Examination of the technical potential of near-infrared switching thermochromic windows for commercial building applications:
Current thermochromic windows modulate solar transmission primarily within the visible range, resulting in reduced space-conditioning energy use but also reduced daylight, thereby increasing lighting energy use compared to conventional static, near-infrared selective, low-emittance windows. To better understand the energy savings potential of improved thermochromic devices, a hypothetical near-infrared switching thermochromic glazing was defined based on guidelines provided by the material science community. EnergyPlus simulations were conducted on a prototypical large office building and a detailed analysis was performed showing the progression from switching characteristics to net window heat flow and perimeter zone loads and then to perimeter zone heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) and lighting energy use for a mixed hot/cold climate and a hot, humid climate in the US. When a relatively high daylight transmission is maintained when switched (Tsol = 0.10-0.50, Tvis = 0.30-0.60) and if coupled with a low-e inboard glazing layer (e = 0.04), the hypothetical thermochromic window with a low critical switching temperature range (14-20°C) achieved reductions in total site annual energy use of 14.0-21.1 kWh/m2-floor-yr or 12-14%2 for moderate- to large-area windows (WWR≥0.30) in Chicago and 9.8-18.6 kWh/m2-floor-yr or 10-17%3 for WWR≥0.45 in Houston compared to an unshaded spectrally-selective, low-e window (window E1) in south-, east-, and west-facing perimeter zones. If this hypothetical thermochromic window can be offered at costs that are competitive to conventional low-e windows and meet aesthetic requirements defined by the building industry and end users, then the technology is likely to be a viable energy-efficiency option for internal load dominated commercial buildings.