Whither Your Window? New Options For Installation and Replacement

The eyes may be the windows of the soul, but windows are the eyes of your home, looking out onto the world and letting in air and light. More than just plain old sheets of ordinary glass, today's windows are loaded with features designed to increase fuel efficiency, block noise, cut down on cleaning time, and improve your view.

Unless you happen to live in a pre-war building with temperamental old-school iron window weights and solid-oak sashes, chances are your apartment's windows are thoroughly modern assemblages of metal and glass that you don't think much about - unless one gets stuck or your cat claws the screen to smithereens. There's a new generation of windows on the market, however, and their makers are betting that builders, developers, and boards looking to replace old, outdated windows will embrace their new-and-improved portals - even if they cost a bit more than the old wood-and-glass variety.

Window, Clean Thyself

A couple of times a year, many boards find themselves having to pony up funds to hire a professional window-cleaning crew to rappel up the side of their building, squeegees in hand, to scrub and sponge away the crud that accumulates so readily in the smoggy, gritty New York atmosphere.

Now, a new species of windowpane may reduce the need for regular scrubbing. Self-cleaning glass may sound like an oxymoron, but a number of glass companies are now offering panes possessing so-called "photocatalytic" properties. Essentially, photocatalytic windowpanes use the sun's ultraviolet (UV) emissions to trigger a small thermal reaction that continuously breaks down and loosens dirt particles, preventing them from accumulating on window surfaces and making things dingy. Since UV rays are plentiful even when it's overcast, the photocatalytic process works all day.

In addition to cooking the dirt off, self-cleaning glass is also "hydrophillic," meaning that when sprayed with water or rinsed by the rain, any undissolved bits of grunge clinging to the pane are sluiced away. While there are several water-repelling, dirt-resisting products on the market designed to be sprayed onto glass surfaces after they're installed, they usually only offer temporary solutions to the streaky, greasy reality of life in the city.

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