Study finds that automated window shades can save 25% of energy costs

A new study by the Illinois Institute of Technology has found that automated insulated window shades are very effective at reducing energy consumption.
Christopher McFadden
View_down_from_the_Sears-Willis_Tower_Skydeck (1).jpg
This study goes to show how some simple energy efficiency strategies can save a ton of cash.

endymion120/Wikimedia Commons 

A new study from the Illinois Institute of Technology has found that automated insulating window shades can significantly cut energy consumption by up to one quarter. That, they found, is more than enough to recoup the installation cost within three to five years.

The study, funded by ComEd, was conducted at Willis Tower and provided a critical case study on how simple measures like this can significantly improve buildings' energy efficiency.

In climates similar to Chicago, buildings typically use 30-40 percent of their energy on temperature regulation.

To this end, assistant Professor of Architectural Engineering, Mohammad Heidarinejad, led a research team that studied the effectiveness of window shades in reducing energy consumption. The team found that insulating window shades can significantly decrease energy usage during heating and cooling seasons when connected to an automated control system.

“If you’re designing a new building, you have a lot of freedom to look at new technologies that save on energy consumption, but for existing buildings, you have limited options,” explained Heidarinejad.

During a ten-month research period, the study was carried out in partnership with Parata Solutions LLC and Amatis Controls at the Equity Office in Willis Tower. The building has single-paned windows and a high window-to-wall ratio (i.e., a large amount of glazing). The study tested three different control strategies for Parata's patented insulating shades. These included fully manual control, a predefined schedule, and a sensor-based system considering outdoor conditions and room occupancy.

Study finds that automated window shades can save 25% of energy costs
Infrared image showing the temperature of the window with (left) and without (right) insulating shades..

The remarkable results revealed a 25% reduction in energy consumption for both heating and cooling seasons by implementing motorized shades.

Additionally, 80% of office users preferred the new shades over the old blinds, a significant positive response.

“Working with Mohammad Heidarinejad and his team at Illinois Institute of Technology was a game changer for our company,” said Christopher Nurre, CEO of Parata Solutions LLC, who praised the collaboration with Illinois Tech. “Their rigorous field measurements helped confirm the efficacy of our shade system to drastically reduce energy use while offering a solution that occupants and building owners prefer over the incumbent,” he added.

Additional research is now being planned to analyze the efficacy of these groundbreaking window shades in various scenarios, including structures utilizing natural gas, diverse weather conditions, and windows oriented in different directions.

“In addition to the exciting findings of energy savings and payback period, this project served as a perfect example of the type of industry-relevant research we enjoy—combining field measurements and computer simulations to evaluate a unique strategy to save energy in one of the most famous buildings in the world,” added Brent Stephens, a co-principal investigator on the project and the Arthur W. Hill Endowed Chair in Sustainability.

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