A greenhouse must be able to transmit light, retain heat, and withstand severe weather. The type of panels used to construct a greenhouse is crucial, and one must also consider installation, maintenance, and budget to choose the best greenhouse panels. Greenhouse panels are made from glass, fiberglass, or polycarbonate. Each has benefits and disadvantages. Taking into consideration budget and maintenance, as well as absorption of light and heat, polycarbonate greenhouse panels do the best job of lighting and heating a greenhouse while remaining durable and easy to maintain.
Glass is a popular material for greenhouse panels because it is the best at transmitting light. It is also durable, and many people consider glass greenhouse panels to be the most aesthetically pleasing. The downside of glass, however, is that it can be very expensive to install and frame because it is heavy and fragile. While it lets in a lot of light during the day, the metal framing material necessary for glass panels does not insulate well, so heat is lost easily. It is also possible for a glass greenhouse to become too hot when not ventilated properly, which can be fatal to plants.
Fiberglass greenhouse panels are among the least expensive options, and they are relatively easy to install and replace. Fiberglass is also stronger than glass and can withstand hail better. The problem with fiberglass is that, over time, it can become yellowed and not let in as much light, making it necessary to replace the panels or use auxiliary heaters. Cleaning can be difficult, especially with corrugated fiberglass panels, and some people consider these types of panels unattractive and find them difficult to blend with landscaping. Another problem for fiberglass greenhouse panels is high flammability and the need for protective clothing and masks, due to dangerous fibers, when cutting panels.
Polycarbonate greenhouse panels have several of the same advantages as fiberglass, but without the flammability and fiber problems. Additionally, polycarbonate lets in more light than fiberglass, and while nothing lets in as much light as glass, polycarbonate diffuses the light, which creates an optimum environment for growing plants. The heat retention and insulation properties of polycarbonate are excellent, and it can be coated in an ultraviolet barrier solution that will help prevent fading over time. While not as aesthetically pleasing as glass, polycarbonate is much more budget-friendly and easier to maintain, lasting years without breakage or the need for heavy framing.