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What is Reflective Glass?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Reflective glass is glass that has been treated with a metallic coating to allow it to reflect heat. It is not reflective in the sense that it acts as a mirror, although some products do indeed have a highly reflective surface, but rather in the sense that it reflects radiation rather than absorbing it. This type of glass is used in environmentally friendly construction with the goal of reducing heat gain and loss, making structures much cheaper to heat and cool over the course of the year.

The precise finish used on reflective glass varies. There are a number of options available, including tinted glass that can be used to achieve a desired aesthetic effect. The finish is usually metallic in nature, and designed so that people behind the glass can see out. As a bonus, the coating sometimes reduces glare, which can be tremendously beneficial for making office environments healthier; glare is a common cause of eye strain, especially for people who work on computers.

Heat generated inside the building tends to stay in the building when the windows are made from reflective glass, which reduces heating costs. Conversely, heat from the outside stays outside, with the radiation being bounced back by the glass. This keeps the building cool in summer. Some structures that use it may be able to scale down or eliminate their climate control systems and other passive measures, while others need to run these systems less frequently, saving money and helping the environment out at the same time.

A classic use of this type of glass is in building facades. Glassed-in buildings wax and wane in popularity around the world, and when they are in vogue, using reflective options can cut down on operating costs over the building's lifetime, in addition to making the interior more pleasant to work in. Reflective auto glass is also available for installation in environmentally friendly vehicles.

Another use for reflective glass is in rooms where the climate needs to be tightly controlled, as seen in some scientific labs. In this case, the glass can be one of several measures used to keep the temperature inside the room as stable as possible. One advantage of passive systems like this is that they keep working when the power is out, providing a form of automatic protection when there is a problem with a computer or electrical system.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon924983 — On Jan 08, 2014

The use of reflective glass makes the interior cool, but what about the exterior of the building? Doesn't it makes the surrounding material warmer than usual?

By shell4life — On Dec 14, 2012

@giddion – Reflective window glass can be beautiful, though. I have a cousin whose house has two rows of windows on separate sections that are both facing into the same corner, and his reflective glass makes a very dramatic visual effect.

Because he lives on the Gulf coast, he uses the glass to keep the extreme heat out of his home. It has significantly lowered his electricity bill.

People who live near the beach like to have a lot of windows in their homes because the view is so beautiful. I don't blame them, but I do think that choosing reflective glass is wise. Even in the winter, the average temperature down there is in the sixties.

By cloudel — On Dec 14, 2012

My friend uses reflective glass beads on some of her paintings to give them a three-dimensional effect and make them more realistic. She did this one big painting of a pink rose, and she placed several of these beads on it to make it look like it was covered in dew.

I've heard that these beads are also used on road signs to make them reflective. I believe that some people put them on their bicycles for this reason, too.

By giddion — On Dec 13, 2012

I don't think I would want a reflective glass coating on the windows of my vehicle. I love soaking up the warmth of the sun in fall and winter, because it keeps me from having to run the heater, which dries out my sinuses and irritates my eyes. Sometimes, sunshine through the glass is a good thing.

I also open the curtains in my home on cold, sunny days to let the light heat up the rooms naturally. I think that reflective glass might actually make my heating bill go up!

By StarJo — On Dec 12, 2012

I work in a building on a busy street downtown, and the front of the building is covered in reflective glass windows. People walking down the street can't see in, but the receptionists at the front desk can see out.

The receptionists have told me that on several occasions, women have stopped to adjust their pantyhose in the reflective glass or to check their makeup. They think it's so funny that the women don't consider the fact that someone inside is looking out at them!

I guess that reflective surfaces just seem so much like mirrors that we automatically feel the need to check our appearance in them. I still think that I would think twice about doing this in front of an office, though.

By anon248910 — On Feb 19, 2012

what is the disadvantage of reflective glass on human health? I mean such as depression. Please, if you have some knowledge this subject (security glass in buildings and health), post it here.

By lluviaporos — On May 19, 2011

I suppose this is how mirror sunglasses are made. That's probably why cheap ones can be scratched so easily. It's the reflective coating coming off.

It's good to know that they are probably reflecting the rays that can cause eye damage. Sometimes sunglasses are made in such a way that they make your pupils open up, but don't really reflect the damaging rays. Looks like reflective ones are the way to go.

By umbra21 — On May 17, 2011

I think reflective glass is also used to make solar ovens. These are great for cooking outside in an area that doesn't allow any kind of open flame, for example when camping in a fire prone forest over the summer.

They are also used in poor countries, to heat water and food. I think most of the time they need a really bright and hot sun in order to work properly, or your food might take hours to cook. But, in the right conditions they can cut down on fuel use with real efficiency.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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