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Talesin West glazing (C) Daniel FriedmanPolycarbonate Solar Panel & Window Glazing Properties
     

  • Properties of polycarbonate (thermoplastic) glazing materials used in solar applications
    • Polycarbonate glazing offers improved impact resistance compared to acrylic plastics and glass
    • Expansion and contraction of polycarbonate glazing under thermal stress
    • Abrading (scratching) and discoloration of polycarbonate glazing loses solar transmittance with age
    • Producers & sources of polycarbonate plastic glazing: GE's Lexan, Lasco's Lascolite, Cy.Ro's Cryolon SDP
  • Solar Age Magazine Articles on Renewable Energy, Energy Savings, Construction Practices
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about polycarbonate solar panels or window glazing
  • REFERENCES

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Polycarbonate solar panel or window glazing: this article discusses the properties of polycarbonate glazing used in solar applications, including its impact resistance, thermal movement, scratching, discoloration, and solar transmittance.

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Polycarbonate Glazing for Solar Applications, Windows, Greenhouses

Accompanying text is reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss. Our photograph (left) shows an interesting sloped window installation on the roof of a barn silo that had been converted to living space. Conventional wood-frame double-hung windows were set into the sloped silo roof - this was not a successful installation and the windows rapidly rotted, leaked, and disintegrated. Our photo of sloped glazing at page top was taken by the editor (DF) at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ.

Readers who are building their own windows or who are installing factory-built windows should also see  SLOPED GLAZING DETAILS and VERTICAL GLAZING DETAILS. For suggestions about how to diagnose and repair leaks in existing skylights, see SKYLIGHT LEAK DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR.

The question-and-answer article below paraphrases, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.

Topic: What is Polycarbonate glazing, does it prevent "ultraviolet radiation seepage", Where can I get some?

Question:

I recently (1985) read an advertisement fdor a product that touts its covering as being made of "polycarbonate," which prevents ultravoilet radiation seepage. What is this stuff and where can I buy it? - Gary Allen, Palo Alto, CA.

Answer:

Polycarbonate is one of several thermplastic glazing materials used in solar applications. Polycarbonate glazing is also used in greenhouse construction and hurricane-damage-resistant windows. Manufacturers assert that polycarbonate glazing is "200 times stronger than glass" (Gallina) and the material is lighter in weight than glass as well.

Greater resistance to impact is a main advantage of polycarbonate glazing over acrylic or glass glazing materials, but it is more expensive than either of them. Some manufacturers (Gallina, below) offer tongue-and-groove sheets, modular polycarbonate roof panels, insulated polycarbonate windows, and related glazing products.

Like all plastics, polycarbonate glazing expands and contracts under thermal stresses, so glazing stops must accomodate a fair amount of movement.

Also, polycarbonate glazing can abrade and discolor ovcer time, thus losing a certain amount of solar transmittance. And like other plastics, it is vulnerable to deterioration caused by ultraviolet radiation.

Polycarbonate sheet products that have been well known since the mid 1980's and are available through glazing distributors. Some sources of polycarbonate glazing products include:

  • ARCAT lists current manufacturers of polycarbonate sheet glazing, including Polygal Inc., SABIC (Originally General Electric Plastics), Sheffield Plastics, CO-EX, C.R. Laurence- Retrieved 11/29/2010, original source: http://www.arcat.com/divs/sec/sec08841.shtml
  • General Electric (Lexan, now produced by Sabic - see below). According to GE, Daniel W. Fox, a GE Chemist who was seeking an improved wire enamel, first discovered and discovered the polycarbonate resin used to produce Lexan in 1953. Lexan and related plastics have become widely used in the ensuing half-century and include products well beyond glazing, such as the production of CDs.
  • Lasco Industries ( Lascolite)
  • Cy/Ro (Cryolon SDP)
  • Gallina USA LLC. (Arcoplus) 4335 Capital Circle, Janesville, WI 53546 Tel: 608-531-0450., Email: todd@gallinausa.com - Retrieved 11/29/2010, original source: http://www.gallinausa.com/
  • Professional Plastics, (Acrylite) distributes products from 35 manufacturers. Tel: 888-995-7767. Quoting:
    Lexan polycarbonate resin is an amorphous engineering thermoplastic, characterized by outstanding mechanical, optical, electrical and thermal properties. The Lexan portfolio provides broad design versatility through its wide range of viscosities and product options such as: environmentally conforming flame retardancy, scratch resistance, toughness, heat resistance, weatherability, biocompatibility, optical quality, and compliance with stringent FDA and USP requirements. - Retrieved 11/29/2010, original source: http://www.professionalplastics.com/MAKROLONGP-polycarbonate
  • Sabic (originally GE Plastics) produces Lexan - Retrieved 11/29/2010, original source: http://www.sabic-ip.com/gep/Plastics/en/ProductsAndServices/ProductLine/lexan.html

Also see THERMAL EXPANSION of MATERIALS and see if you are constructing site-built storm windows using this or any other glazing product, see our discussion of storm window weep holes and why they are critical: STORM WINDOW WEEP HOLES

Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is preceded (above) by an expanded/updated online version of this article.

  • Q&A Polycarbonate Glazing - PDF form, use your browser's back button to return to this page. Original article, Solar Age Magazine, January 1985, adapted and updated for InspectAPedia.com November 2010.
  • FAQs below discusses field reports of problems & solutions for this topic

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