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How do I Choose the Best Greenhouse Panels?

By Kaitlyn N. Watkins
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments

By bagley79 — On Aug 17, 2011

Where I live we have very long winters and it seems like spring will never get here. If you wait until the last frost in the spring, and plant anything from seed, you just don't get a very long growing season.

Since we weren't going to be moving anyplace that was warm, I figured the best way to deal with this was to build a greenhouse. We looked at several different green house plans, and decided to go with a simple structure that was easy to put up and not too big that I would get carried away.

Being able to start my vegetables and flowers earlier has made such a difference for me. As long as I live in this climate, I will continue to use greenhouse gardening to get a jump start on my growing season.

By myharley — On Aug 17, 2011

I always love to start as many plants indoors as I can. I get so anxious for spring, that I love to plant seedlings and get a good start on my annuals.

I quickly ran out of the space I needed in the house, and because I am on a limited budget I bought a portable greenhouse at Home Depot. This hobby greenhouse kit has been a perfect solution for me.

Every spring I set this up on my deck, and even though it is not as good as a stand alone greenhouse, it gives me the opportunity to get a head start on my flowers and produce.

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