States.

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