Since the time of Roman Egypt in 30 BCE, glass has been the primary material used in windows. Times have changed. With the growing knowledge and use of plastics in the modern world, alternatives for traditional glazing applications are now readily available and often more advantageous to home and business owners alike.
Advantages of using a plastic material for windows instead of glass:
- Cost Savings - plastic sheeting is less expensive, provides better insulation, and rarely needs repair or replacement.
- Strength & Safety - Over 10x stronger than glass and does not shatter into dangerous pieces.
- Creative Designs - colored, fluorescent, black and white, and cut into unique shapes.
- Easy to Use - like wood, plastic can be routed, scored, and cut on-site.
- Light-Weight - most plastic windows are 50% lighter than traditional glass.
- Light Transmission - removes glare and reflections.
- Superior Transparency - remains clear regardless of sheet thickness.
- Thermally Efficient - multi-wall panels better insulate
There are a variety of plastic materials that one can use as a substitute for window glass. We are going to take a look at two different plastics to see how they stack up against traditional window glass.
Acrylic or Plexiglass Sheeting
This plastic material is becoming a popular alternative to glass windows. While acrylic and plexiglass windows have been used by manufacturers for years, this type of plastic sheeting is starting to gain traction among business owners and some homeowners. Its popularity is primarily due to the growing recognition of the numerous advantages that acrylic plastic has over glass.
Acrylic plexiglass sheeting takes less energy and money to produce. Additionally, its lightweight allows transporters to ship the plastic at a lower cost. Cheaper production and transportation allow acrylic and plexiglass manufacturers to sell their product at a significantly lower price than glass. Ultimately, savings for the manufactures add up to cost savings for business owners and consumers.
Acrylic plastic sheets have 17 times the impact strength of traditional glass. It takes a lot direct more force to shatter plexiglass sheeting. If you live in a hurricane or tornado-prone region, plexiglass will perform far beyond any protection that traditional glass offers. Additionally, acrylic sheeting will significantly reduce the risk of a stranger breaking into your home. If a window will not break within a few seconds, most burglars will quit their attempts of forcible entry.
While clear plexiglass is strong, it can brake with enough persistence or the right amount of force. However, unlike glass, acrylic plastic sheeting does not shatter into a thousand minuscule shards of dangerous glass.
- Easier to Use
Especially for an architectural project, glass is too brittle, rigid, and heavy to use when creating unique, large-scale shapes and pieces. Plexiglass, on the other hand, is made up of flexible polymers that make it easier to move, cut, and install.
- Better Light Transmission
You might be surprised to learn that acrylic sheeting is more transparent than glass. In fact, clear plexiglass sheets allow for more than 90% of light to pass through it! Furthermore, acrylic does not show glare and reflections. Unlike glass, acrylic does not become discolored as the sheeting thickness increases.
- More Special Qualities
Plexiglass or acrylic sheeting is the most versatile type of plastic on the market! Numerous special types of acrylic can be manufactured to meet customized needs, including mirrored, colored and fluorescent, abrasion-resistant, light-diffusing, anti-static, bullet-resistant, UV-filtering, and many more.
Due to the limitations of glass and acrylic sheeting when used in certain environments and demanding applications, polycarbonate sheeting was developed to meet industry needs. Facilities like schools, subways, bus shelters, and psychiatric facilities needed a window material with high impact resistance, structural strength, and design flexibility. Although more expensive, polycarbonate plastics are significantly superior to acrylic and glass windows.
- 250x Stronger Than Glass, and 30x Stronger Than Acrylic
Clear polycarbonate plastic has an incredible level of impact resistance, but it is also just as clear as glass. It provides a margin of safety that no other clear glazing material on the market can surpass.
- Superior Structural Support
Compared to glass, polycarbonate sheets are lightweight, but they require less structural support than any other glass systems. Glass and acrylic materials are structurally limited when faced with demanding architectural projects. However, polycarbonate plastic sheets succeed where many other plastic and non-plastic materials have failed.
- Variety of Grades
Clear polycarbonate sheets can be made to fit the performance requirement for any project. For example, Makrolon GP Sheets excel when used in glazing and industrial applications. It protects against accidental breakage and intentional vandalism. Makrolon SL Sheeting, on the other hand, is perfect for applications with exposure to extreme sunlight, such as sign faces, covered walkways, thermoformed skylights, and more. Even under constant UV-rays, this grade of polycarbonate will not become yellow, hazy, or loose its levels of light transmission.
- Design Flexibility On-Site
Glass and acrylic materials require pre-forming and fabrication before installation. Polycarbonate sheeting can be cut or cold-formed on-site.
- Specialty Sheets
Like acrylic, manufactures make polycarbonate plastic into many different types of products with unique performance capabilities. Plastic manufacturers can make polycarbonate sheets: bulletproof, colored, mirrored, tinted, anti-static, abrasion-resistant, and much more.