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High-tech tweaks on building features such as windows can make a big impact on their energy-efficiency. One company working on such windows, SAGE Electrochromics, says they’ve just raised $16 million in a second round funding from Good Energies, Applied Materials’ venture arm Applied Ventures, and Bekaert.
SAGE develops windows and skylights that can change their tint throughout the course of the day to control the amount of sunlight and heat that enter a building. Electrochromics is a fancy word for materials that change color when electric voltage is applied. This graphic from SAGE’s site explains how the technology works…
In commercial buildings, electrochromic windows can reduce annual air conditioning costs by up to 20 percent, and can reduce electricity demand in most parts of the U.S. by 19 to 26 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Still, with the high costs of electrochromic windows, we question whether these energy-efficient panes of glass will make it to the mass market. SAGE’s marketing guru Lou Podbelski tells us that SAGE windows, on average, cost around $85 per square foot. Then add another four to 10 percent for installation fees to the total cost. Compare that to the cost of less efficient, but widely sold low emission windows, which usually sell for about $2 a square foot. Hmmm, consumers better want them pretty badly for the markup.
Still, Mr. Podbelski and his company’s website like to point out that by using the SAGE windows, builders can cut out costs of other fixtures such as pricey exterior sub-shades and interior blinds. And it’s obvious the company is aware of needing to lower costs over the next decade in order to sell its product successfully…
“As the market becomes aware of the many benefits of SageGlass products, and volumes increase, SAGE is setting up for a 60-70% cost reduction over the next five years, and then a further cost reduction of 30-40% over the following five years.” – FAQ, from Sage Electrochromics’ website.
Harvey M. Sachs, the Director of Building Programs with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, told us that while these electronic windows do reduce energy usage in buildings, there might be other, more affordable ways to limit energy expenditures, such as investing in better HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems.