Conservatories are wonderful, light and airy spaces to relax in or to entertain your friends. However, with the majority of conservatories featuring expansive glass walls and ceilings, on the days when the British weather is good to us they can start to feel like a bit of a greenhouse. Hot air is trapped in the high ceilings, the sun is streaming in and making it hotter, and all of a sudden your conservatory is unusable.
But this doesn’t mean you have to stop using your conservatory altogether. With a little investment and some creative planning, you can keep your conservatory cooler and more comfortable year around.
Solutions to cooling your conservatory
There are a number of things you can do to make your conservatory more comfortable on hot days. Here are some ideas to start you off:
Shading some of the intense sunlight is the obvious first step to a cooler conservatory. This can be achieved fairly easily by choosing decent, insulating blinds for the windows and roof of the room. Insulating your conservatory from the heat of the summer sun with blinds will also help you to keep your conservatory warmer in the winter, so it’s a great investment that will pay you back all year round.
Using blinds lined with reflective film or blackout blinds will cut out a great deal of the heat, but they could also cut down the light and make it too gloomy in your conservatory. Test different materials in your home before making a final decision.
Some companies offer conservatory window film which is designed to reflect some of the solar radiation away from the building. They are inexpensive to purchase and install, and require no maintenance at all, making them a very cost effective option. The films vary in performance from one manufacturer to another, but on average will reduce solar gains by around 75 per cent. They cut down on heat, but also on UVA radiation which is potentially damaging to human skin as well as to soft furnishings in the room.
An added benefit of conservatory film is that it can bring your glass up to BS 6206:1981 standard for impact protection. This means that in the event of a pane being smashed, there will be no flying glass or dangerous shards to deal with as all the broken glass will be contained within the film. If you’re planning to use any form of cooling system, such as air conditioning, conservatory film can significantly reduce your running costs.
It might sound obvious, but having good ventilation around your conservatory can make all the difference on a hot day. Windows are designed to provide some insulation, so expect your conservatory to overheat if they are shut tight. For this reason, it’s a good idea to install opening, high level windows when you have your conservatory built, so you can open them in the summer without worrying about home security. High level vents will help too, and will avoid a build-up of humidity and moisture that could turn into mould.
Ceiling fans can be very successful when used in combination with opening windows and excellent ventilation. They work by moving the trapped hot air from the upper reaches of your conservatory to other parts of the room, and drawing in the cooler air from the open windows or vents. You feel cooler right away because of the movement of air, known as the ‘wind chill effect’, and gradually your room is brought to a more comfortable temperature.
Without good ventilation, the ceiling fan will be simply boosting the convection current in the room, causing it to actually heat up faster! For this reason, only use a ceiling fan when you have the ability to open vents and windows, and only if the temperature in the room is higher than the temperature outside.
Installing air conditioning is probably the least appealing of all the options, due to high installation and running costs. A typical A/C unit will set you back around £1,000, and the running costs, despite what the manufacturers may tell you, could be as high as 52p per hour (based on September 2016 average electricity tariff of 15p/kWh). That’s around £236 per year if it was used for five hours a day for 90 days of summer. Portable air conditioners are cheaper to buy and run, but not as effective overall.
Air conditioning can also be unsuitable if your conservatory is thermally inefficient. Air conditioners rely on blowing the cold air around, and if hot air is still streaming in through the walls and ceiling, it will be working hard to very little effect. If you plan to use air conditioning, make sure you pick the right type of unit for your conservatory, and help it to work better by combining it with good blinds and shading solutions.
For more ideas on cooling your conservatory, check out this excellent blog post here. There are also some cooling tips from a trusted trader here, and some ideas for more drastic conservatory improvements here.