Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Galileo Shades

Liquid filled windows with small reflective floating balls for blocking light
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Inspired by the Galileo Thermometer, Galileo Shades are 1/2" diameter stainless steel balls with slightly different weights that will sink (or float at the top) of your water-alcohol filled window.
After the design team estimates your shading requirements based on room size, orientation, etc. they will calculate the correct mix of floats and place them into the window at the top through a hole on the top of the window frame.
When it is cold outside the floats will remain at the top to allow for sunlight and heat to penetrate.
When it is hot outside the floats begin to sink causing sunlight (& heat) to be reflected back outside the window by the cloud of floating balls that descend.
The balls will be calibrated (weighted) so that there will be enough floating at higher temperatures to mostly obscure the window.
I priced out new "High R value" windows at about $1000 a piece & wonder if these could be made for less.
Zimmy, Jul 20 2005

Galileo Thermometer http://www.howstuff...com/question663.htm
How the balls will float in reaction to temperature. [Zimmy, Jul 21 2005]

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       oh, very nice!   

       are the floats pulling up a screen?
po, Jul 20 2005
  

       sorry [po], I changed it back again after re-checking on how the process works.
Zimmy, Jul 21 2005
  

       This would look great. I wonder if the balls will clump at one end of the window? To prevent that, each ball could ride up and down a thin fishing line. A small stopper on the line would ensure the correct final position of the ball (which doesn't need to be a ball - it could be a flattened cube). Then each part could be a pixel in an image.++
Ling, Jul 21 2005
  

       I really like that idea [Ling].
The flat surface of the cube would better act as a reflector.
Plus with the final stopping point, there is no worry (as I have been) about extreme heat dropping all of the little sunblockers to the sill side of the window.
Plus, Plus, You could make a relief "sculpture" during hot days. Perhaps children on a sled in the snow?
(My electric bill was $480 last month & I have a fairly small house & we kept the house @ 75 F - now it is at 85 F much to my wife's annoyance.)
Zimmy, Jul 21 2005
  

       //wife's annoyance// Zimmy, you're being redundant there.
baconbrain, Jul 21 2005
  

       //My electric bill was $480 last month// I presume you get billed annually...
Ling, Jul 21 2005
  

       I wish. 3200 kw @ $0.143 per kw.
It was a typical hot month here (upper 90's), but there was no rain or cloud cover so the a.c. was constantly on.
If the cost of kw's goes up much more, I seem to remember the research I did shows that going off the grid with solar panels will be more cost effective.
If only I can figure out how to work the up front cost.
Zimmy, Jul 21 2005
  

       For comparison, I used 938kWh last month, and the rate is $0.08/kWh. I checked my kitchen just now (1:30am) and it's 86F with 80% humidity. It doesn't change much round the clock. The air conditioning is individual split type, and normally set for 77F. I consider my power consumption to be quite high, but 3200kWh means I would check for cables that sneak away to neighbour's houses, or change the meter. Your house is consuming 4kW continuously - wow!
Ling, Jul 21 2005
  

       During Spring, Fall, & Winter it's 500-1000 kw. Summer was usually at 2000 kw.
I may have to go up into the attic anyway, provided I don't find a cable like you said. Someone else I talked to mentioned that as well.
It occurs to me that the control thermostat might be broken. It's set for 85, but the thermometer on my kid's clock reads 76.
Zimmy, Jul 21 2005
  

       If these floats were rectangles which extended the full width of the window, they could act as blinds which raise and lower themselves.
bungston, Jul 21 2005
  

       Flammable liquid inside the windows, huh? I won’t tell them if you don’t. +   

       <aside> That’s a lot of electricity, and a very high price / kwh. </aside>
Shz, Jul 21 2005
  

       My collarbone has recovered enough for me to crawl around in the attic looking at the ducts.   

       Lo and Behold, one of them is half disconnected to the fan unit which means I've been cooling the attic.   

       My collarbone has not recovered enough for me to push it back on and re-seal it with out a lot of pain & possible damage to the healing bone, so I have to pay someone to do that later today.   

       What did I do to have all of these bad things happen to me?   

       (I pay an extra 2 cents per KW to have my power designated as coming from a renewable energy source. Who knows why a large energy producing city like Houston would have the regular area rate at 12 cents per KW)
Zimmy, Aug 06 2005
  

       An update to the last anno:   

       I did pay someone to go up in my attic to put the stupid duct back in place, but they refused to do it saying that my ducts had been re-called and needed to be replaced. It cost me $75 just to have them tell me that (and make me very angry).   

       I ended up putting it back on myself at the time (my collar bone has since healed, but it didn't feel very nice (a bit of pain) at the time having to do that myself.   

       I also have since completely replaced the entire HVAC units & the ducts (not by the company that were jerks to me before). My electrical bills are probably about half what they used to be! (thankfully!)
Zimmy, Apr 13 2008
  
      
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