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  (Source: CBS)
National Association of Home Builders has promised an investigation into heat-glare from window treatments

Heather Patron of Studio City (Los Angeles, Calif.) accuses her neighbors of a dastardly crime -- melting her Toyota Motor Comp. (TYO:7203Prius.  No, really.  This was no Hawaiian Baby Woodrose-induced optical illusion, her neighbors’ energy-efficient window treatment had melted the plastic molding of her Prius' mirror housings.

Los Angeles is a seasonable southern city on the west coast.  Its average monthly maximum temperatures are historically confined to the 64-77 ºF range year round [source].  Unsurprisingly, the big concern for residents in terms of energy efficiency is the cost of air conditioning.  One of the major sources of heat entering the house is through window light.  So southern Californians, like residents of other longitudinally southern U.S. states, have taken to applying reflective windows treatments, both as a cost-saving measure and as a "green" energy saver.

But in this case the approach backfired, as the neighbors' energy efficient reflective gloss created a brilliant beam during daytime hours that directed itself directly at the car port.

"The side view mirrors were melting.  Anything that was plastic on the car was melting," the Prius-owner recalls.

Melting Prius owner
Ms. Patron shows offer her damaged Prius.  She claims her neighbor's energy-efficient window treatment did the damage.  [Image Source: CBS]

And Ms. Patron says her Prius wasn't the only ones damaged -- a neighboring vehicle saw similar melting.  She comments, "I'm positive that this window is what is causing the damage to my car.  I just don't feel like it’s fair.  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."

She claims to have measured the temperature in the car port when it's exposed to the beam and found it to be 120 ºF.

Studio City
The damage occurred in Studio City, a suburb of southern California's biggest city, Los Angeles. [Image Source: Google Maps]

Similar claims of reflective windows burning people or plastics were leveled in Sept. 2010 by a lawyer staying at the Vdara hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Reportedly in that case the situation was even more severe as the reflective windows were acting as a hyperbolic solar dish, focusing sunlight into a "death ray", which swept across the pool deck.

Reportedly other homeowners have also complained about plastic-melting reflective beams coming off windows with certain energy-efficient treatments.  The National Association of Home Builders has promised a thorough investigation into this problem.

What makes Ms. Patron's story more curious is that automotive mirror housings are usually primarily composed of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) [source] -- the same type of plastic found in LEGO blocks and plastic pipes.  Pure ABS has a melting point of 221 ºF [source], so it's unclear how the beam was able to melt the plastic, even if the air temperature was 120 ºF.  

One possibility was that the black mirror plastic absorbed the light, and heated up to a temperature far hotter than the surrounding air (think of an Easy-Bake oven).

The Prius is the best-selling hybrid electric vehicle in the U.S. (and in the world). 
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

The Prius is the best-selling hybrid electric vehicle in the world.  As of March 2011, 3 million Prius vehicles had been sold worldwide, with 1 million sold in the U.S. alone by April 2011. 

Source: CBS

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Myth Busted
By iamezza on 1/26/2012 2:46:59 PM , Rating: 2
Mythbusters have investigated 'death rays' from various sources numerous times now and each time have found them rather useless as a 'weapon' that could burn/melt something.

RE: Myth Busted
By BugblatterIII on 1/26/2012 3:28:37 PM , Rating: 2
There are ants that might disagree if they weren't now crispy...and had opinions...

RE: Myth Busted
By JediJeb on 1/26/2012 5:09:38 PM , Rating: 2
But they did manage to start a fire on a wooden ship with a wall of mirrors didn't they?

I believe it was with the help of CalTech and they ended up moving each mirror slightly so that they began to focus the light into a tighter spot.

RE: Myth Busted
By Fritzr on 1/27/2012 12:37:04 AM , Rating: 2
As a weapon, focused light is not much good as the targets tend to move out of the focus.

Magnifying lense+sunlight focused on a spider makes a nice low explosive firecracker.

Matte black in sunlight easily reaches temps of 200F on a sunny day. People are severely burned by sunlit black objects every year.

Car windows are famous for destroying things on a sunny day. If the outside temp is 72F, the inside temp of a car parked in the sun can easily go above 140F ... this kills a few pets and children every summer.

This sounds like a simple case of sunlight being aimed at a piece of black plastic for a long period of time. To see the effect, put a CD on the top of your dashboard and park the car in the sun on a warm day. CDs treated this way are very decorative, though not overly useful for anything else.

Just for fun, put a dark vinyl sofa out on your sunlit porch, let it warm up for a few hours & then take a seat. You would be wise to check the temp of the plastic before taking a seat...just a suggestion that :P

RE: Myth Busted
By JediJeb on 1/27/2012 4:00:08 PM , Rating: 2
I had black vinyl seats in a 79 Mustang with a glass sunroof. Never wear shorts when driving such in the summer :)

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