Too hot, too cold: common issues with conservatories
Conservatories have been a popular addition to homes across the UK for many years, with an estimated 18% of all households in England now having a conservatory or glazed extension, according to a government survey carried out in 2013. They are meant to be a light, airy, enjoyable extension to a home- an area that can be used all year-round. Many homeowners bought their conservatory with the hope that it would be an extra living space in the summer, and a place where they could get some much-needed warmth, light and comfort during the cold winter months. The reality, however, is that many conservatories are not living up to their purpose, suffering instead from a whole host of issues, mostly to do with temperature. A common complaint is that they are too cold in the winter to enjoy, and overheat in the summer to the point of being unusable. This guide will look in detail at the temperature problems facing conservatories today, and what you can do to improve them.
A history of inadequate conservatory insulation
Conservatories became a popular trend for homes during the 1970’s, when aluminium-framed structures went up all over the country, swiftly followed by the eponymous UPVC buildings you are familiar with today. Their popularity was boosted by the fact that planning permission is often not required for a conservatory, making it an easy way of increasing floor space in the home. Unfortunately for many, the truth is that lots of these older extensions are no longer fit for purpose. Some older conservatories don’t even come with double-glazing, only single-glazed glass. Glazed structures by nature are not designed to last forever: even double-glazing has a shelf-life, and eventually, window seals disintegrate. Older glazed panels can then fog up, and be subject to condensation and moisture, making the space damp and unappealing. On top of this, many older double-glazed windows start to malfunction, with handles and locks being a big issue as they bend and warp over time. This allows drafts in through the edges of the window frame, and adds to the problem.
Changing weather in Britain – temperature extremes and your conservatory
There is another reason your conservatory might be feeling more and more uncomfortable to be in these days- our changing weather. 2018 saw some of both the hottest and coldest weather on record in the UK, with many attributing this to climate change. In particular, we experienced extreme temperatures, especially during the cold wave known as the ‘beast from the east’ of 2018, in which freezing air from Siberia brought record-breaking low temperatures and up to 50cm of snow in some areas of the UK. Later on in the year, Britain then experienced a prolonged heatwave, again attributed to climate change. 2019 is set to repeat the cold extremes, with predictions for a second ‘beast from the east’ already being made. Needless to say, British houses and conservatories are not really engineered to withstand varying extremes of temperature. This is something to bear in mind as we move into the future.
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The problem with conservatory design- too much glass
In addition to ageing structures, inadequate components, and extremes of weather, there is one, more obvious thing to consider. Conservatories are, by nature, rooms where most of the surface area of the walls and ceiling is made up of glass. Whether double-glazed or not, modern or old, this design in itself makes conservatories prone to huge temperature variations. Large areas of glass and windows are fantastic for allowing light into the home, but also very adept at allowing valuable heat to escape, whilst acting as giant sponges for sunshine in the summer. In short, most conservatories are not actually designed to be the same temperature as the rest of your house. This results in some of the following issues:
- Your conservatory is freezing in the winter. This, as we have mentioned before, is mostly down to insulation, older components, and glass being a poor retainer of heat, especially in comparison to brickwork. In addition, many conservatory insulation specialists will blame roof design. Conservatory roofs are often thin, and flimsily clad with timber or plastic polycarbonate, with no added insulation, so heat can escape easily. Needless to say, this renders the space unusable during the long winter months, and many homeowners simply close the adjoining conservatory doors and re-open them again later in the year, to stop the cold invading the rest of the house. Heating a cold conservatory is also problematic due to how easily warmth escapes through the glass, making it a drain on the household finances for those who do attempt to use it when it is colder.
- Your conservatory is too hot during the summer. Again, this is down to the large surface areas of glass in the structure. Glass allows the sun’s heat to penetrate easily, which is why greenhouses and hot-houses for nurturing new plants are exclusively made of glass and metal. It is also common for a conservatory to be located at the rear of the house, which is often south-facing, and so it captures the sun all day long. Sometimes, UV rays can even penetrate through the glass, leading to worn, bleached and sun-scorched furnishings that fade quickly under so much harsh exposure.
- Your conservatory is damp. This can be down to a combination of the factors listed above. Single or double-glazing that is no longer fit for purpose can cause condensation to build up. A rapid heat-up and cool-down process throughout the day can also contribute to condensation on glass and walls, in some extreme cases even leading to the growth of mould and mildew on the glass, fixtures and fittings. Ill-fitting window frames and broken or damaged seals can also let in the weather, and conservatory roofs that are flimsy in construction can often leak and let rainwater in, particularly if appropriate guttering is also not installed. This can lead to a room that alternates between, stuffy, damp, too cold, or too hot…not an ideal combination.
Bringing your conservatory into the future
Thankfully, modern technology is now allowing us to regain control of the temperature of our conservatories and sunrooms. One of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to solve a conservatory that is too cold or too hot is to insulate the space properly. through the roof in the winter, and can help to regulate the temperature in blistering summers, as well as cut down on UV glare. This is done by removing the existing roof, and replacing it with layers of insulation materials including internal insulation, breathable membranes, insulated roof panels, and lightweight, heat-retaining tiles on top of everything. can be an extremely cost-effective way of renovating a conservatory and making it useable once again.
In addition, most will be able to colour match any new roof to the exact style and shade of the the rest of your home, turning your tired old conservatory into more of a permanent, attractive extension to your home- with the added benefit of taking a very short period of time to install. Most roofs can be retrofitted to a conservatory within a matter of days. Other methods of insulation can include , again at less than the cost of replacing your conservatory. A range of glazing and finishing options are available for maximum style and comfort, and you can enhance the security, energy efficiency and noise reduction qualities of your conservatory. Finally, there are some additional ways of regulating the temperature in your conservatory that are quick and relatively cheap, although perhaps not as long-term a solution as effective insulation:
- Air conditioning units – effective at cooling down a room when it overheats, air-conditioning is becoming more common in conservatories but it can be an expensive solution that also adds to your ongoing electricity bill. In addition to all of this they also place a heavy burden on the environment.
- Heating options – to help with the long winter chill. Needless to say, these still work best when there is a properly insulated roof in place on the conservatory- something made of clay or tile, with appropriate insulation, will stop the heat from escaping, especially if you combine this with properly insulated windows, doors and extra warm furnishings like a rug, or even a carpet. Some heaters come with digital thermostats, are wifi enabled and can be operated via an app, for maximum comfort, convenience and control.
- Blinds and shutters – these can be a moderately inexpensive way of reducing sun glare at the peak of the day, and acting as an extra layer between you and the cold or hot glass. Do bear in mind that blinds can be become damaged by sun and water and lose their lustre quickly in a conservatory environment. Softer, heavier furnishings like rugs and curtains are often better at excluding drafts and retaining heat, so consider all your options carefully before choosing blinds as an option.
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