Fri, 12/7/2012 at 4:18 PM Master Bathroom: Smart(er) Glass

While visiting my parents in Lancaster a few months ago I decided to stop by the mall and pick up a few pairs of shorts (which no longer fit). I stopped in Aeropostale because they were having a decent sale. Anyway, when I went to try on the shorts I was confused as to where the dressing rooms were. I saw a row of glass doors along one wall that would usually be the dressing rooms, but these doors were clear. I am aware that the United States is a little more conservative when it comes to nudity and the human body, and I am also aware that Lancaster in particular tends to be a little on the conservative side. It seemed unlikely, therefor, that they really intended for customers to try on clothing in plain sight. After checking with a salesperson she opened up one of the doors for me and upon stepping in the glass immediately changed to a frosted appearance. It was great, like something out of a science fiction movie! The product impressed me so much that I decided to do some research to see where I might be able to use it myself.

Now, to be fair, this was not the first time that I had heard of a product like this, but I think the first time it was still in testing. Smart Glass usually has two states, one when power is applied and one when it is not. The non-powered state allows elements to scatter and transmit light with a slight tint. When power is applied the elements all align and result in an opaque or frosted appearance. There may also be variants that allow different amounts of power to be applied to achieve different tints.

The idea of automatic tinted windows intrigued me. If such a product could be made affordable and readily available it could help homeowners save a fair amount of money in cooling in some climates. As the sun increases the temperature inside the windows could darken, blocking more heat and making it easier for the Air Conditioner to maintain a comfortable level. In areas where privacy is a concern the tint could actually work in reverse. Windows are much easier to see through at night when the surroundings are dark and the window is lit from within. For areas that privacy is desired the window could adjust its tint to darken as the surroundings darkened. Of course the other option that came to mind was glass in your car. Who wouldn't want windows that they could tint or untint with the flip of a switch?

So why do I mention this and claim it has some connection to my master bathroom redesign? Well, this new experience with Smart Glass made me think of it in terms of indoor usage. As you can see in the floor plan in one of my earlier posts, the room is not very large. With some of it being blocked off for the shower it makes the space seem even smaller. My original idea was to use a frameless clear glass shower door and a clear glass panel to allow as much light through as possible. This is a fine idea, and still a possibility, but the idea of being able to add some privacy for someone in the shower is very appealing. Of course, whether the glass would be opaque or not would most likely be controlled by a switch so you could decide how you prefer to bathe.

There are a few drawbacks to consider. Each panel of Smart Glass must have power. To be useful, the power should be on some sort of switch. In the changing room example the power was attached to a motion sensor which would darken the glass as soon as someone entered the room. I have bounced around ideas of water flow sensors, motion sensors, standard switches without really settling on an ideal solution. Perhaps the ideal is really a combination of solutions. The final large hurdle is the cost associated with the technology. I am still waiting to hear back on one inquiry that I submitted, but I can probably bet that it will not be cheap.

In writing this entry, my web searching has brought me across a version that claims it can be obtained as a glass, a film or an adhesive and advertises itself as switchable, dimmable and projectable. While I do not plan on doing projection shows in my bathroom, it seems like it might be a cheaper alternative to some of the other sites that I have found. Glass Apps

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Sat, 12/8/2012 at 4:58 PM Ryan

I heard back from one of the companies. It seems that my idea is not likely to be possible due to the amount of electricity needed to power the system. Something about electricity and water making people nervous... so back to the drawing board.