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Community and Q&A

Virtual Windows – Is the Technology There Yet?

Wannabegreenbuilder | Posted in General Questions on

Windows and skylights from control layer standpoint of walls/roofs have always been a challenge.  I (as many of you have I am sure) have wondered if I could use virtual windows like the Atmoph Window 2 in directions where the view isn’t all that interesting anyway or in places where privacy is preferable.  I have never been brave enough to pull the switch and build this way but having less holes in my construct and cleaning windows less seems appealing to me.  Do any of you people have real world experience with any of these products and what problems should I consider before I pull the switch and try a virtual window? 

Andy

Replies

  1. Mark Nagel | | #1

    I'm a bit paranoid with technology being my eyes. Old school, perhaps...

    Depending on one's point of view (pun not intended), I'm either blessed or cursed by having good views in all directions: blessed with the views, cursed in that I want windows: my windows replace TVs in that I have lots of changing visuals; it's worth the price of spending a few more $$s on energy costs to offset the energy losses through glass.

    Imagine someone hijacking what's being displayed. I'm sure images of all sorts of things could pop up in one's mind, but what I'd be worried about is essentially a masking of an impending break-in. If someone could feed a video stream of "the normal" to your virtual window as they approach to break in...

    I would hope that people deploy reasonable security measures in order to mitigate. And, really, that should be true no matter what. I'm a big fan of having a big dog! (as one part of my home security, which has multiple layers)

  2. Trevor Lambert | | #2

    Except for use where there is no direct line of sight outside (e.g. underground), I think this is a bad idea. Imagine all your windows going dark in a power outage. You'll never get the same feeling of looking outside either; think of how the field of view changes as your distance to the window changes. Right next to the window your field of view is huge. Next to a virtual window would be like being inches from a big screen TV. Having these throughout your house would be bad for your eyes as well, especially for children.

  3. Wannabegreenbuilder | | #3

    Hello Mark, I too am probably more paranoid than I need to be in regards to smart technology. I even have my Google Home station in a wall recess that shuts and is sound insulated. It laughable because I am pretty boring anyway. I don’t think in the location it is in (kitchen) people would be much interested in what goes on. I too have multiple levels of security where I live. Not so much for human intruders but from wildlife. Both my son and I have been attacked by sow bears with cubs (separate incidents) and recently the dog let me know I had a mountain lion near the entrance of my house. The virtual window as I understand it can be an effective security asset. One can simultaneously see all around one’s house standing in one place (shielded by a wall.) My family has learned it doesn’t hurt to look around a little when going outdoors.. We are also probably the only people that read GBA that have easy access pepper-spray compartments at egress points and hidden outside the structure for times when bears tend to be more common. How do I figure I am the only person on GBA with a apex predator problem in the yard? I have never found an air sealing detail for hidden bear spray stations on exterior walls of any of the other GBA houses. :-)

  4. Charlie Sullivan | | #4

    I did a quick calculation. A U-0.2 triple-pane window in a 6000 HDD climate, the same size as a 50-inch TV loses 212 kBTU/year. That's 62 kWh of heat, which could be supplied by 25 kWh of electricity with a decent heat pump.

    A 50-inch TV uses about 150 W. If it's on 12 hours a day (daylight hours), that's 657 kWh, or 26 times the electricity needed to overcome the heat loss through the window. Maybe there's a way to make it turn on only when people are in the room, but what this comparison says to me is that triple-pane low-e windows are a pretty awesome technology and we shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to eliminate them.

    Another way to think of it is this: if you want some technology to address the 25 kWh/year of electric power needed for window heat loss, adding a 25 W solar panel is a better way to go than adding a $400 display (plus a pair of 300 W solar panels).

  5. Wannabegreenbuilder | | #5

    You make some very valid points aand I believe I am once again talked out of this unless it’s in an unsightly view location or basement. It is relatively easy to program these windows to function only when the space is being used however.. Moreover, one may want to consider cost of the triple glazed window?

  6. Mark Nagel | | #6

    I agree that there could be value in what would essentially be a one-way mirror. I just don't believe that the security angle would really provide much value: I'm hoping that things wouldn't come down to it being higher in value!

    Fortunately I have black bears here. Some mountain lions in the general area, but none have popped up in my neighborhood. A hotwire on the top of my fence does a pretty good job of discouraging most wild critters.

    Security, just like wall construction, is all about layers :-)

    1. Wannabegreenbuilder | | #7

      Mark, I am in no way arguing with you but can you expand on why having simultaneous view 360 degrees around one’s house available at a verbal command would not be of security advantage? Do you figure like most things techy we really won’t think to use it?
      I hear you on electricity as bear deterrent. My poor brother along the border of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness comes to mind. The Grizzly protection program has been so successful that they have expanded their range into areas that human’s reside now. He has suffered multiple break in events and vandalism from bears. Not much luck in live trapping relocation of problem bears by authorities and a 5 year prison sentence if he kills one that isn’t threatening human life. He has a beautiful log home and I must say the aesthetics and ergonomics of entry/egress are hampered by the very high power electric fence net he has had to use to keep grizzly bears off his porch and out of his house. I haven’t had to use electricity as a countermeasure to much where I live...yet. Just raccoons in the garden. Situational awareness has been enough for my family and aside from the female bears that migrate with young through here twice a year or so we have had no unpleasurable instances. I like wildlife if it isn’t a big problem. I like bears now at a little more of a distance ever since I was attacked. My brother has had serious damage and would prefer never to see a bear around his place again. I will also tell you those solar electric fences for cattle do not work on Grizzly bears! He has first hand experience. He pumps some serious energy through his electric perimeter nettiing and I can tell you first hand it is painful to come in contact with! It’s probably a good thing he and his wife do not have children. I know I really keep track of mine around that fence when we visit.

  7. Brian Wiley | | #8

    I don't think I'd ever want to be totally reliable on them. As Trevor pointed out, power outages would be the biggest reason why.

    That said, they are intriguing for many of the reasons that you all pointed out. There are lots of places in my house that I wouldn't want a true window (security, poor view, thermal gain, etc). I can see treating it like a window during certain times of the day—daylight hours, for instance—but then transitioning it to artwork (or a security camera, or, nothing) at off-hours.

    I'd be much more inclined to do this with a 4k UHD tv and a HD Webcam though so as not to be reliant on a service and an outside app. A 43" 4k UHD are around $250–300 these days, and you could use a Wyze v3 Security Camera for a local view. If you wanted the functionality of being able to view outside of your immediate geographic area, an Amazon Fire stick or Roku would allow you to connect to specific feeds.

    I think this site is a pretty representative of what you'd get: https://window-swap.com/window

    The more I think about this, the more I may give it a shot!

    1. Wannabegreenbuilder | | #10

      Brian, I will have PV very soon but Montanans as old as me are not flustered much by power outages. They are much less frequent these days but most people I know have back up generators (I do) or other alternate forms of light (I do.) if you every do try your virtual window would you please report back to this thread you experience with it? Thanks.

  8. Mark Nagel | | #9

    Ah, not so fast!

    During HDD that heat isn't a negative/waste. I have gone around a bit on this topic with regard to incandescent light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs are actually not a waste of energy IF they're being used during HDD: I use incandescent bulbs in my pump house, controlled by a temperature controller set to turn it on based on temperature set points; I also use incandescent bulbs for brooding chicks. I obviously don't need the light output in my pump house [when I'm not there]; but in living quarters (or for brooding) during HDD there's no waste (well, there's a continual degradation of the the filament, but this is essentially insignificant [yes, there's longevity to consider, but unless you really want to go down the rabbit hole with me on this it's probably best to just ignore]).

    I suppose that the virtual windows could have a motion sensor so that they aren't staying on all the time. But, what if sitting back and watching/looking "outside?"

  9. Brian Wiley | | #11

    I totally get the perspective of electrical waste. I do think that they could be turned on/off as easily as I open/close the blinds though.

    Relative to your comment about getting a couple of 300w pv panels, I know that was probably said in jest, but I actually think it's not a bad idea from a cost stand-point assuming you're already using PV and have the space. $300 for the tv, plus 1 350w pv panel at $345 (that's assuming it's not going to be on 12 hours a day, but rather around 6 hours; a few in the morning and a few at night) would put you in the digital window game for around $750. That seems on par with a PHb-rated window in terms of cost.

    The other thing is that those costs are upfront and one time (until the tv goes out, of course) for the life of the panel. The additional costs of the window are annual and for the life of the window. That said, if you're on PV, then the electrical cost switches to upfront as well.

  10. Wannabegreenbuilder | | #12

    Mark, we use a very small heat lamp in our subterranean cement pump house set on a temp switch. I think it only comes on unless someone doesn’t replace the manhole cover correctly because it is nine feet deep. I try to stay out of there during extremely cold weather events but as you know Murphy rules dictate it be the coldest part of winter for a pump to fail. For our chickens/ducks we have found a heat lamp to be more beneficial than Incandescent lighting because our coop is uninsulated and is not conditioned space. Our birds are quite cold hardy but the heat lamp provides water that does not freeze and the chicks can hang out in the temp that suites them by self adjusting their distance from the lamp. It is also on a temp activated switch. I am surmising that both your pump house and you chicken coop are insulated and “conditioned” by the incandescent bulb(s)? Do you think I would save energy by not using heat lamps? I was under the presumption that since our systems only turn on when needed we were saving energy. Do you know something I haven’t considered? I have been afraid the chicks would get trampled by each other if the comfort zone was too small.

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