Conservatory Heating, Cooling and Ventilation
The predominantly glazed construction of a conservatory lends itself to the creation of an area that can be too cold to use in winter and too hot to use in summer, however there are a number of ways to reduce these temperature issues and create a space that is comfortable all year round. There is no reason why a properly heated conservatory cannot be a comfortable area all year round.
Bear in mind that south-facing conservatories will be more prone to overheating due to seeing more direct sunlight, whereas north-facing or east-facing conservatories will be exposed to colder winds.
The larger the conservatory, the harder and more expensive it will be to heat and cool and so it is a good idea to ensure that a new conservatory is only as big as you need it to be – additional space that you do not utilise will only serve to cost you even more money in the long run.
It is advisable to use any form of heating or cooling in conjunction with conservatory blinds as not only will these aid you in keeping your conservatory at the desired temperature, they will also give you a greater degree of privacy. More information on conservatory blinds can be found in our dedicated section.
Glazing is by far the most important component affecting the thermal characteristics of your conservatory. Any conservatory that is not double (or even triple) glazed will most likely be unusable in winter months for anything other than storage – at best it will be difficult and costly to heat a single-glazed conservatory to a comfortable internal temperature when outside temperatures are low due to the high heat loss through the glass itself.
In addition to preventing heat loss in colder weather, there are special types of glass that can help to keep your conservatory cool in summer by reflecting a large proportion of the sun’s radiant heat and preventing it from entering your conservatory. More information on conservatory glazing can be found in our dedicated section here.
Central Heating Radiators
The most straightforward way of getting heat into your conservatory is through the addition of radiators connected to your domestic central heating system. Building regulations dictate that any radiators must be controllable through their own separate on/off controls and the use of thermostatic radiator valves is the best way to achieve this while assisting you in maintaining a comfortable temperature inside your conservatory.
It is vital that the output of the system as a whole be taken into account when adding to the heating circuit in order to ensure that your current boiler has sufficient capacity to heat the additional space. If this is not done you could find that the boiler struggles to heat your entire home when the conservatory radiators are on, not just the conservatory area. If you do not have boiler capacity for additional radiators you would need to ether upgrade your boiler or consider one of the other heating options available.
If central heating is a viable option for your conservatory then it provides a relatively straightforward, controllable and automated way to keep your conservatory warm during colder weather while ensuring that the area is not over-heated when the weather improves. You should bear in mind though that the conservatory is likely to require heating when rooms inside the house do not, and so it would be worthwhile adding thermostatic radiator valves to all of your radiators if at all possible – this is advisable in any case and will help maximise the energy efficiency of your home and keep your heating bills to a minimum as well as increasing comfort levels. Without complex control units or manually turning off all house radiators it is not possible to heat the conservatory alone using your central heating system.
One factor that will slightly hamper central heating radiator performance is that convection currents will not be as strong in a conservatory – radiators normally circulate the warm air through a combination of radiation and convection and it is for this reason that they are normally placed under windows in your home for maximum effect – they heat the coolest air around the window which then circulates around the room. A conservatory is a predominantly glass structure and so has different thermodynamic properties. It would be advisable to speak to a specialist regarding placement of your radiators and care should be taken to ensure that there is sufficient airflow around them to ensure than convection can take place.
Air conditioning or underfloor heating may prove to be a more suitable option as it provides you with the ability to both heat and cool your conservatory with one installation and to control it independently, generally speaking in a far more efficient manner – see below for more information.
Portable Heaters & Space Heaters
There are a number of products that can be used to provide additional conservatory heating when needed, although they should be considered as an additional heat source rather than the primary source of heating for your conservatory.
Electric fan heaters and convector heaters can be used to provide an instant heat boost but they are expensive to run for anything more than occasional use. Electrically-heated oil-filled radiators are also useful in this regard and thermostatically-controlled variants can be left on to ensure a suitable minimum temperature is maintained at certain times of the year.
Another method of boosting heat levels inside your conservatory or giving your central heating a helping hand in especially cold weather is to use an LPG / Calor Gas type gas heater. The more modern type of Catalytic Portable Heater has no naked flame apart from the pilot light, making it more suitable where there are children and animals. Running on bottled LPG gas, these heaters are compact, safe, efficient, convenient and capable of near-instant heat.
Gas heaters will create additional moisture inside your conservatory as part of the combustion process, which may lead to increased condensation, particularly in single-glazed conservatories or older conservatories where the glazing units are old and not performing efficiently. Gas heaters will also create CO2 as a combustion by-product and so will require ventilation. Electric heaters are inefficient in comparison but do not have either of these disadvantages.
Where condensation or damp presents a problem inside your conservatory it would be advisable to consider the use of a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers extract excess moisture from the air in your conservatory and store it in a small water tank that will need to be emptied periodically in the case of a portable floor-standing unit, or into an external drain in the case of a permanently fixed unit.
Many dehumidifiers also filter the air that they process, resulting in reduced dust levels inside your conservatory. Where your damp problem exists due to failure of the damp proof course on the dwarf wall or the membrane in the subfloor, or a leak from the roof or elsewhere this should be remedied as a dehumidifier will simply aid with masking the symptoms temporarily – it will not provide a fix.