In nearly a fourth of all break-ins, burglars take advantage of windows to gain access to the home. And although unlocked windows are certainly the preferred target, in many cases home invaders will go so far as to smash their way through the glass itself.
But what can homeowners do? Windows are pretty much the definition of ‘standard’ when it comes to home design, and unless you want to adopt the prison cell look and install iron bars, your windows will always be among the first places an invader will consider. In answer to this problem, some residents are turning to a less-conventional solution: unbreakable glass. But is unbreakable glass a good investment? And more importantly, is it an effective form of protection?
What Is Unbreakable Glass?
In the most basic sense, ‘unbreakable glass’ is exactly what it sounds like: glass that can’t be broken. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as actual, unbreakable glass — given enough force, any material will eventually break. But semantics aside, there are two products currently available that are marketed as ‘unbreakable windows’ for home use:
Although not actually ‘glass,’ polycarbonate windows are able to mimic the transparency of glass, but with approximately 250x the impact resistance (and 50%–60% less weight). Polycarbonate is made from fused panels of thick synthetic resin, which makes it a good choice for shatterproof windows.
While polycarbonate windows are extremely resistant to breaking, shattering, and chipping, the material itself is much softer than glass, and thus much more susceptible to scratches and weathering. Also, polycarbonate tends to swell and distort slightly in extreme heat, which can negatively affect how the window sits in its frame or whether the latches will be able to close properly.
Laminated Glass Windows
Laminated windows are a combination of traditional glass and transparent plastic. These windows are made from a kind of safety glass (such as is used in car windshields) which consists of two or more layers of glass, attached to and separated by plastic interlayers. Essentially, the plastic layer is sandwiched between the glass layers, which are fused through high heat and pressure.
Laminated glass is nearly as ‘breakable’ as traditional glass. The difference lies in what happens to the glass once it breaks. Although a strong enough impact will shatter the glass layers, the plastic interlayers hold tightly to the pieces and keep them from scattering. So, most attempts at smashing laminated glass result in a ruined window, but without any sort of hole for a burglar to gain entry through. On the other hand, laminated glass is much heavier than traditional glass, and should only be installed by a trained professional.
In both cases, these ‘unbreakable glass’ windows offer increased protection against home invasion. But are they a worthwhile investment?
The Pros and Cons of Investing in Unbreakable Glass
Whether you’re considering polycarbonate windows or laminated glass windows, you need to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages. Here, we take a closer look at the pros and cons of unbreakable glass for home windows. :
Pros of Unbreakable Glass Windows
- Both Can Be Retrofitted
If you decide to invest in either of the options mentioned above, you can at least be happy that you won’t have to replace your window frames. Both polycarbonate and laminated glass windows can generally be retrofitted into existing frames, bringing down some of the potential cost of upgrading.
- Both Can Improve Home Energy Efficiency
Although regular glass is fairly effective at insulating homes, polycarbonate and laminated glass windows are even more so. These unbreakable glass windows are poor heat conductors, which means that temperatures don’t tend to equalize from one side to the other. In terms of energy consumption, this can mean lower power bills, as the home is more capable of retaining heat in the winter and keeping it out in the summer.
- Both May Be Good Solutions for Keeping out Intruders
The main reason property owners consider investing in unbreakable glass options is to prevent break-ins. And in many cases, polycarbonate shatterproof windows and laminated safety glass may act as a deterrent.
Cons of Unbreakable-Glass Windows
- Unbreakable Windows Are Expensive
Laminated safety glass requires a more in-depth process to make and includes more materials than traditional glass. This makes it a much more expensive option. And while polycarbonate windows are actually less expensive than traditional glass, the fact that a homeowner would likely need to replace several windows at once can still make the overall investment prohibitively costly, regardless of which option they choose.
- Intruders May Still Get In
Just because the window is functionally unbreakable doesn’t necessarily mean that the materials that attach the window to the rest of the house are quite as strong. It may only take one good hit to pop the entire window out of the frame. Unbreakable glass windows need to be installed in a very specific way to resist this kind of brute force assault, and you won’t know whether they’re up to the task until it’s too late.
- Other Options Can Be Just as Effective
There are ways to help protect your home that doesn’t require you to invest in expensive replacements for all of your ground-floor windows. With the right sensors, you can enjoy added home security without depending on unbreakable glass windows.
Home Security Alternatives to Unbreakable Glass
A determined burglar might get slowed down by unbreakable glass windows, but probably won’t be stopped entirely. Worse still, if the unbreakable glass is your only line of defense, anyone who manages to get inside will likely go unnoticed until after they’ve gotten what they came for.
Sensors take a different approach; instead of trying to create an impenetrable barrier, they act as a first-response system alerting homeowners and security monitors to break-ins immediately when they occur.
Glass Break Sensors
When glass breaks, it creates a distinctive audio frequency. Glass break sensors are designed to listen for this sound and then immediately send out an alert. When positioned correctly within a home, a single glass break sensor can cover multiple windows and glass doors, often for less than the price of materials and installation for a single pane of unbreakable glass.
Learn more about glass break sensors here.
Door and Window Sensors
Even when intruders choose to shatter glass, they’re usually doing so to reach a latch and open the window or the door that’s attached to it. Door and window sensors can be placed at possible entrances and set to sound the alarm whenever specific doors or windows are opened unexpectedly. These sensors connect directly to security monitoring services and ensure that possible break-ins are being immediately reported and investigated.
Learn more about door and window sensors here.
So, is unbreakable glass a good investment? Although we can’t speak for every property, in most cases replacing existing ground-floor windows with unbreakable glass will end up costing the homeowner quite a bit more than the price of a more universal (and more effective) home security solution. Cost-effective alternatives to unbreakable glass — such as door, window, and glass break sensors, and other ADT-monitored systems from SafeStreets— may offer more protection at lower prices.
Want to learn more about comprehensive home security options that are worth your investment? We’ll work with you to find the right solutions, so you can help protect your property from break-ins without breaking the bank. Contact SafeStreets today for your free quote.