Windows fill indoor spaces with light – while offering a free pass to noisy neighbours and blazing sunlight. Still, we don’t always want our blinds lowered and have our own view blocked. The latest solution to this problem: smart glass that switches between transparent and opaque in a matter of seconds.

From corporate offices to residential homes, solar-powered or electric window tint has become increasingly popular in all kinds of buildings. With the help of modern technology, it’s never been easier to keep indoor spaces private and shaded during the day.

How smart glass works

Generally speaking, the term “smart“ or “intelligent“ glass refers to special panes that can change their level of transparency – fuelled either by electricity or sunlight. Their appearance may vary between transparent, dark, or coloured, depending on the respective coating. Even though the tinting blocks the view for onlookers outside, the window remains completely see-through from the inside. Currently, there are three types of smart glass technology on the market.

Intelligentes Glas Schlafzimmer
With glass panes replacing concrete walls, small rooms will feel brighter and more spacious. Source: iStock

1. Thermochrome glass: all it takes is heat

Thermochrome glass serves as a shield against the sun by regulating how much light is let through your window. Whenever the pane’s temperature reaches a certain level, it reacts accordingly: special substances embedded on a foil within the laminated glass will then change their colour. The more the smart glass heats up, the stronger the colouring becomes. Once the sunlight fades, the panes will turn transparent again. The whole system works independently, without additional cabling or external power supplies. However, it is not possible to control the window tint manually.

2. Electrochrome glass: a smart way to stay in control

If you want to adjust the brightness and temperature flexibly depending on the season or time of day, there’s another alternative: dimmable insulating glass with an electrochrome coating. Connected to your power grid, the window will darken as soon as its coating is charged with voltage. Each pane can be operated individually. Manufacturers such as SageGlass offer a variety of control options: manual, based on automated settings, or even via app.

3. Liquid Crystal: switchable glass for privacy at the office

What may sound like a psychedelic drug is actually the name of a special type of electric frosted glass: Liquid Crystal has proven particularly effective for workspaces, where confidential meetings take place on a regular basis. At the push of a button, the pane turns opaque and thereby blocks the view from outside. Once the power supply stops, the pane becomes transparent again. This smart glass system is not only a popular choice in corporate settings – it can also serve as a room divider in hotel rooms, for example.

Intelligentes Glas Fensterfront Gebäude
Opaque windows allow for more privacy in public and corporate buildings. Source: iStock

Benefits of smart glass windows

As a complement to classic blinds, windows with smart features can enhance your living comfort in several respects.

Benefits of smart glass windows

As a complement to classic blinds, windows with smart features can enhance your living comfort in several respects.

  • Prevention of overheating and glare effects

    During the summer, glazed fronts can quickly turn your home into a greenhouse. Indoor shutters or curtains may block the sunlight, but they can’t keep the heat from creeping in. Outdoor installations don’t fully protect your house against direct exposure, either. This is where smart glass comes in: no matter at which angle sunlight hits the pane, the coating will automatically change its tint.

  • Unobstructed view from inside
    With drawn curtains or lowered blinds, your room might appear a bit too closed off at times. Smart glass windows, on the other hand, allow for a clear view even when they turn completely opaque for passers-by on the outside.

  • Protection of personal spaces
    Especially in residential homes or hotels, we don’t ever want to feel as if we are being watched. Switchable privacy glass ensures that no one will peek in through the windows. It can even be used to turn the panes of shower cabins opaque.

  • Modern architecture
    Facades made from intelligent glass stand out with their sleek aesthetics and can go without any additional shading system. This proves particularly beneficial for large building complexes, where these systems require a high degree of maintenance. On high-rises, they’re often not even an option because of the wind conditions. No wonder that renowned architects such as Norman Foster have been working with smart glass technology for years.

  • Sustainability
    Windows that automatically keep the sunlight out help regulate indoor temperatures, so you don’t need to turn on air conditioning. This in turn reduces carbon dioxide emissions in the long run. What’s more, thermochrome glass doesn’t even rely on external power supplies.

Extra tip: Smart glass can be connected to KNX building technology, which enables you to control every function in your house via touch panel, app, or voice command. Apart from lights, blinds, or heating, you can integrate a variety of devices into the network – even from different manufacturers. Living comfort at its best.

The combination of mechanical solar protection and digital technology shields your home against UV radiation and overheating indoors. Of course, the prices of smart glass windows are fairly high. Nevertheless, you should consider how much the maintenance of a conventional sun-shading system will cost you eventually. Not having to rely on air conditioning will save you a lot of money in the long run as well.