It’s a common misconception that commercial greenhouses require rigid panels or glass glazing rather than more durable, flexible coverings. In fact, 80% of new greenhouse construction in the US is for structures covered in a single or double layer of film. Modern covers are stronger, more durable, and longer lasting that the materials available in the 80s and 90s. If you’ve renovated your commercial greenhouses to add rigid glazing materials, you may still be able to switch back to a cover, like ArmorClear, with only minor changes to the structures.
Glass Benefits and Drawbacks
Glass may be the original material used for the first greenhouses, but it’s limited in its ability to handle modern challenges. The rigid material requires a specific straight edged design for the structure of the greenhouse since curved edges for gothic arch structures won’t work with the panels of glass. It’s also very heavy and surprisingly fragile when there’s a hailstorm or nearby tree limbs come loose in a storm. As the most expensive greenhouse material, it also has a long payback term since it requires a higher initial investment. Don’t assume it’s the most insulated material either. A double layer cover can be up to 40% more efficient at trapping heat than a single layer of glass while costing less to install.
Rigid Panels Advantages and Disadvantages
Rigid panels made from fiberglass, corrugated plastics, or acrylic resins are lighter and slightly less expensive than glass panels. However, they’re still rigid enough that they only work for straight angled structures and not curved ones. These plastic panels aren’t as brittle as glass and tend to withstand hailstorms and falling debris, but they can still break if there’s a heavy enough load. Installation of these panels is much slower and comes with a higher labor cost than for stretching out and securing flexible films. It can also be tricky to seal up the seams where panel edges meet at the corners. Finally, some rigid panel materials fade and fog up with time to reduce the light transmission through the material. This balances out their impressive lifespan of 10 years or more. It’s commonly used on the end walls of greenhouses.
Greenhouse Cover Facts
In most cases and climates, a durable greenhouse cover is the best choice over rigid panels of any kind. The product is flexible enough to cover hoop houses and gothic arches just as easily as any straight edges. It has the potential to offer as much or more insulation value than glass or rigid poly panels, especially when you install two-layer systems held apart by air. This air gap is a powerful insulator that costs only a fraction of buying double or triple paned glass. Covers with woven reinforced inner layers are as resistant to hail and debris damage as any corrugated fiberglass panel. This covering also offers the best balance of high light transmission and the beneficial scattering effect that prevents plants from being sun-burnt. High quality products can last decades thanks to modern UV protection methods.
After exploring your options, you’ll likely find that a durable greenhouse cover is your best choice for improving your greenhouse profits. You’ll only need a modest investment compared to the cost of new rigid panels of either type, helping you recover your expenses as quickly as possible. Stop patching cracked glass or plastic panels when you can replace them all with a layer or two of ArmorClear from BTL Liners.