Smart Homes, Smart Windows, Smart Choices

Smart Homes, Smart Windows, Smart Choices

May 31, 2024

What does it mean when windows and doors are “smart?” How can “smart” technology be used effectively? Uncover the potential of innovative solutions.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then “smart” is in the experience of the user. “Smart”—like beauty—is subjective; it depends on personal values and perceptions. Thankfully, there are multiple ways today’s smart products and technologies can customize and enhance a space for an individual. Gaining a better understanding of these useful advancements enables more thoughtful and intentional decision-making when considering smart options for homes’ windows and doors.

What is “smart?”

There are numerous meanings for “smart” in association with devices, products, materials, interfaces and experiences. In this context, “smart” often refers to convenience, awareness and connection—both in a technological sense and in a social way.

Perhaps most familiarly, mobile phones became “smart” when they transitioned from making calls and sending short text messages to serving as remote handheld internet-enabled communication centers capable of receiving large emails, taking and sharing high-quality photos and videos, and managing application-based digital tools—or “apps.” Now, smart phones can monitor, control and connect to a nearly unlimited range of activities and content.

ceiling transom windows

“Smart” in the home

In addition to smart phones, homes now have interconnected smart devices, offering greater convenience and control through the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

For many homeowners, heating and air conditioning are among the first systems integrated with internet-enabled touchscreen displays and app-based controls. No longer does the thermostat need to be manually adjusted to separate seasonal, daytime and nighttime temperatures. Instead, the system can sense fluctuations to react automatically and can be pre-programmed for individual preferences.

Residential security and access systems are another example of how smart technology and the IoT have dramatically changed people’s homes and daily lives. What once seemed exclusive to those with top secret governmental clearance is now commonplace for every single-family home. Paired with the smallest cameras and microphones, smart technology allows homeowners to see, hear and speak to the people at their front door, regardless of whether they are at home.

Smart windows and smart glass

Beyond main entrances, smart home systems also incorporate windows and other door types including sliding and swinging doors. They can be opened, closed or locked through remote or in-house automation. This adds accessibility for those with physical limitations and offers universal design convenience for all users. These features are especially helpful for high-up clerestory windows, expansive doors with multiple panels and windows with extra-tall sashes.

expansive multi-slide door

Smart windows can also help achieve immediate and next-level energy savings, such as meeting the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) criteria to maximize energy use through purposeful ventilation and insulation.

Smart window choices that contribute to energy efficiency and indoor comfort also include smart glass choices. The term “smart glass” may be used to describe thoughtful, high-performance glass options or to define glass that can electronically adjust transparency. Together, they preserve the critical importance of daylight and views.

High-performance smart options can encompass impact-resistant laminated glass that protects people and property from flying debris and high winds. It can also refer to glass with low-emissivity (Low-E) and other “smart coatings” that reduce heat energy transfer and block UV transmittance. These glazing technologies save energy, minimize glare, and shield finishes and furnishings from fading.

privacy smart glass

In current industry conversations, when someone is discussing “smart glass” as an option for residential windows and doors, they most often are talking about electronically adjustable privacy glass. Bathrooms, bedrooms, home offices, personal fitness and wellness rooms, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are prime opportunities for privacy glass in both exterior and interior applications.

Generally, these dynamic glass products switch on-demand between obscured and transparent. Easily integrated into smart home systems, switchable privacy glass provides modern versatility and dynamic shading.

Smart choices for sustainability

Alongside high-tech solutions, sustainable materials and products have also become synonymous with “smart” choices in home design. Windows and doors offer extensive customizable components to support environmentally responsible, resilient residences without sacrificing functionality, convenience, beauty and luxury.

Windows’ energy savings and indoor comfort can be significantly improved when selecting triple-pane insulating glass units. This boosts the performance of standard double-pane units by elevating the benefits of Low-E coatings with a third glass lite and thermal spacer bars.

For a thinner and lighter high-efficiency glass option, consider the potential of vacuum insulating glass (VIG). This innovative technology features a nearly airless space between two panes of glass called a vacuum. The unique characteristics of the vacuum allow the glass to achieve insulating values comparable to that of wall insulation. This dramatically reduces heat gain from the sun and heat loss from a warmed interior, decreasing energy consumption and costs.

ceiling transom windows

Homes designed with future-proofed solutions are also incorporating renewable energy sources, such as solar photovoltaic panels, to power their switchable privacy glass, home automation and whole-home systems. With intention and planning, committed homeowners can attain net-zero, neutral-energy and net-positive, energy-generating residences.

Even when it comes to the essential construction of windows and doors, there is a range of high-performance, sustainable construction material choices:

  • Wood offers a natural warmth and texture, whether it is used in an all-wood framing construction or reserved for the interior. Choosing partners that have earned Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Chain-of-Custody Certification ensures that the wood in the products comes from well-managed forests which meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations. Chain-of-Custody is the path taken from the forest to the consumer—including each stage of transformation, manufacturing, storage and transport involving a change of ownership of the material or product. FSC®-certified products can contribute points toward certification for LEED®, Green Globes® and other green building programs. (FSC® license code FSC®-C019541)
custom arched window and floor to ceiling modern window wall
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  • Extruded aluminum-clad wood windows and doors can combine the natural benefits of wood with the recyclability and durability of metal. Aluminum-clad exteriors and all-aluminum construction framing hold up to weather and time, requiring minimal maintenance and repair throughout their long lives. High-performance painted or anodized finishes further safeguard the original aesthetic.
kitchen casement windows
  • Glastra® is Kolbe Windows & Doors’ proprietary hybrid of fiberglass and UV-stable polymer formulated for strength and resilience, including energy-efficient and impact-resistant performance. Forgent® Series windows can be specified with all-Glastra construction or with a Glastra exterior and a pre-finished pine wood interior. At the end of its useful life as a window, the materials can be repurposed into products for other industries.

Quality and customization always matter when making smart, sustainable choices. Windows and doors should be supported with proper installation, reliable documentation and robust warranties.

“Smart” is a vast and ever-expanding category in the window and door industry built on a foundation of convenience, awareness and connection. The advancements offered by these technologies and choices present more opportunities to people to simplify living, improve wellness and better enjoy these spaces together.

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