A gardener's guide to buying polycarbonate greenhouses
When you think of a greenhouse, you probably think of the traditional glass designs... But what if we told you there was an alternative that's lower in cost yet just as high in quality?
Introducing polycarbonate greenhouses! Made with flexible plastic panels rather than rigid glass sheets, they're lightweight yet sturdy and boast impressive damage resistance - whatever the weather. Read on to discover everything you need to know before you buy!
What is a polycarbonate greenhouse?
A polycarbonate greenhouse is made from a group of naturally transparent thermoplastics, which allow light to pass through easily.
As plastic is thicker than glass, light is spread out more evenly in a polycarbonate greenhouse, giving all plants inside the same advantage. The thicker material also traps more heat, providing better insulation.
The light and heat combined create optimal growing conditions for crops.
The different types available
There are many different types of polycarbonate greenhouses, including:
- Multiple sheet - This leaves pockets of air between 'walls', which trap heat and keep the structure at the right temperature.
- Two-wall - These are common and provide increased durability and thermal insulation. You may also find three- and four-wall designs, too.
- Honeycomb - This mimics the tiny hexagonal cavities found in a beehive, to trap air even more effectively.
Theoretically, single sheets could be used to build a greenhouse, but they wouldn't provide enough insulation to keep heat in during the autumn and winter. For year-round growing, we recommend choosing one with multiple sheets and walls.
Advantages of polycarbonate greenhouses
As well as being more impact-resistant and insulating than traditional glass greenhouses, polycarbonate offers an array of benefits, including:
- Affordability: As glass costs more to manufacture, you can buy a high-quality polycarbonate greenhouse at a fraction of the price of glass!
- Weather resistance: Polycarbonate is able to withstand all kinds of weather conditions, including snow, rain and harsh sunlight.
Look for greenhouses with sloped roofs, as these encourage water runoff.
- Quick installation: With a shatter-proof, flexible frame, polycarbonate greenhouses are easy enough to install without needing a professional – saving you time and money!
- Customisable: Many models have a modular design, allowing you to tailor its shape and size to fit your garden.
Are polycarbonate greenhouses better than glass?
While polycarbonate offers many benefits, is it truly better than glass?
The answer really depends on what you're looking for. While it is a wonderful material for greenhouses, there are some areas where glass still reigns supreme, including:
Appearance: The translucence of polycarbonate panelling means it will never look as attractive as glass does.
- Maintenance: Polycarbonate is also prone to scratches and discolouration, so it takes slightly longer to clean.
- Condensation and dust: Moisture can often get in between the walls of polycarbonate greenhouses, allowing condensation and algae to form.
That being said, rather than worrying about which material is objectively 'better', it's always a good idea to choose the option that best fits your needs.
Do you want a greenhouse that won't degrade over time, isn't affected by condensation and looks just as beautiful as the plants within? If your answer is ‘yes’, your best bet is to go for a glass greenhouse.
If you’re looking for a greenhouse that's easy to set up, is weather-resistant and diffuses light for happier plants, go for polycarbonate.