Acoustic Glass: Everything You Need to Know

acoustic glass install

Last updated: December 13, 2021 at 10:38 am

Acoustic glass, sometimes known as soundproof glass, is a type of glass specifically designed to stop sound from being able to travel through it. It’s as transparent as regular glass, and you won’t notice the difference as you look through it. If you turn the pane sideways, though, you’ll see that it’s made up of multiple layers.

Acoustic glass is made of pieces of ordinary glass bonded together with a soundproof layer (or layers) trapped in the middle.

How Does Acoustic Glass Work?

Sound moves in waves, and the greater the power of the wave, the louder the noise will be and the further it will travel. The soundproof membrane inside the glass reduces sound by absorbing the sound wave’s energy and stops the vibrations from passing through the glass.

The glass used comes in varying thicknesses depending on your needs. The more noise you’re trying to block, the thicker the glass should be. You should also have more than one interlayer in the centre too.

Polyvinyl butyral (PVB) acoustic membrane is commonly used as the soundproof interlayer. It seals the glass planes together and makes it look identical to a single pane of glass.

How effective the noise reduction of the glass is depends on three factors:

  1. The first is how thick the glass panes are; more mass equals more sound blocking ability
  2. The second is how many pieces of interlayers there are
  3. The final factor is how much space there is between the glass

Benefits of Acoustic Glass

Noise Reduction

If you live on a busy road, or near a noisy pub or restaurant, or even work nights and need extra quiet through the day, acoustic glass can be part of your soundproofing arsenal. However, it’s not a complete solution as sound can slip through any gaps. Windows are a significant weak point, though, so you will notice a difference. For more info, see our full article on window soundproofing.

Safety

Acoustic glass is widely used among car manufacturers. Because of its PVB core, if acoustic glass breaks, it tends to shatter into small pieces rather than large dangerous shards. In addition, it tends to be quite hard to break, which is another benefit, so if a child, pet, or even you fall against the glass, you shouldn’t crash through it.

If it does break, it’s less likely to cause injury, either during the breakage or in the cleanup after.

Security

As explained above, because acoustic glass is made of multiple layers, it’s is thicker and harder to break than standard glass. In a residential setting, this will protect you against break-ins. The same is true for cars and businesses. The glass is tough to break, so it’s harder to gain access this way. Acoustic glass can even be made thick enough to be bulletproof.

Protecting Your skin

We are all aware of the damage to our ozone layer, and the risk UV rays represent. Depending on how thick the acoustic glass is, it can block up to 99% of UV light. This means if your desk is in front of a window, you will be protected from skin damage, premature ageing, and even skin cancer as you work.

If your children tend to play in front of the window or inside your conservatory, it will also protect their delicate skin.

Health

Home is the one place we expect to be able to rest and relax in peace. If that peace is shattered regularly, it can negatively impact your health including, increased stress, disturbed sleep, an increased risk of heart disease, and high blood pressure.

It can affect your children too. Studies show children who live on noisy streets or near airports suffer from stress, a decreased attention span, memory impairment and lower reading ability than children living in quiet environments.

Prevents Heat Loss

As well as letting noise in, windows are a weak point for letting heat out. Acoustic glass is multi-layered, meaning it is more effective at preventing heat from escaping. This will help keep your home warm and reduce your central heating bill.

When to Use Acoustic Glass

In a home setting, acoustic glass is a great idea to replace the panes in your bedroom if you live in a noisy area. Good quality, thick acoustic panes can block up to 40db of sound, so it will make a substantial difference.

If you have a baby who is a light sleeper, then acoustic glass is a good idea in their bedroom, too, even if you don’t live in a particularly noisy area. In that case, though, you might want to consider soundproofing the entire room so that noise from inside the house doesn’t cause problems.

If you have a home office and deal with confidential information, then acoustic glass can help maintain privacy. This is even more important if you have your office built in a shed or outbuilding. These structures don’t have the mass to block sound as well as your house would.

If you need to have a window replaced in your car, then good quality acoustic glass is a great idea. It will decrease the noise you can hear in your car from outside so you can enjoy a peaceful drive to work. In an accident, it’s also less likely to cause you any severe injuries.

In a commercial setting, there are many uses for acoustic glass. For example, in a busy restaurant, using acoustic glass for external windows minimises intrusive noise from outside. It can also be used to create panels between rooms to reduce talking, music and food service noise for a more pleasant dining experience.

In offices, you can use acoustic glass to create more soundproof meeting rooms so you can hold private meetings without being overheard. Some offices even have small, completely soundproof glass booths. These are used to have confidential telephone conversations in open-plan office spaces like call centres.

How to Use Acoustic Glass

glass window installation

As acoustic glass needs to be fitted in the same way as any other window pane, unless you are a window fitter by trade, it is not a good idea to attempt to fit it yourself. Any gaps, however small, can allow sound to escape, so if the glass is not fitted correctly, its usefulness will be affected. It could even fall out, posing a risk to anyone nearby.

Another good reason to consult a window company it that there is little point in fitting new acoustic glass into old window frames as they may also be allowing sound through. Many companies that install acoustic glass recommend particular window frames designed to work best with the glass.

However, one thing you should do is make sure you seal any gaps around the windows once you have had them installed. Acoustic sealant is an excellent choice for this task.

Is Acoustic Glass Worth It for Noise Reduction?

The answer to this question very much depends on two things. The first is how much noise you’re trying to block out, and the second is how much peace in your home is worth to you. As already explained, the more mass you have and the more tightly your window is sealed, the more effective it will be.

If you currently have single glazing with old frames, even new single glazed windows will make a noticeable difference. You will notice a more significant reduction still with double glazing, and triple glazing or acoustic glass will give you the best results.

However, there’s no getting away from the fact that acoustic glass will cost more than double-glazed windows. For example, a 900mm x 1200mm uPVC double glazed window would cost from £400-600. A similar-sized window with acoustic glass costs around £900. This is a significant increase if you plan to replace all the windows in your home.

One compromise is to use acoustic glass in a couple of rooms where you particularly need quiet, like the bedrooms, and use regular double glazing in the other rooms to reduce the cost.

Acoustic Glass v Triple Glazing

Triple glazing enjoys many of the same benefits that acoustic glass does. In the case of keeping heat within your home, it’s even better than acoustic glass. However, in terms of reducing noise, the results are mixed. Everyone should notice a definite decrease in the amount of sound you hear. A lot depends on the type of noise you are trying to block.

Sound waves are caused by vibrations in air molecules, and some people who have had triple glazing installed found the extra pane merely increased the vibration. One example was noise caused by lorries going to a nearby building site. The lorries caused the windows to vibrate, and the extra pane seemed to make no difference.

Most window suppliers agree that if your main goal is to block as much noise as possible, a good thick layer of acoustic glass is the preferred option. If the noise outside your home is more moderate and you also have trouble keeping rooms warm, then triple glazing may suit you best.

The costs of fitting both options are about equal if you are installing new windows. However, if you already have good quality double glazing, you may not want to replace the windows. In that case, you could achieve triple glazing by having an extra pane installed behind your existing window. This option would be substantially cheaper than replacing your windows with acoustic glass.

Conclusion

When it comes to blocking noise from entering your home, acoustic glass is recognised as the gold standard. However, it can be prohibitively expensive to fit this glass in the whole house, so it may be more sensible to only fit acoustic glass in rooms like the bedroom where quiet is paramount.

Whether you choose acoustic glass or triple glazing, you need to make sure you focus on other areas where sound may slip through. Seal up all gaps between the frame and the wall with acoustic sealant. Blinds and thick curtains will increase the effectiveness of the new windows even further. The more holes you fill, the quieter your room will become.

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About the Author: AJ

AJ is a self-confessed soundproofing nut. He has written full-time on Quiet Living for the past 3 years, and has a wealth of knowledge about living a quieter life, soundproofing and fixing loud noises.

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