Glass vs. Polycarbonate 

Solarium Shading System 2

Glass Roof

Stacking Vinyl Windows for Sunroom

Polycarbonate Roof

Glass has a long history. Imagine the very first glass ever to be used in a building… how wonderful it must have been to be able to see well inside your home and enjoy the many benefits of light without the negative elements of the weather.

Glass brought the miracle of sight for many people when the first pair of optical lenses were ground from glass. Soon their scientific relatives the telescope and the microscope were invented giving birth to modern science.

But after hundreds of years, is it possible that man has found a way to improve on glass? Enter the development of petroleum-based polycarbonate which occurred during the post-WWII era simultaneously by General Electric in the U.S. and Bayer in Germany. This amazing plastic is shatter resistant and heat resistant, extremely strong and durable, and lightweight. Clear polycarbonate has the same VLT (visible light transmittance) as glass, 88 percent. What makes polycarbonate unique is its strength and protective abilities. In addition, polycarbonate has a much higher refractive index; it bends light more than glass does, making it ideal for eyeglasses and lenses. Lenses made with polycarbonate don’t need to be nearly as thick or heavy as those made from glass.

It’s true that glass originally brought us the miracle of windows, eyeglasses, telescopes, and microscopes – but polycarbonate has evolved these items into technological marvels such as the contact lens, bullet, and explosion-proof glazing, and even the Hubbell telescope lens.

Craft-Bilt’s Northlander™ Skyview utilizes polycarbonate sheets that weigh a fraction of their glass counterparts. Our sheets give you the peace of mind that the glazing overhead doesn’t weigh hundreds of pounds and if broken will rain down on you. Another concern with glass in sunrooms and solariums is cracking of the glass from thermal expansion/contraction and shifting in the structure. With our polycarbonate sheets, these concerns are washed away.

Our thick multi-chamber Opal ice sheets have an R-value equal to a high-performance Low-E argon unit without the concerns about seal failure that accompany sloped glazing installations since the chambers allow the polycarbonate sheets to breathe. Opal ice’s special coating keeps out the heat but lets in just the right amount of soft sunlight. Its high refractive index spreads the light evenly throughout your sunroom without the glare associated with glass ceilings.

Multiwall Polycarbonate Samples

All of our polycarbonate multi-wall sheets block over 99% of the harmful UV (ultraviolet light) that fades drapes and furniture.

Northlander™ Skyview is available with glass or polycarbonate glazing – but you can tell that we prefer polycarbonate. Space-age polycarbonate roof systems offer homeowners benefits that glass cannot, such as significantly less maintenance (chance of seal failure), pleasant lighting without the heat and glare, and greater protection from falling limbs or debris.

By Bart Bremmers