Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Smart glass finds its way home

Canadian Contractor

Demand for privacy and temperature regulation key factors for increasing popularity

Flicking a switch to make a glass wall go from transparent to opaque and back again used to be the domain of high end corporate offices. Now the technology is coming home, with options and pricing to suit almost any budget. It’s called Smart Glass technology, and the possibilities are startling.

Switch on privacy
‘Switchable’ Smart Glass consists of two panels that sandwich a polymer-dispersed liquid-crystal film that conducts electricity. The glass is opaque until the voltage is switched on, which causes the film’s particles to align, turning the glass transparent. Imagine making the kitchen disappear when guests arrive, or concealing a home office from prying eyes. Installing motion detectors allows a shower door to turn opaque when used. Some manufacturers offer glass panels that can include colour tinting, fire ratings, and even curved shapes.

Switchable glass: Now you see it...now you don't!

Switchable glass: Now you see it…now you don’t!

Automatic temperature control
Manufacturers like Vario Glass of Sherbrooke PQ offer a range of self-darkening specialty glass panels that work like self-darkening sunglasses. The glass gradually transforms in the presence of bright sunlight and heat, providing protection from excessive sun glare and ultraviolet rays in addition to reducing overall solar heat gain without obstructing the view like blinds or curtains.  These glass panels therefore minimise the need to cool and light the interior environment due to their intuitive interlayer that reduces the amount of solar energy being transmitted through the glass. As temperatures cool, the glass responds automatically, allowing more of the sun’s warming rays into the room, unlike permanently tinted windows. The result is a self-balancing solar benefit.

Too expensive? Existing glass walls can be retrofitted
Custom Smart Glass panels can be expensive. However, retrofit kits in sizes as large as 4’ by 20’ and in several colours have become available at a fraction of the cost, bringing the potential of switchable glass walls to many more homeowners. These kits consist of an adhesive film with a wired edge, soldered invisibly onto existing glass to give it the qualities of privacy glass. The result is a wall that transforms instantly or in a dimmable fashion from clear to opaque with the flick of a switch or through a smart phone!

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Smart Glass technology on interior walls brings a new meaning to an open concept design; now it’s open only when you want it to be. On exterior glass, energy efficiency gains and reduced UV damage are measurable benefits.

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