In March of this year, Congressman Steven Horsford of Nevada reintroduced the Dynamic Glass Act of 2021. This bill would offer incentives to businesses investing in the technology and utilization of electrochromic glass to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
Electrochromic glass is a specialty glass product that facilitates energy savings via control over the amount of light and heat entering a building. The Dynamic Glass Act of 2021 classifies electrochromic glass as energy property for purposes of the investment tax credit. The bill defines “electrochromic glass” as glass that uses electricity to change its light transmittance properties to heat or cool a building.
The booming economy of Texas is drawing companies and new residents to the state in scores. With this rise in businesses and population, it follows that development of new commercial and residential structures is also increasing, and with it – emissions and energy consumption. The Dynamic Glass Act would incentivize greater use of electrochromic glass. This would help keep emission levels and energy usage in check while at the same time lowering energy costs for businesses and homeowners.
Mahseh Ramanujam, President and CEO US Green Building Council, Green Business Certification Inc., has stated in support, “To address climate change, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commercial buildings and smart policies like the Dynamic Glass Act are an essential part of the solution.”
How electrochromic glass works
Imagine the world without glass. Dark and dingy, right? However, glass has a few challenges, too. Glass lets in heat that isn’t always desired. During the scorching Texas summers, the more heat (“solar gain”) that enters your home or office, the more you’ll need to employ your air-conditioning unit to keep your environment a tolerable temperature. This is a waste of energy that not only sends your utility cost skyrocketing, but it is also not good for the environment.
Glass also lets in light, whether it’s wanted or not. It’s translucent or transparent, even when privacy is needed. For this reason, most commercial buildings and private residences use window blinds, shades, or curtains. Smart windows, also called smart glass or dynamic windows, can provide privacy using electrochromic technology. When electrical voltage is applied, materials can change color or change from transparent to opaque. Smart windows most often have a blue tint and gradually turn transparent when the electric current passes through them.
Currently, the Dynamic Glass Act of 2021 includes only electrochromic glass. However, if the bill becomes law, it is entirely possible that PDLC film, often referred to as “Smart Window Tint,” could also become an incentivized option for businesses in the future.
PDLC stands for Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal. PDLC film is liquid crystal sandwiched between two layers of film. When electricity is applied, it changes from an opaque state to clear. This technology is actually similar to an LCD display. Electronic controls adjust liquid crystals to modify the amount of light that can pass through. When the electric current is turned on, the crystals line up in a manner, not unlike opening window blinds. When the current is turned off, the crystals disperse randomly, scattering any light passing through in a variety of directions. This turns the glass opaque.
In the United States, commercial buildings account for 19% of total energy consumed, representing 440 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. Traditional glass windows are a sizeable source of this energy loss; commercial and residential buildings combined are responsible for 35% of energy-related carbon emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy has stated that if all traditional windows were replaced with electrochromic glass, nationwide window energy losses could be eliminated and be converted to a 320 billion kWh net energy gain. It stands to reason that smart window tint could easily be a part of this energy-saving solution.