A Design Guide for Early-Market Electrochromic Windows
Switchable variable-tint electrochromic windows preserve the view out while modulating transmitted light, glare, and solar heat gains and can reduce energy use and peak demand. To provide designers objective information on the risks and benefits of this technology, this study offers data from simulations, laboratory tests, and a 2.5-year field test of prototype large-area electrochromic windows evaluated under outdoor sun and sky conditions. The study characterized the prototypes in terms of transmittance range, coloring uniformity, switching speed, and control accuracy. It also integrated the windows with a daylighting control system and then used sensors and algorithms to balance energy efficiency and visual comfort, demonstrating the importance of intelligent design and control strategies to provide the best performance. Compared to an efficient low-e window with the same daylighting control system, the electrochromic window showed annual peak cooling load reductions from control of solar heat gains of 19-26% and lighting energy use savings of 48-67% when controlled for visual comfort. Subjects strongly preferred the electrochromic window over the reference window, with preferences related to perceived reductions in glare, reflections on the computer monitor, and window luminance. The EC windows provide provided the benefit of greater access to view year-round. Though not definitive, findings can be of great value to building professionals.