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Conservatory Too Hot? - Get the "Guide to Controlling the Conservatory Environment’

** An article all about making your conservatory more comfortable and useable all year round – sponsored by: Insupolycarbonate™ Roofing **

Discomfort caused by bright glareCurrent Conservatory Owners

Question One: In summer my conservatory is unbearably hot and glares, and I am worried about fading of my furniture and furnishings. What can I do to overcome these problems?

Answer:

There are two principal causes of summer discomfort in conservatories: high temperatures due to sun shining through the roof, and glare from bright sunlight directly entering the eye, or reflected from light coloured surfaces.

Two factors affect thermal comfort: The unshaded, direct sun temperature, and the air temperature. These temperatures are analogous to the temperatures in the sun and shade quoted in the tropics. The direct sun temperature is very personal; it is the temperature we feel personally on our skin and clothing. It is often up to 15 °C (27 °F) higher than the shade or air temperature and is the principal cause of discomfort.

It is essential, for comfortable use of the conservatory to reduce temperatures to 27°C (82°F) or below but unfortunately temperatures often reach 40 to 50°C (100 to 120°F) or more.

Comfortable temperatures can only be achieved by installing solar protection in the roof glazing since up to 80% of the sun’s in summer enters through this. The most effective way to do this is to reflect the sun’s heat out before it enters the conservatory. A variety of methods can be employed depending on the circumstances and magnitude of the problem from transparent heat reflective shading incorporated within the glazing, to external and internal shading systems.

Because the sun temperature is caused by the sun direct shining on our body it is not reduced significantly by air conditioning, this is why air-conditioning in conservatories is generally found to be ineffective. Air-conditioning is it only effective at reducing shade or air temperatures, and the cooling capacity of the units available, around 1.5Kw, is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the solar heat entering the conservatory 8Kw. In addition they are noisy and expensive to run.

Discomfort caused by bright glare: This is generally a part of the summer problem but its effect is often not fully recognised until a solution is demonstrated which provides relief. Shading solutions that protect against high temperatures generally also protect against direct glare through the roof glazing. Reflected glare from lightly coloured surfaces also causes problems. It is important to avoid the use of light coloured/reflective coloured surfaces on walls and especially the floor. The importance of the floor cannot be underestimated as bright reflected glare from this can enter the eye directly below the eyes natural shading devices, the brow, eyelids and lashes.

The main causes of fading and deterioration of furniture and furnishings are Ultra-violet rays and heat.

Ultra-violet rays can be reduced by up to 99% by treatment of the glazing with transparent Ultra-violet filters. These are incorporated as standard protection into the transparent heat reflectors which are available for installation to glass or polycarbonate roofs, or side glazing, for controlling high summer temperatures, and reducing winter heat loss.

The use of these transparent products provides all day protection and overcomes the inconvenience of using throws to protect furniture.

Question Two: I would like to use my conservatory throughout the year as part of the house but it is unbearably hot in summer and cold in winter. How can I upgrade it for year round use?

Answer:

The lower and upper limits of the range of comfortable temperatures for must residents in the UK is between 20°C( 68°F) to 27°C( 82°F). If a conservatory is to be integrated into the home it must be maintained between these temperatures. As these temperatures mark the lower and upper limits of comfortable use of the conservatory, any temperature outside of the range renders the conservatory totally unusable.

In summer up to 80% of the sun’s heat enters through the roof glazing, and in winter up to 65% of space heating escapes through the roof glazing. The key therefore to controlling temperatures is upgrading the insulation standards of the roof. This can be done in several ways.

Existing glazing can be upgraded by incorporating heat reflectors in-situ to deal with the summer problems of heat and glare. The extent of winter insulation improvements will depend on the way the conservatory faces, and the current quality of the glazing.

Another factor which will have an important bearing on the choice of solution will be the age and type of glazing. For example early forms of polycarbonate roofing have a limited life expectancy, as low as twelve to fifteen years in some cases, and single glazed roofs can be of variable quality. In such cases it may be more economical to simply replace the roof glazing panels with new panels conforming to the forthcoming Building Regulation standard Document ‘L’, which incorporate solar heat reflectors for summer comfort. An additional economic attraction, if the roof needs to be replaced soon, is the complete works of upgrading and replacement can be undertaken at the same time.

In cases where the roof glazing has a reasonable life expectancy summer heat reflectors, and upgrading of the winter insulation value of the roof glazing can be simply done in-situ.

Upgrading of side window glazing is relatively simple but in practise unless sealed units are misted and replacement is for cosmetic reasons this work is very much a second priority.

Question Three: My conservatory is unbearable cold in winter and impossible to satisfactorily heat, and sometimes condensation forms on the inside of the glazing, which drips onto my furnishings. Can I upgrade the glazing to eliminate this problem so it can be used it comfort during winter, and what type of heating should I install?

Answer:

Conservatories that face north or which are shaded by neighbours homes receive no benefit from the sun in winter since at this time of year the sun is low in the sky, they therefore require a much higher standard of insulation than those facing south. Most conservatories constructed prior to 2003 have roof and side glazing of a relatively low insulation standard of ‘U’ value, or heat loss factor, of between 2.8 and 6. The insulation standards in these conservatories is well below the forthcoming Building regulations standard Document ‘L’ which requires a ‘U’ value or heat loss factor of 1.8 or less. In the case of north facing, or shaded glazing, which receives no winter benefit from the sun, a value of 1.4 or less is advisable.

The consequences of poor standards of insulation can be far reaching. In the case of single plain or wired glass, or twin wall polycarbonate glazing typical of conservatories built before 1990 condensation drips can be a major source of annoyance, and the very low temperature of the glazing can cause discomfort due to down draughts.

These problems and those of winter discomfort can be simply resolved by either replacing the glazing with modern standards or insulation which have ‘U’ values, or heat loss factors, of down to 1.2, or the fitting of lightweight transparent insulators below, or above the existing glazing. In the latter case the high cost and inconvenience of replacing the roof glazing is avoided and ‘U’, or heat loss factors, of below 1 and approaching those of a single brick wall can be achieved.

The type and capacity of heating system used in the conservatory can have a profound influence on comfort. Radiators are often installed with scant disregard to their correct size or indeed if the boiler has adequate capacity to supply the additional heating needs of the conservatory. In the latter case the result is inadequate heating in both the conservatory, and the house.

It is important once the insulation standard are satisfactory to have the adequate levels of heating. These are difficult for plumbers to determine, as calculation tables for the heating needs in conservatories are not available. Plumbers tend to work off the information they have for the house, which can be very hit or miss. Provision should be made for a heating capacity of around 0.3 Kw per sq metre of floor area to cope with temperatures down to -4° C (25 °F) in conservatories with, or upgraded to, modern standards of insulation.

Several types of heating can be used in conservatories; each has its advantages and disadvantages. Document ‘L’ frowns on systems, which are tied into the central heating system for the home. Many homeowners disregard this advice for economic reasons, which are not, necessarily, justified in practise.

Question Four: My conservatory was one of the main reasons I bought my house. After recent rain it is leaking. I have also noticed that some of the roof panels are discoloured, and side window panes misted. I have contacted several conservatory and glazing companies to arrange refurbishment of the conservatory and repairs but no one seems interested?

Answer:

Most conservatories carry a ten year guarantee but unfortunately the identity of the builder of the conservatory is the last thing on the mind of buyers and sellers of homes, and this important information is not passed on when the house if sold. Even when this information is available the new homeowner may find that the conservatory company has gone out of business, or the conservatory company is reluctant to transfer the guarantee.

Many companies do not wish to become involved with maintenance, refurbishment and repair work because it is not always easy to identify the source of leaks and affect their repair, as this is specialist work. Also companies know that by undertaking the work the homeowner will expect follow-up service if the problem is not resolved which can be expensive and time consuming on what was in the first place a small/ low value job. This is why it may be difficult to find anyone prepared to undertake this work and the after sales commitment.

Fortunately there are companies with the specialist knowledge required and the work can be relatively straightforward. For example: leak problems in polycarbonate roof conservatories are often due to slippage of roof panels due to the prodigious expansion co-efficient of this material and the fact that they have not been satisfactorily secured from the outset. Deterioration of flash-band flashing, a low cost alternative to leading which can be installed without chasing out the brickwork is also a common problem. As are leaks due to movement of the Finial, the embellishment on the pitch of the conservatory roof, and the cladding at the top of the windows adjacent to the gutter. Re-aligning and sealing of these elements normally solves these problems.

In more serious cases there may be movement, or ‘spreading’, of the conservatory roof structure that pushes out the side windows. This can occur if there is inadequate bracing of the roof structure with tie bars or a ring beam. The consequence is that the side windows are forced outward, and may bow leading to gaps in the structure, movement of roof panels, leaks and wind ingress.

Depending on the type of conservatory, and magnitude of the problem, it is possible to retrofit tie bars and jack in the out of alignment so that the roof panels and other elements can be repositioned and refitted. In more serious cases the conservatory may have to be condemned as an unsafe structure.

Discoloured roof panels in polycarbonate-roofed conservatories occur because: the original roof panels have being fitted upside down, or the panels need to be replaced as they have reached the end of their life. Polycarbonate roof panels incorporate an external ultra-violet filtering layer, which protects the material against deterioration due to the sun and gives the panels their longevity. If the panels are fitted the wrong way up there is no sun protection and the panels degrade. The ultra-violet protecting layer has a limited life that determines the life of the panels, when this is reached the panels degrade and must be replaced. In conservatories built before 1995, especially those fitted with twin wall polycarbonate, the life expectancy of the panels is as low as 12 to 15 years, and many roofs from this time are coming up for replacement.

Failure of the panels goes through two stages. First discolouration, crazing and embrittlement, failure at this stage can occur due to hailstone damage. The final stage is the formation of cracks and disintegration of the panels.

Replacement of roof panels in polycarbonate and glass roofed conservatories is straightforward. It is recommended that replacement units conforming to the forthcoming building regulations Document ‘L’, with solar heat protection, are installed. Misted side window panels are simply replaced with sealed units conforming to Document ‘L’.

Question Five: My conservatory is looking its age, It was fitted in 1992. There are several misted sealed units and occasional leaks. I would like to give it an Mot to bring it up to modern standards for year round use since it has always been cold in winter, and in summer impossible to use, on many days, because of the heat and glare?

Answer:

Although regular maintenance of the conservatory is important most owners undertake none of this work, which means that when problems occur they can be serious.

Regular maintenance, and refurbishment every ten to fifteen years, to bring the conservatory up to modern standards for all year round use in comfort is recommended. Polycarbonate roof panel have a much shorter life expectancy than glass, as little as fifteen years in some cases, and the outer surface of the roof can become etched and unsightly. Replacement of the roof panels alone will go a long way towards making the conservatory look as good as new.

Regular maintenance comprises of: Cleaning of the glazing, external cladding and glazing beads including the removal of adhered dirt film, moss, algae etc. and the replacement of damaged, worn and where applicable rotted and unsightly parts with new. NB Abrasives cleaners of any type should not be used especially on polycarbonate roofs, as these will damage the external ultra-violet barrier layer that protects the roof glazing from deterioration.

The recommended 10 to 15 year refurbishment programme comprises of:

1. Replacement of the roof and side window panels with new units conforming to document ‘L’, with solar protection to enable it to be used all year-round as part of the house,
2. Complete inspection of the conservatory to identify leaks, deterioration of the structure including PVC cladding, Flashing, Glazing bar covers, Finial and ridge areas followed by replacement and sealing as necessary
3. Recommendations concerning heating and the sizing of the heating system and replacement if necessary
4. Optional installation of roof vents for improved ventilation.
5. Treatment of PVC, wood or other external cladding to bring back its colour.

Everyone (trade and general public) is welcome to request the very informative “Guide to Controlling the Conservatory Environment”

This Editorial provided by and sponsored by: Insupolycarbonate™ Roofing

Visit the INSU websites at: http://www.insu.co.uk and http://www.insupolycarbonate.com

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