Keeping a conservatory cool begins with planning. Before the first nail is hammered, heat control must be incorporated into the conservatory’s design. Doing so without one is a surefire plan for an uncomfortable conservatory.
4 Tips on Keeping a Conservatory Cool
- Natural shading from surrounding trees
- Solar glass
- Automatic or roller blinds and shades
- Ventilation systems
As soon as the warm season begins, we know that if it’s hot outside it’s going to get even hotter in the conservatory. When I sit down with our clients to do a conservatory design, we evaluate four specific conditions:
What natural shading occurs during the day? Does the conservatory face directly south? Does the house shade the conservatory for a portion of the day? Be mindful that the sun changes in altitude. In the winter, the low sun shines in through the side windows. In the summer, the heat gain comes through the roof.
Being a Horticulturalist, the first assistance I look for comes from plants. Deciduous trees (ones that lose leaves in the winter) to be more specific. Deciduous trees are your best friends.
They shade the room in the summer, and allow sun to shine through in the winter. What a great relationship you will have with trees, well placed near your conservatory. A note here, if you are not a tree expert, get some expert advice. You do not want softwood trees that easily lose branches in storms or winds. You do not want trees that make a big mess with seeds. You also want to make sure your tree is not ‘sappy’ or a tree that attracts insects that produce sap. Sound impossible? Not at all. Just get good advice.
Glass is rated by experts in two ways. Solar gain and heat gain. They are different entities. Without going into a deep discussion, what you want is to control heat gain, and that is with shading coefficient. We can get shading co-efficiency to a point where the glass can be 75% shading. This may cause a loss of visibility, so look at different glass options and decide what level of shading you want in the glass.
Well, you may call them shades too. We love the conservatory blinds that we use and we take great care to match them with your interior decor. Blinds have multiple functions. They do the obvious thing of shading out the sun, but in the winter, at night, they hold heat into the room. A great plus when its below zero like it has been for us so many times this winter. Consider automation. We can motorize the blinds so you can control them many ways. Sensors in the room can raise and lower them based on time of day, temperature in the room or sun intensity. We can also allow you to manually operate the blinds from your laptop whilst on a sunny beach in the Caribbean!
How do commercial greenhouses keep them cool? A simple thing: moving air. We like to move a lot of air through the conservatory. When it is 75 degrees outside and the conservatory has just hit 90, you can control the temperature by simply moving air. We call it air exchanges. If you exchange the air in the room 6 times in an hour, you should be what we call ‘ambient’.
Moving air is cheap. You notice I have not talked about air conditioning yet. That is the last option on my list. You can use roof vents with automatic louvers to open side windows and roof vents to create a chimney affect. Have a ceiling fan below pushing the air up to the roof. The natural movement of hot air is up, so let it go up, and get it out!
We also use attic fans that take the air from the conservatory, up high, and expel through the roof of the house or a soffit on the conservatory. This is a bit more complicated, so rely on your designer to get you through this one.
OK, now the air conditioner. I only use mine as a last resort. I think the mini-split is the way to go. Look into Mitusibishi or Fijitsju for a couple of great products that can cool a conservatory in no time. They just cost more to run.
So I read the internet, and I see many frustrated, unhappy people trying to cool their conservatory. You know why that happens? They bought from the wrong company. They bought from a company more interested in closing a sale than educating the buyer as to the many solar options they have and a conservatory design that meets their expectations.