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

  • POLYCARBONATE GLAZING - CONTENTS: 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

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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.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

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?


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.

Illustration showing a cross-section of a window, with parts labeled.

Notes on the sketch above:

Double-paned glass is shown to have a low-e and/or solar control coating, a gas fill between the double panes, and a spacer at the base of the window between the panes. On the interior of the house is a strip of wood at the bottom edge of the window labeled the stop, and just in front of it is a step-like shelf labeled the stool. Beneath the stool and on top of a two by four is a thin pipe labeled the backer rod. On the exterior of the house, the illustration shows the frame of the window labeled the sash, and the shelf in front of the window labeled the sill.

Weatherstripping is shown to be between the sill and sash. Beneath the sash, vertical against the house, is a strip of wood called the apron or flange, and the jamb is on the end of the sill. The caption reads: Energy-efficient window technologies are available to produce windows with the U-factor, SHGC, and VT properties needed for any appl ication. - This article series combines, quotes from, supplements, and expands energy efficient building suggestions for new and older homes, provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. In the text we add commentary, photographs, and links to related material beyond the U.S. DOE content.Sketch, U.S. Department of Energy.


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:

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.


Continue reading at WINDOW EFFICIENCY FEATURES & RATINGS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


Or see ENERGY SAVINGS in BUILDINGS articles on ways to cut heating and cooling costs in buildings.


Or see WINDOWS & DOORS - home


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