Our guide to regulating the temperature in your Conservatory all year round
The dream. A sunny, peaceful afternoon to yourself or to share with family and friends. Perhaps an iced tea in your hand and a good book at your side, ready to indulge in the summer glory from your new Conservatory. Maybe the doors are thrown wide open so you can soak up the summer sounds from outside.
The reality. A heat so unbearable that, even with the doors and all windows wide open, you find yourself verging on overheating. With the Conservatory open to the elements all types of creepy crawlies find their way into your home and that peaceful afternoon you had intended does a swift U-turn into a fly-swatting, hand fanning ten minutes before you retreat to the safer, cooler, confines of your house.
Conservatories, Orangeries and Sunrooms are all renowned for extreme, fluctuating temperatures so, whilst they are pretty to look at, can mean a headache for you as the owner, desperate to enjoy your extra space.
Unfortunately, contrary to what our title may have you believe, there isn’t a telephone number in the yellow pages that you can call on this one. However, there are some options available to you – at varying expenses – if you are on a mission to cool down or warm up your conservatory during the summer and winter months. Most methods will help tackle both tricky climate issues.
We highly recommend consulting a specialist before undertaking any structural or mechanical work to an existing conservatory. If you are considering a new conservatory extension then, as always, we are on hand to help design your dream addition to your home, and you can rest assured that all of our designs will be fully in line with current building regulations.
Hot! Hot! Hot!
Summer is fantastic; glorious sunshine, mild to hot temperatures (yes, even in Guernsey), beautiful blue skies and three months (at least) that carry a certain tranquillity and laid back attitude with them. But for all of you conservatory / orangery / sunroom owners out there planning social events or peaceful afternoons, the summer months can wreak havoc on your plans. It is not unheard of for internal temperatures to reach a crazy 40 – 50 degrees C in some cases!
Ironically, most homeowners build a conservatory to be that little bit closer to nature, to have somewhere to sit inside and appreciate the outdoors when they don’t want to be out in the stifling sunshine. During the summer, however, the typical design of a conservatory, combined with the strength of the suns rays and raised temperatures, means that it is too unbearably hot to be able to enjoy.
So, what can be done?
Solar Reflective Glass
Installing proper, solar reflective glass is one of the most effective ways to cool down a conservatory. Before the stifling heat from the sun can even think of making an entrance into your conservatory, this glass can kick it to the curb and reflect it back out.
If you don’t want to go the full hog and replace your existing glazing with solar reflective glass, how about installing solar reflective laminates? These can be bonded to the existing glazing (typically in the conservatory roof) giving it an instant upgrade. They contain transparent heat reflectors so you won’t even know they are there; they kick the heat back out but still allow natural light to enter your room, keeping it light and airy.
Roof Vents & Opening Windows
80% of solar heat enters through your conservatory roof so, whilst it feels natural to open all of your side opening windows as wide as you can when the room gets into tropical temperatures, you would feel more benefit by installing roof vents, if you don’t have them already. It is recommended to have at least one or more (with at least two vents, correctly designed and placed, you will get a temperature relieving cross flow ventilation.)
Roof vents are particularly effective in south or west facing conservatories, where temperatures can rocket even higher. They allow the hot air to escape and can be installed as motorised (where thermostats and rain sensors allow for automatic opening and closing) or manually operated.
During the problematic summer months (May – August) the sun is too high in the sky to be a major issue to side glazing, but that being said, adequate side opening windows are essential, so don’t just rely on roof ventilation. Consider the style of window carefully, however. Conventional side hung opening windows are most effective; you will see less performance in reducing summer heat from top hung or inward tilt and turn windows.
Adequate ventilation is essential in reducing heat, but you cannot rely on this solely to bring your conservatory temperature down to a manageable condition. Solar heat must be controlled by other shading techniques as outlined, for it to be truly effective.
Tailor Made Blinds
As mentioned above, 80% of the solar heat that sends temperatures soaring in a conservatory enters through the roof, so if you are going to use a shading technique, such as tailor made blinds, it makes sense for this to be the place to install them.
They offer protection from the suns rays, reduce heat and light transmittance, and are created with fabrics to filter light and reduce glare, protecting your furnishings.
Tiled Roof Conversions
Along with replacing your glazing, this is a more extreme fix than fitting blinds, for example. Your glazed roof will be replaced with tiles, and finished with a fully insulated and plastered ceiling internally. Not only does this method significantly reduce the sun glare within the conservatory, but understandably helps to manage the interior climate.
Conservatories are generally promoted as light and airy spaces, but a trap that many homeowners fall into is using light coloured materials on walls and floors. As soon as the suns rays hit these bright, light colours an uncomfortable glare is emitted. So unless you want to be sat in your conservatory in sunglasses and a peaked cap, opt for darker colours instead.
Brrrrrr, it’s cold!
I am a huge fan of winter; the cosy blankets, toasty drinks and warm, fluffy socks appeal to me more than the summer sun. But even if you are an avid winter fan like I am, nobody enjoys being too cold, particularly in their own home. Hence why, during the winter months, conservatories all too often fall into disuse because of the difficulty in keeping them (and you) warm enough to occupy.
So, what can be done?
Solar Reflective Glass
As well as keeping the suns heat out, specialist solar reflective glass also offers thermal insulation, helping to retain heat in your conservatory.
Whilst generally advertised for keeping out heat, certain solar laminates available on the market can also be bonded to the inside of glass panels. Along the same lines of the solar reflective glass, they help to retain heat and, as an added benefit, are transparent so you won’t even realise they are there whilst they are working their magic.
This seems like an obvious choice when tackling the issue of a cold room, but choosing your method of heating carefully means you can dramatically reduce heat loss and unnecessary costs.
The recommended method will depend on the type and size of conservatory you have, so it is important to do your research or ask a specialist for their advice. Electric underfloor heating is a popular choice, without losing out on space for radiators but, due to the amount of glazing and high ceilings commonly found in conservatories, isn’t always cost effective. In some instances, underfloor heating can only just take the edge off a cold tiled floor and you may need additional forms of heating to boost the air temperature. Other options to consider are piped underfloor heating, electric radiators and installing additional radiators to your existing central heating, all of which come with their pro’s and con’s.
Tailor Made Thermal Blinds
In colder months up to 65% of heat escapes through your roof glazing, so if you opt for tailor made blinds to help keep you cosy in winter they will be most effective on the roof. High quality specialist fabrics provide insulation to keep you warm and act as a barrier to the flight-risk heat.
Tiled Roof Conversions
As mentioned earlier, this is a more extreme fix, but a particularly effective one. During the winter months a fully insulated ceiling can not only help keep you snug but also reduces noise from heavy downpours (rain? Guernsey? Never) and winter weather.
It is recommended to give your conservatory an MOT every ten to fifteen years, and this includes upgrading your glazing to modern standards. Regulations change and new products become available, so if you haven’t touched your conservatory in twenty years and can’t figure out why it is so cold in winter, this might be a good place to start.
If recurring leaks are an issue for you during winter, regular maintenance can help to avoid this and, in most cases, any issues are easily fixed. We won’t go technical on you (we can if you want us too – book a meeting and we can bore you with the details) but leaks in your conservatory are most likely down to a deterioration or movement amongst the structural detailing. We recommend calling in a specialist to take a look for you.
So your conservatory is overheating in the summer and too cold to use in the winter. It costs a fortune to heat even though solar glass was installed. You do have options to resolve these issues and those mentioned above have a variable amount of cost and disruption involved.
Replacing the roof with a solid structure will create the best all round improvement but does come at a higher price.
Thermal blinds which can be installed through local companies do perform very well so before embarking on a roof replacement project, you should consider the costs involved with thermal blinds as a suitable solution.
Whatever alteration takes place, remember this simple fact:-
Heat rises, it will pass through the roof structure unless it has a sufficient insulation performance. No matter what form of heating you use, it will be more efficient (cheaper to run) if you can minimise heat escaping through the roof. You also need to maintain ventilation; cross ventilation will allow airflow and a better air change to help maintain a clean and fresh internal environment.
There are a number of options to consider and your solution does not need to automatically lead to a full roof replacement when searching for a more economical solution.
The information in this Coffee Break article is intended for guidance only. The authors cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage which may result from the use of this article.