Energy Efficient Windows: Guilty of First Degree Melting

by Jackie Moreau on January 25, 2012

in Blog, Features

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Earlier today, a woman from South California found her Toyota Prius vandalized.  A classic case of ‘who done it’? – more like what done it. Heather Patron claims that the energy efficient window installed in a neighbor’s condominium is melting the plastic parts of her car and other cars in her carport.

“I just don’t feel like it’s fair,” says Patron. “I feel like it needs to be known that this is happening. And a lot of people probably have damage out there, that they aren’t aware that it’s the windows that are causing this.”

What brought her to this cathartic conclusion? After Toyota assured her that there was nothing wrong with her Prius, Patron apparently observed a “powerful beam of light” that was reflecting off of the said window, emitting a beam on her carport.

CBS’s heroic Randy Paige who covered the story, came to the rescue with thermometer in hand to bring that sunbeam to judgment day.  It was reported that it took less than 5 minutes for the thermometer read 120 degrees.  The National Association of Home Builders is now conducting a study on this tragedy.

However, The Los Angeles City Department of Building and Safety has surprisingly sided with the window on this one. They said even if the window is to blame, there are no code violations involved.  Apparently, even in the sunshine state of “clean” technologies, there are no laws against the installation of a window that reflects sunlight.

Alexander January 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Are you saying there should be laws stopping people from using the windows they think are best for their houses? Perhaps a regulatory standard limiting how much sunlight windows may reflect? Or should we let the lawyers fight it out, perhaps applying the principles (if such they may be called!) of nuisance law?

I’m not saying the answers are obvious. They’re not. That’s the problem.

William Yeatman January 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Alexander, The post is tongue in cheek. The ‘obviousness’ of the ‘answer’ is irrelevant. The point was to be funny. And it is. I laugh every time I read this, and I’ve read it twenty times. Of course, I’m bias, because I work at this site.

Jack January 26, 2012 at 10:19 am

perhaps the prius owner should put up a wall to enclose the side of her carport facing the windows.

ed January 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm


Putting up a wall sounds like a good idea until you consider the cost and AGGRAVATION of the bureaucratic obstacles such as zoning, building permits etc., etc.

USDOTguy January 28, 2012 at 10:57 am

A while ago, I had a realization about all this “low-e glass” being installed in homes and office buildings. If it prevents infra-red radiation from entering the buildings, well, it must be reflecting it back into the environment. Energy can’t be destroyed, so if it’s not being absorbed it’s being reflected. Well, now we know where it’s all going. It’s melting Priuses (Prii?).

9a3 January 29, 2012 at 5:11 am

I doubt the claims of the Prius owner would pass high school Physics class scrutiny. A number of windows reflecting and focusing sunlight might raise the temperature sufficiently to melt plastic, but a lone window would only add a fraction more energy over ambient inputs. The neighbor’s window is not an efficient mirror even if it has a reflective coating. The light that is reflected off the flat window is going to scatter/spread as the beam will not be coherent like a laser… Archimedes Death Ray:

Eddie January 29, 2012 at 7:37 am

Gee. Global Warming ™ is getting so bad that not only the ice caps are melting, but cars… and the wicked witch, too!

whosebone January 29, 2012 at 11:41 am

Imagine if that beam of light from the windows hit the battery compartment of a
Chevy Volt!

George January 29, 2012 at 3:53 pm

After constructing an addition to my existing commercial building a few years ago, the vinyl siding that was in the path of reflection literally warped and melted. Thinking it was faulty, I replaced it, only to have it happen again. The general contractor determined that the new energy efficient windows were reflecting heat and energy that was melting the vinyl. Mason Board was used the third time around to solve the problem…

CalBob January 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Could we perhaps arrange for some ‘reflection’ on the EPA and its dictatorial edicts??
I am enjoying our new ‘low-e’ windows…wonder what we’re wiping out in the process..

Oatley January 30, 2012 at 7:10 am

The effect is not imagined. After replacing windows on my home, I noticed a swath of lawn on the south face of the structure stressed. Sure, enough…reflected energy baking the grass.

Russell Boyer January 30, 2012 at 7:54 am

…..some endangered species, no doubt.

Kurt Kohl January 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I designed windows for the largest US manufacturer and yes these stories of warpped siding and melting plastic are true and the reflected energy from a window can contribute to these events.

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