Self-tinting window and energy savingsIf you’re looking for the latest and greatest sustainable energy solution, the answer might not lie on your roof, but in your windows.

After decades of languishing under the neat-but-impractical label, IEEE Spectrum reports that automatically tinting windows might actually be nearing the point where they make sense as an investment.

The basic idea behind tinting windows is that you can cut down on added heat during the summer months, while also letting in enough light to let you work.

The problem is that many older automatically tinting windows would simply change based on light or temperature. In general, that will get you many of the benefits you’re looking for, but it also means that you have no control over the process. If you’d like more light or the room is too warm, the window is not going to change just for you.

There is another approach to tinting windows, which uses electricity to shift the panes from transparent to opaque. The issue here is that most of these technologies, historically, have not offered any room in between. Your windows are tinted or they aren’t, which means you cannot take advantage of natural light unless you’re willing to deal with all the heat that comes along with it.

Now, however, Greentech Media notes that a number of big-name investors – including General Electric, Khosla Ventures and glass manufacturer Corning – are coming together to give $60 million to a California-based startup View. This company, along with its main competitor Sage Electrochromics, uses a different type of technology, coating the inside of the windows with a ceramic metal oxide.

This material can change its color with only a small electric current, giving the same kind of control that businesses have been looking for, but it also allows for a range of settings so that windows can take best advantage of the sunlight. While either of the older technologies could potentially help limit heating costs, View estimates its windows can cut peak air conditioning load by as much as 25 percent, while also reducing lighting costs by up to 20 percent.

“While dynamic glass has been in development for decades, we believe View’s unique approach will finally bring this technology into the mainstream,” Martin Curran, executive vice president and innovation officer at Corning, said in a statement.

These windows might not be ideal for residential energy efficiency, since they require a digital building management system, but more and more businesses are already using these types of programs.

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