Self-cleaning windows ---- a clear decision for homeowners

At first glance, "self-cleaning window" seems an oxymoron. But to the delight of many homeowners, theres nothing at all odd about window glass that sheds rain ---- along with dirt and grime ---- like water off a duck's back.

Squeegees now are old school when it comes to window care.

"Consumers at first didn't find the concept of self-cleaning windows very believable," says Lisa Detwiler of PPG, manufacturer of SunClean glass, and supplier to The Home Service Stores network of pre-qualified contractors. "But after theyd seen the window glass in action, they totally changed their minds. They love these windows."

As with many low maintenance products, technology plays a hand in this miracle glass.

Detwiler says a light-sensitive coating of titanium dioxide is fused into the glass. The UV rays in sunlight activate the coating -- a process called photocatalysis -- to discourage any particles from tightly adhering to the surface. The coating also has hydrophilic properties (translation: water sheets off rather than beads) to carry the particles away. This minimizes spotting and streaking.

The result: glass that loosens grime and uses water to create a self-cleaning action.

What's not to like about a window you clean by hosing it off or waiting for a cloudburst?

The technology originated in Japan for use on tile and entered the North American residential market in 2001. Detwiler estimates the glass is featured in windows of more than 12,000 homes.

Right now, the glass is used in vinyl replacement windows manufactured by Simonton Windows. Expect to pay about a 10 percent premium for these windows. The trade off for the extra money is increased savings in time and energy, a big benefit to many property owners.

Homeowners can clean the windows with a gentle spray from a hose while standing safely on the ground. Gone are the dangerous days of climbing wobbly ladders to reach upper-floor windows. "What was once an all-day job to clean windows is now a task that takes only an hour or two," says Detwiler.

Since the glass is coated only on the outside, the homeowner will still need to clean interior panes of glass using the usual methods.

SunClean glass can also earn Energy Star ratings for energy efficiency when paired with low emissivity glass. This glass ---- often referred to as Low-e glass ---- keeps a home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

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