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Climate Control for Conservatories - ‘Controlling the Conservatory Environment’

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

Free Guide to Controlling the Conservatory EnvironmentWhen it comes to Climate Control in a conservatory or sunroom there are usually four distinct markets:

  • Prospective purchasers of new conservatories: People looking for information on products that can be incorporated into their conservatories from new which will ensure that they can use their conservatory in comfort all year round.
  • Current Conservatory Owners: People looking to upgrade, refurbish, update or maintain their existing conservatories so that they are use-able in comfort all year round.
  • Conservatory Companies: Business people looking for products that can be added to their range for competitive advantage, or to meet the competition. Or for information on how to solve customers problems by improving the environmental design of their conservatories.
  • Architects and Designers of Conservatories, Atria or Roof Glazing Systems: Individuals looking for information on products that can improve the environment and make the areas below the glazing usable in comfort all year round.

To simplify the information gathering process we have divided the information in to four separate pages – each answering some of the most common questions asked by conservatory buyers and owners.

In addition everyone (trade and general public) are welcome to request the very informative “Guide to Controlling the Conservatory Environment”

Prospective purchasers of new conservatories:

Question One: I have heard that my new conservatory will be unusable on sunny days in summer because of high temperatures caused by the sun shining through the glazing?


The power of the sun is generally underestimated. A typical conservatory receives a peak of 8 kW of solar energy per hour on a clear sunny day in June, which is the equivalent of 8 single bar electric files stacked in the centre of the conservatory. It is not unusual for temperatures to reach 40 to 50C, (100 to 120 F). This large amount of energy can be excluded to reduce temperatures to comfortable levels with the correct selection of shading systems in the original design of the conservatory.

All conservatories facing east, south and west suffer from problems of high temperatures due to the sun shining through the roof glazing, in summer up to 80% of the solar heat enters through the roof glazing as the sun is high in the sky.

North facing conservatories are not entirely problem free unless they are on a high gable end, or three storey height properties. When fitted to bungalows conservatories suffer from April onwards as the sun is above the roof pitch on cloudless days. Many conservatories fitted to traditional two storey properties experience overheating problems as the shadow cast by the house, which provides protection, only extends to: 4 metres (14 feet) in April and August, 3 metres (10 feet) in May and July, and only 2.8 metres (9 feet) in June. If the projection of your conservatory into the garden exceeds 3 Metres (10 feet) you will experience overheating problems.

Side glazing, unless it extends from floor to roof height, is not a major cause of overheating because when the problem exists, May, June, July and August the sun is high in the sky and predominantly shines through the roof.

Question Two: How important is ventilation in controlling high summer temperatures?


Ventilation is an important consideration but only after the excessive solar heat has been reduced to manageable levels by correct selection of the shading system. Otherwise the available ventilation is rendered ineffective because it is completely overwhelmed with solar heat.

The most important considerations are that the air inlet and outlets are of equal dimensions, as the ventilation rate is governed by the smallest opening, and they must be positioned to allow ‘cross flow’ of air across conservatory. The design of the windows is important, conventional side hung openers are the most effective, top hung and inward opening tilt and turn types are far less effective. When the conservatory is closed it is important to have trickle flow ventilation with the security catches providing at least 25mm, or 1-inch gap. Roof lights are a very effective method of ventilation, as they provide a much higher level of ventilation due to the chimneystack effect resulting from their height.

Climate Control in a conservatoryQuestion Three: Will my conservatory be cold in winter and uneconomic to heat. I understand that new Building regulations will shortly be introduced concerned with insulation, what are these regulations and how will they effect comfort in my conservatory?


It is anticipated that in the near future conservatories will be subject to Document ‘L’. This is a insulation standard that will form a part of the building regulations for all new conservatories. This has been introduced for a number of reasons the principal one being that there is now more glazing sold for use in conservatories than all other applications put together. Also conservatories are being incorporated into houses by the removal of patio doors, and integrated into family rooms and kitchen areas in new homes. Consequently the government has identified the conservatory as a significant cause of the Carbon Dioxide emissions that it wished to control to meet its climate change targets.

Document ‘L’, amongst other things, is concerned with both side and roof glazing and specifies a minimum heat loss factor of 2.0 units of energy escaping per M2 of glazing, which will shortly be reduced to 1.8. The previous norm for double-glazing was 2.8 units.

This improvement in performance has been brought about by the incorporation of low E glass into double glazed units, Pilkington’s ‘K’ glass is probably the best known of these but all glazing companies offer a similar product.

The advent of these regulations has focused attention on providing comfortable winter temperatures and most glazing companies now offer glazing of significantly higher specification than those demanded by the new regulations. Typical values for Glass and Polycarbonate roof glazing range from 1.2 to 1.5 units of heat loss based on the incorporation of argon gas in glazed units, and transparent heat reflectors in Polycarbonate roofing. The use of these products, with adequate heating systems, enables conservatories to be used economically in comfort throughout the winter.

A drawback of the improvement in winter insulation is that in summer it is more difficult for the sun’s heat to escape out from the conservatory. As a consequence there is now a greater need for summer solar protection in conservatories that conform to the new Building regulations.

It is important to understand that ‘K’ glass, and similar glasses, provide no protection in summer from solar heat, special types of glass with solar reflecting properties fulfil this purpose.

Question Four: I have sensitive eyes and suffer from glare; will this be a problem in my new conservatory because of the large area of glazing?


Glare can be a problem and cause discomfort. It depending on the sensitivity of ones eyes, and as we grow older the problem increases because the pupil in the eye becomes slightly hazy, as a result scattered light causes glare. The selection of good conservatory glazing and appropriate wall and floor finishes can solve the problem of glare caused by scattered light.

The correct selection of roof glazing in the original design of the conservatory goes a long way to overcoming the problem since it is greatest in the late Spring/summer/early Autumn when the sun is overhead. Low-level glare can be a problem at other times of the year through the side glazing and this is best dealt with by blinds.

It is important to avoid lightly coloured reflective surfaces on the walls of the conservatory, and most important to select floor finishes which are non-reflective. The best colours for these surfaces are pastel shades; white floor tiles should be avoided as they reflect bright light directly upward into the eye below the eyes natural shading devices, the eyebrows and eyelashes.

Question Five: I am worried about fading of my furnishings. Have you any advice on what I need to do to combat fading and the types of furniture most suitable for the conservatory?


Because the conservatory is fully glazed furnishings are much more susceptible to fading than when in the house. However there are certain precautions you can take.

Ultra-violet filters can be incorporated into the glazing, which filter out 99% of the ultra-violet rays, the main cause of fading. The main problem is the roof glazing in summer. This is when the sun is at its brightest and highest in the sky.

Solar heat also plays a part, and a reduction in summer temperatures can be extremely beneficial in reducing fading. The fading process is a chemical reaction and accelerates with increased temperature.

Integrated shading systems incorporate ultra-violet filters can be fitted to help combat both fading and high summer temperatures.

Correct selection of fabrics is important. It is not commonly known but there is a grading system for the stability of dyes, the British Colourfastness scale. This grades dyes from one to five in order of stability. Most European manufactured fabrics are graded at 2 to 4. The highest grade is suitable for conservatory furnishing.

Antique furnishings and fabrics, musical instruments, and wooded furniture susceptible to cracking due to heat are nor recommended for use in conservatories.

Question Six: Would it be wise to install air-conditioning and how effective is it at controlling high summer temperatures?


The direct sun temperature, and the shade, or air temperature determines our thermal comfort. These temperatures are directly analogous to the sun and the shade temperatures quoted in the tropics. The sun temperature is the main cause of discomfort in conservatories it is very personal as it results from the sun shining directly on our body 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.

Air-conditioning does little to reduce the sun temperature as it only effective at reducing air or shade temperatures, and in any event the capacity of the units available, around 1.5Kw cooling, is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the solar heat entering the conservatory 8Kw. Apart from the running costs air-conditioning units are also noisy. This is why some people have found air-conditioning in conservatories generally to be ineffective and expensive.

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

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