Smart window startup Soladigm emerges from stealth as View

A venture capital-backed startup making smart window systems is officially emerging from stealth on Monday after five years of working on its technology. Soladigm has now renamed itself as View, and its CEO Rao Mulpuri tells me the company has begun commercially selling its dynamic windows that can be tinted on demand by an iPhone or control panel.

In timing with the GreenBuild conference this week in San Francisco, View is also showing off its first pilot installation at the W Hotel (see photos). The window in the W Hotel will be in the lobby, and it will be installed by Monday, if you want to go check it out.

The technology used for View’s windows is called “electrochromic,” where a low-voltage electrical current is applied to the window to change the color of the window to reflect or absorb light. The tinting effect can cool or warm a room, and save energy by cutting down on air conditioning or heating. Mulpuri tells me that View’s windows can save 20 percent of the costs off of a heating and cooling system, 20 percent off of lighting, and can reduce peak load (electricity at peak times of use) by 25 percent.

There’s a few other companies working on electrochromic windows, like Sage Electrochromics which was bought by Saint-Gobain this Spring. The big issue with electrochromic windows, is making the economics work for  the customers. The window systems themselves are obviously a premium product over, say, window blinds, which have a similar shading effect. Mulpuri would only say the windows cost two times over a standard system for residential installations, and potentially 50 percent more for commercial installations.

But when the long term savings are considered, the window systems can pay for themselves over time, and can also be cost effective at the start in an overall system by enabling features, like, say, a smaller heating and cooling system to be installed. The windows also have a high-end design and aesthetic effect, and have novel functions, like being able to be tinted using an iPhone app.

View makes its windows by sputtering an atomic layer, 1 micrometer thick, of the electrochromic material onto a pane of glass. The layer is then sandwiched by another pane of glass. The layer is made of tungsten oxide for its initial product, and View licensed this technology from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

View has raised about $125 million from DBL Investors, GE, Khosla Ventures, Navitas Capital, Sigma Partners, and The Westly Group. The company has been working on this technology for five years, which shows how much funding and time it takes some of these clean technology startups to scale to commercial production. The window systems are being made in View’s factory in Mississippi.