Guide To Heating Your Conservatory: Overview

A glorious conservatory is not just a lovely space to enjoy when the weather is fine. Even when it’s raining or chilly, a conservatory can be a wonderfully bright, light space to read or socialise, or just to watch the changing of the seasons through the expansive window space. But using your conservatory all year around comes with its own set of challenges.

Heating a conservatory is no easy task. With all that glass and little in the way of thermal insulation, it can feel like throwing money down the drain. But with the right type of heating at your disposal, and a good idea of how to use it efficiently, you could be enjoying your cosy conservatory right through the winter too.

Regulations about heating a conservatory in the UK

Conservatories used to be uninhabited buildings intended to stop garden plants from dying in the winter – conserving the plants, therefore ‘conservatory’. This meant they were not subjected to the same planning laws as bricks and mortar extensions. However, there are some regulations specific to conservatories which you should be aware of when thinking about heating.

An important regulation is that the wall between the house and the conservatory must stay in place. If it is removed, the conservatory becomes an extension, and subject to all the rules about thermal efficiency any other building would have. The other regulation worth keeping in mind is that you are not allowed to extend your central heating system into the conservatory itself.

This is to stop radiators being connected up in energy inefficient conservatories, resulting in wasteful carbon emissions. There has been some discussion online surrounding potential loopholes in this particular piece of regulation. That is, that you may not fall foul of building regulations by installing radiators that can be individually switched completely off, therefore isolating them from the rest of the central heating system. While this may technically enable you to extend your central heating to your conservatory, we’re not sure if it will really provide a practical solution, unless you’re happy go around turning off radiators every time you want to switch between heating either your conservatory, your house, or both!

Heating options for conservatories

Bearing in mind you cannot extend your central heating into this room, you’ll need to look at other ways of getting some heat in there for the winter. There are several options available to you for heating your conservatory:

  • Electric underfloor heating
  • Wall mounted electric heaters
  • Fan heaters
  • Standalone heaters such as panel heaters, halogen heaters, oil filled radiators etc.
  • Infrared heaters or other radiant fires

You’ll notice a theme here, and that is that all these options require the use of electricity for heat. Electricity is notoriously both carbon intensive and expensive when used for heating. However, it is also quick and easy to control. An electric radiator will have you feeling warm in a matter of seconds, and can be switched on and off at will. This makes electric appliances a great choice for conservatories, where they can be turned on and off as required.

Making an informed choice

In order to make a good choice for the heating in your conservatory, it’s important to understand what types of heat these appliances produce. All heat can be categorised as being delivered in one of three ways:

Conduction

Heat passes from one object to another when they touch. Underfloor heating is a form of conduction heat. Head over to our article on underfloor heating to get a more in depth guide

Underfloor Heating

Image Source: http://plumbingandheating.wardgroup.co.uk

Convection

Air is heated, the hot air rises and fills the room. Cooler air is pulled into the heat source as the hot air rises. Radiators, fan heaters and standalone heaters use convection.

Electric heater

Image Source: www.dimplex.co.uk

Radiation

Radiant heat is delivered directly to the objects in the room. It does not warm the air, rather the people and things, in the same way as the sun makes us feel warm on a summers day. Radiant bar fires and infra-red heaters use radiant heat.

Infrared Panel Heater

Image Source: www.infraredpanelheaters.com

The right type of heating for you will depend on how you use your conservatory, and what energy efficiency measures you have put in place. In general, convection heat is not going to be a particularly good choice, as it tends to disappear upwards and out of the roof of the conservatory. Radiant heat is a decent, inexpensive way to feel warmer in your conservatory quickly, but if you can afford it many owners find than underfloor heating to be the both efficient and effective.