Common Greenhouse Plastics Compared

What is the best plastic for covering your greenhouse?

Once you have decided on a greenhouse design and building site, it is time to consider how you will cover the greenhouse. Greenhouses used to be made out of glass, but plastic coverings are the modern standard. There are many types of film used as greenhouse coverings but a handful will stand out as common options. Below are the most popular plastics and why cultivators like them. We've also included some that probably shouldn't be.

A Glance at Greenhouse Plastic Options

  • Colors: Clear, White, Panda Film
  • Thickness: 4 mil to 12 mil
  • Woven or Non-woven
  • Coatings: Anti-condensate, Anti-dust, UV Protection, Infrared

Types of Greenhouse Plastics

Modern greenhouse plastic options are endless and customizable. Soft polyethylene or stiff polycarbonate glazings are commonly used and offer a variety of features such as different types of light filtration and diffusion, and flame resistance. Building codes, climate, and intended crops will play a large role in determining what glazing to use.

Cheaper Options for Short-Term and Seasonal Growing

4 Mil Clear Tufflite UV Seasonal 1y Greenhouse Plastic

  • 4 mil and 5 mil poly is inexpensive and very thin
  • Usually lacks features like anti-condensate coating and anti-dust coating
  • The lifespan of the plastic is only about one year
  • best used for greenhouses that do not operate year-round and are located in a mild climate

Most Common Greenhouse Plastics

6 Mil Clear Tufflite IR/UV/AC (TES) 4y Greenhouse Plastic

  • Infrared additive which reduces heat loss at night
  • Up to 35% savings on greenhouse heating costs
  • Anti-condensate additives help prevent moisture accumulation and droplets that encourage pests
  • Four-year lifespan and inexpensive
  • Good for mild-moderate climatebenefits of greenhouse plastics

Strength, Insulation, and Longevity

9 Mil ArmorClear Woven UV IR/AC 4 Year Greenhouse Plastic

  • UV coating helps retain clarity for light transmission and makes the plastic more durable
  • Anti-dust additive provides additional help retaining light transmission
  • Anti-condensate additives help prevent moisture accumulation and droplets that encourage pests
  • Woven HDPE-core fabric is durable for harsher climates and puncture-resistant
  • 9 mil clear plastics like this are ideal for snow and harsher climates

Greenhouse Plastic Features

When shopping for greenhouse plastics you will see abbreviations for features like "AC," and "UV." The table below will go over what these abbreviations mean and what advantages these greenhouse plastic features offer.

Feature Function
Anti-condensate Additives ("AC")
  • Prevents moisture droplet build-up on your plastic
  • Moisture droplets can reduce light transmission and encourage pests and pathogens
  • Helps keep greenhouse healthy and productive
Anti-dust Additive
  • Reduces the amount of dust that settles on the plastic
  • Helps retain good light transmission
UV Coating ("UV")
  • ArmorClear plastics commonly have UV
  • Helps retain clarity for light transmission
  • Helps maintain durability over time
Infrared Coating ("IR")
  • Common to Tufflight plastics
  • Reduces heat loss at night
  • Saves on greenhouse heating costs
Light Dispersion Additives
  • Common to TuffliteIV plastics
  • Disperses light and reduces the impact of light/dark spots
Woven Plastics
  • Puncture and tear-resistant
  • Can withstand harsh conditions and severe weather
  • Made of LDPE which is a more flexible material with good light transmission
  • Has HDPE plastic at its core to increase strength and durability

When and Where to Use Polycarbonate Panels

In addition to covering your greenhouse with plastic film, you may consider adding polycarbonate panels. It is very expensive to cover an entire greenhouse in polycarbonate. However, they are a great option for durable end walls. 8mm twin-wall polycarbonate is excellent for heat retention and offers 80% light transmission. The cellular multi-layer structure reduces heating costs in winter while minimizing excessive heat in summer.

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