How Do Smart Glass Windows Work and How Much Do They Cost?

Kenneth Wilson

Smart glass windows work by utilizing advanced technology to enable homeowners to bolster the privacy of their homes.

There are several types of active smart glass windows, each of which we introduce in detail in this article, and they all work slightly differently depending on their composition.

One thing to realize from the outset, however, is that smart glass is expensive. It can typically cost anywhere between $85 - $255 per square foot to install a smart glass window at your property, which is considerably more than the $15 - $30 it costs to install a regular window.

Before identifying the different types of active smart glass and their associated prices, let’s begin by looking at what smart glass is and how it works.

What is Smart Glass?


Smart glass, sometimes referred to as switchable glass, utilizes advanced technology to insulate a property and block the entrance of light.

From a practical perspective, it enables homeowners to adjust the privacy of their properties and dim or completely block the view through their windows from the outside.

The composition of smart glass allows it to change when voltage, light, or heat is applied, and it typically changes between transparent and translucent, but some can even turn opaque.

How Does Smart Glass Work?


Smart glass technology enables the control of various light forms with energy (electricity). The user can switch the appearance of the glass in their windows between being transparent and translucent (or even opaque), which allows dynamic lighting control within the property.

Active smart glass – as we introduce below – incorporates a laminated or retrofitted interlayer, which acts as the conductor when electricity is applied to the glass, which causes the crystals within to shift and align. This process – known as polarization – involves the molecules lining up with one another, enabling light to pass through.

When switched off, the molecules within the smart glass scatter, meaning light is unable to pass through. This is what causes the glass to appear translucent or opaque.

Each smart glass product works in slightly different ways, as we introduce below.

What Are the Different Types of Smart Glass Windows?


There are three main types of active smart glass that you can install at your home – Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal (PDLC), Suspended Particle Device (SPD), and Electro Chromic (EC). We explain each of these types in detail below.

PDLC Smart Glass


Whereas most smart glass windows turn translucent, PDLC is capable of turning opaque at the click of a button. Therefore, it’s perfect for rooms that require higher levels of privacy, be it the bathroom, your home office, or even the bedroom.

PDLC smart glass consists of liquid and solid crystals that are inactive when the glass is turned off. This causes it to look frosted or dark, but it will quickly become clear as soon as you switch it back on.

Due to their impressive composition, PDLC smart windows tend to be the most expensive option out there.

SPD Smart Glass


Although SPD smart glass doesn’t provide complete privacy, you can still alter the shading of your window from a light tint to full darkness. SPD glass is ideal for providing extra privacy during the day as it blocks heat and sunlight, making it an ideal choice for your kids’ bedroom.

SPD technology suspends particles in a liquid, which are brought in line when you switch on the window. Ultimately, this is what controls the level of dimming and allows you to manufacture the level of privacy in your home.

While they’re not as expensive as PDLC smart glass windows, SPD windows still fetch a hefty price when compared to standard windows.

EC Smart Glass


As the cheapest and one of the most widely used types of smart glass, electrochromic smart glass enables you to dim your windows in a matter of minutes and is suitable for any room in your home where you’re looking to control light access.

Electrochromic smart glass doesn’t rely on light or heat and instead utilizes energy to change. They work in a similar way to an LED lightbulb, meaning they’re easy to dim as and when you please.

Due to their lower cost and wider availability, electrochromic smart glass is one of the most popular options with homeowners.

How Much do Smart Glass Windows Cost?


According to Home Advisor, smart glass costs anywhere between $50 - $150 per square foot. In most instances, installers typically set the price of installing smart glass windows for the entire project, as opposed to per window, which can offer you saving if you replace all of the windows at your property at the same time.

As introduced above, there are several different types of smart glass that you can opt for, and your choice will affect the price somewhat. The table below expresses the average price you can expect to pay for each type of smart glass introduced:

Glass Type

Average Cost Per Square Foot

PDLC

$255

SPD

$170

EC

$85

When you consider that the cost to install a window with standard glass is around $15 - $30 per square foot, you can see that the cost of installing smart glass on your windows is substantial.

If you’re keen to bolster the privacy of your home but are put off by the prices associated with smart glass installation, you might consider investing in smart window film instead. You can typically install smart window film for between $25 - $50 per square foot, which is considerably cheaper than PDLC and SPD smart glass installation.

Final Thoughts


Smart glass is undoubtedly a unique and innovative product that can transform the lighting within your home.

If you’re hoping to increase the privacy of particular rooms and control light flow into your property, then smart glass is a savvy investment.

But it’s important to acknowledge the significant costs associated with its installation, as certain types of active smart glass are 80-100% more expensive to install than standard window glass per square ft.

Kenneth Wilson
November 10, 2021
Cost Guides, Window Replacement

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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