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What Types of Plastic Can Be Used As Glass Alternatives For Windows?
While our perception may be that glass is the optimal material for windows, alternative options in plastic have many advantages. There are a variety of plastic materials that one can use as glass window alternatives. We will look at two different plastics, acrylic/plexiglass and polycarbonate, to see how they stack up against traditional window glass.
Why Is Acrylic a Good Alternative To Glass Windows?
Acrylic, also called plexiglass, is becoming a popular alternative to glass windows. While manufacturers have used waterproof acrylic windows for years, plexiglass acrylic sheets are gaining traction among business owners and some homeowners. Its popularity is primarily due to the growing recognition of the numerous advantages of acrylic plastic over windows made of glass.
- Cheaper: Acrylic sheeting takes less energy and money to produce than its glass alternatives. Additionally, its lightweight properties allow transporters to ship the plastic at a lower cost. Cheaper production and transportation allow acrylic manufacturers to sell their product at a significantly lower price than glass. Ultimately, savings for the manufacturers add up to cost savings for business owners and consumers. One caution: glass provides better insulation than plastic windows, so consider this if you're concerned about winter cold. (You can compensate by using thick or multi-layered acrylic plastic glass.)
- Stronger: Acrylic plastic sheets have 17 times the impact strength of traditional glass. It takes a lot more direct 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 does not break within a few seconds, most burglars will quit their forcible entry attempts.
- Safer: While clear plexiglass is strong, it can break with enough persistence or the right amount of force. However, unlike glass, acrylic plastic windows will not shatter into a thousand minuscule shards of sharp, 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. On the other hand, plexiglass is made up of flexible polymers that render it easier to move, cut and install. Acrylic windows are ideal glass alternatives when your project includes several large windows.
- Better Light Transmission: You might be surprised to learn that clear acrylic sheets are more transparent than glass. In fact, clear acrylic sheets allow for more than 90% of light to pass through them! Furthermore, acrylic windows do not show glare and reflections. Unlike glass, acrylic does not become discolored as the sheeting thickness increases, making it a perfect alternative to glass windows.
- More Special Qualities: 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 options. Acrylic has even been used to make glass block windows.
Why Polycarb Windows Are Solid Glass Alternatives
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 plastic windows are significantly superior to acrylic and glass windows. Here are some of the reasons why polycarb windows are a better alternative to glass windows — and even other types of plastic windows:
- 250x Stronger Than Glass: Polycarbonate plastic windows are also 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 system. 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, TUFFAK Polycarbonate Sheet GP excels when used in glazing and industrial applications. It protects against accidental breakage and intentional vandalism, something to consider if you want to use plastic glass on a porch. On the other hand, TUFFAK Clear SL Polycarbonate is perfect for applications with exposure to extreme sunlight, such as sign faces, covered walkways, thermoformed skylights, sunrooms and more. Even under constant UV-rays, this grade of polycarbonate will not become yellow, hazy or lose its levels of light transmission, making it an ideal plastic for windows.
- 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, manufacturers 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. This flexibility translates nicely when making polycarb windows.
Choose A&C Plastics For The Best Plastic Alternative To Glass Windows
As we've discussed, there are many solid reasons for choosing plastic over windows made of glass. Whether you're interested in using acrylic or polycarbonate as alternatives to glass windows, Contact us at A&C Plastics, Inc. to learn more about our plastic sheeting.Request A Quote