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crassula flower in pot on windowsillAs our awareness surrounding environmental impact continues to grow, the number of options available for eco-conscious consumers continues to grow. And since those embracing green lifestyles may also be seeking high-tech options for their homes, these advancements may offer more than mere energy efficiency: they might even look like something out of a futuristic film. Now, the windows in our home may soon be able to harvest energy from the sun, power our electronic devices, or even turn into a TV screen at your command.

Many homeowners already know that replacing old, drafty windows with new ones with Energy Star designations can lower energy bills. While replacing a single window costs an average of $500 in the U.S., the EPA estimates you could actually save up to $501 per year by replacing inefficient windows in your home. In that sense, you’ll have to spend in order to save — but knowing that you’re also reducing carbon emissions in the process can make it well worth it for homeowners. Plus, you could extend the life of your HVAC system, make your home more secure, and improve your home’s resale value at the same time — all of which will save you money and grant you peace of mind.

While the federal government recommends that you look for windows that have the Energy Star and NFRC labels, some homeowners might be looking for something that’s both green and cutting-edge. Pretty soon, you could install smart windows that not only save energy but actually store it.

Last month, researchers at the University of Alberta successfully converted a smart window into a high-capacity rechargeable battery. Smart windows already hold potential for reducing energy costs by permitting homeowners to block out light (either partially or completely) by the push of a button or a turn of a nob. But now, scientists have figured out a way for these smart windows to actually store electrical energy. This energy could actually be used to power various electronic devices.

Researchers accomplished this by developing a hybrid nanocomposite material containing colloidal nanocrystalline molybdenum oxide. Since molybdenum was recognized as an official element in the late 1700, it has been used for many purposes in the past 200 years — including now, as an essential component of these energy-storing smart windows. Not only were these windows found to be able to power an LED bulb in just 10 minutes, but the process is so inexpensive that it could easily be used for windows in homes.

That’s not the only development in the smart window sector. Potentially, smart windows could also serve as solar panels and television screens. But while this development might be a number of years from fruition, the energy-storing smart window has real potential for the near future. Until these windows are on the market, however, homeowners can still reap many of the eco-friendly, cost-saving benefits that new (and smart) windows can provide.