How to get smarter windows without buying new ones

Dynamic windows — which can control the amount of light and heat that a window lets through when a low charge is applied — are being manufactured by innovative companies like Soladigm and Sage Electrochromics. But what if you could get these smarter so-called “electrochromic” windows without buying a new window? A startup called US e-Chromic, which is a semi-finalist at the business competition the Cleantech Open this year, has a plan cooking for that.

US e-Chromic makes an electrochromic thin film that can be applied to the inside of existing windows, but can work in a similar way to the brand new dynamic windows that are being made by these players in their next-gen factories. US e-Chromic says when its film is applied to windows it can reduce cooling costs in buildings by 30 to 40 percent during warm air-conditioning heavy months.

The company, based in Boulder, Colorado, is commercializing tech that was developed at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden Colorado. So far the startup, which is led by CEO Loren Burnett, has raised a small amount of funding from Amplifier Ventures.

Soladigm, on the other hand, has major manufacturing plans. The company is building a $130 million factory in Mississippi, and says it plans to start shipping its electrochromic windows in the first quarter of 2012; investors include Khosla Ventures, Sigma Partners, DBL Investors, and The Westly Group. Soladigm uses a thin-film deposition process to create conducting layers between two panes of glass that control the amount of light and heat that pass through the window.

Sage also has big production plans. The U.S. Department of Energy offered Sage a loan guarantee of $72 million, and Sage has a 300,000-square-foot factory, in Minnesota.

However, US e-Chromic is still in the R&D stage. The company was founded just in April 2011.