Conservatory Air Conditioning / Climate Control

orangery-conservatory-1Conservatory Air Conditioning can help you to ensure that your conservatory is cool in summer and also warm in winter and there are a number of units aimed specifically at the conservatory market. There are units available that simply cool the room, but the majority of the units available now can provide heat in addition to removing it and the information below applies to such units.

In simple terms, air conditioning units work in a similar way to a refrigerator – by transferring unwanted heat from the inside of your conservatory to the outside world by means of a heat pump. In addition to this, they also dry (dehumidify) the air, resulting in a more comfortable environment. Air conditioners will also filter the air that they process, resulting in reduced dust levels.

A properly specified and installed air conditioning unit is comparatively cheap to run and provides you with heating and cooling in one installation. While there are a number of standalone air conditioning units available that require you to simply provide an exhaust route for the warm air that they expel, the most effective units are the ‘split type’ that comprise 2 separate units. These have an internal unit that takes in the heat and an external unit that expels it.

When heating the conservatory, the roles are effectively reversed. Split-system installations can reverse the flow of heat and by utilising a heat pump to collect heat from the outside world can work down to external temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees C while heating your conservatory! The two units are linked by insulated hoses that carry the coolant (refrigerant) between the two. This is a tremendously efficient heating method, as you can gain up to 3kw of heating for each 1kw of electricity used.

Portable all-in-one units are less efficient and as they are invariably floor-standing units they are also more intrusive than a permanent, fixed installation which would normally be wall-mounted. Additionally as hot air rises, a split system with the internal component wall mounted as high up as possible will inherently be more effective at ‘collecting’ the heat from the hottest parts of the conservatory – a floor-standing unit will be busy collecting heat from the floor area, which will be considerably cooler – particularly if you have stone or tiled flooring.

Portable units will also have to store the moisture that they remove from the air in an internal drip tray which will require regular emptying, in much the same way as a standalone dehumidifier. They are also typically capable of cooling only – an installed split-system air con unit provides you with the best of both worlds.

Adding conservatory air con can be undertaken as a DIY project or it can be installed professionally by a suitable specialist, which is likely to result in better performance – either way it is important that the unit installed is suited to the size of conservatory that you are looking to cool and heat. A poor match will result in an under-specified air con unit that will struggle to either cool or heat your conservatory properly. It is preferable to slightly over-specify the air con unit rather than under-specify it as this will help you deal with extremes of temperature more effectively.

Units with the best energy efficiency ratings may be slightly more expensive but will provide you with a solution that is more effective and also cheaper to run in the long term. Domestic air conditioning units require a 13A mains AC supply in order to function.

Underfloor Heating

Underfloor conservatory heating can be used with almost all types of flooring and is a safe and efficient way to heat your conservatory as a whole and also to ensure that flooring materials that may often be considered to be cold in use, such as stone, granite, marble or tiles are warm and comfortable underfoot. As hot air rises, heating the floor of the conservatory allows you to heat the entire space while ensuring that traditionally cold materials do not make your conservatory an unpleasant place to spend time in colder months. Another benefit of under-floor heating in a conservatory is that there is nothing mounted on the inside walls – this is not only more aesthetically pleasing but gives you greater freedom in terms of the placement of furniture and furnishings. Condensation, drafts and dust are likely to be greatly reduced using underfloor heating compared with other methods. Under floor heating is also invisible and largely maintenance free – particularly in electric form.

The 2 distinct types of underfloor heating are ‘hot water underfloor heating’ and ‘electric underfloor heating’. As their names imply, they work in much the same way – the primary difference is how the heat is generated.

Hot water under floor heating is linked to your existing central heating system and can be considered in simple terms as a radiator with a large surface area encapsulated beneath your conservatory floor. The radiator in this case is a length of pipework running beneath the finished floorcovering carrying hot water from your central heating system from one end to the other. In much the same way as a radiator works, hot water is fed around the circuit heating the floor surface – this heat then passes to the rest of the room through radiation and convection.

As hot water under floor heating requires connection to your existing boiler and central heating circuit, installation considerations apply such as those for central heating radiators covered earlier, in terms of boiler capacity and complexity of installation. Under-floor heating controlled by your central heating system is an efficient way to heat your conservatory, and as gas is a more efficient way to heat your home than electricity in most cases it is also comparatively cheap to run. That said however, the added installation costs and potential need for boiler upgrade work means that it may work out more costly than electric under-floor heating on the whole – it is also less likely to be a potential DIY project than electric underfloor heating.

Electric underfloor heating is without a doubt the simplest form of underfloor heating in terms of installation and can be installed by a competent DIYer (subject to meeting the appropriate electrical regulations regarding any such electrical work).

There are three types of electric under floor heating and these are the cable type, mat type, and the carbon film type;

The cable type of electric underfloor conservatory heating consists of a pre-determined length of special resistive heating cable that warms up as an electrical current is applied to it. The cable itself is laid in a snake-like formation at a regular spacing. Heating cables only need to be terminated at one end and so the amount and complexity of any mains wiring is reduced.

Heating cables are best suited to tiled flooring and will typically need to be encapsulated in a special screed or cement, the thickness of this being determined in part by the type of floor-covering being used on top of it. Some types of cable can be laid directly beneath the floor tile, embedded directly into the tile adhesive. The spacing between the loops of cable can be varied to achieve the desired amount of heat output.

The mat type is essentially a more convenient form of the cable type of underfloor electric heating available in a variety of sizes. These can simply be ordered in a range of sizes to suit a regular rectangular area, unrolled and connected. They cannot be cut, and so may not be suited to bay-fronted or other irregularly shaped conservatories. For installations in irregularly shaped conservatories, such as in Victorian-style conservatories for example, the standard heating cable arrangement is probably better suited as it can be placed as required to suit practically any shape or area.

Carbon film under-floor heating is resistive sheeting that works in the same way to the other types of electric under-floor heating but it is thinner and provides a more uniform heat. Its gentle uniform heat source lacking the comparative localised hot-spots of spaced cables makes it more suited to use in conjunction with laminate flooring, real wood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring. Carbon film underfloor heating can be unrolled and installed and does not need to be encapsulated in any kind of screed or flexible tile adhesive.

Electric underfloor heating cables and mats are available in a variety of heat outputs to suit your conservatory and you should ensure that your calculations take the current demand into account if you wish to ensure that you can connect your installation to a standard 13A fused mains spur – typically installations having an output of less than approximately 3000w or 3kW can be connected in this way. Large areas may require additional wiring and control units.

In order to maximise the efficiency of underfloor conservatory heating it is important to understand that any kind of underfloor heating will heat the subfloor as well as the flooring, and so suitable installation will be required in order to ensure that the majority of the heat generated is coming up through the flooring and not being lost in heating the subfloor. A variety of insulation materials are available for this purpose and the choice will probably be decided by the heating system manufacturers recommendations and the type of sub-floor that you will be installing the chosen system on top of.

Finally, your electric underfloor heating should be controlled by a thermostat and programmer to ensure that your conservatory remains at a suitable and comfortable temperature and to ensure maximum energy efficiency. One of the benefits of electric underfloor heating compared with hot water underfloor heating is the ability to run and control the system with complete independence from your central heating.

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are an inexpensive way of circulating the air around your conservatory. Often fitted in place of a standard ceiling light and also available with integrated lighting, they are available in a number of styles and finishes to complement your conservatory decor. Conservatory ceiling fans will typically offer a number of speed settings allowing you to vary their impact from a very slight draught up to a noticeable breeze.Most ceiling fans are extremely quiet in use, particularly on the lower speed settings, and the use of flexible mountings helps to ensure that any vibration or imbalance is not transmitted into the ceiling mount, creating unwanted additional noise or vibration.

When considering ceiling fans for your conservatory it is vital to consider the span of the blades and the mounting position in addition to the drop from the mounting point in order to ensure that the blades will not foul the roof structure or any other obstacles in their path. Extended mounting poles can often be purchased to help in this respect to increase the length of the drop from the ceiling.

Ceiling fans do not draw a great deal of current in use and so can often be used as an easy and direct replacement for an existing light fitted to a ceiling rose subject to the above information being taken into account. Metal bodied ceiling fans will require an earth connection for safety purposes though an earth should be present on your existing lighting wiring even if it is not connected to your lighting at present. If in any doubt, it is advisable to have an electrician carry out any wiring for you as they can ensure that this is carried out in a suitable and safe manner.