Conservatory Building: 5 Decisions to Make Before You Begin

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The materials, the style and many other factors of building a conservatory can help or hurt the environment.

Conservatory Construction Techniques Can Fight Global Climate Change

The natural resources of the world, though abundant, are being threatened by climate change and global warming. As a result, people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint; how much energy we consume, the environmental factors in which their food is grown, and how to incorporate it all into our everyday life. A conservatory or greenhouse is where lifestyle meets practicality and sustainability.

When planning a home renovation, consider a conservatory or greenhouse. Traditional orangeries that originally functioned only as a place to grow plants and flowers have evolved into truly unique spaces in which to live. Conservatories and greenhouses are as custom as any other room addition; specialty muntins, hand woodworked details and stained glass makes each crystal palace one of a kind. Temperature control features keep the room comfortably tempered, without adding to electricity bills.

Read the guide below for the five decisions to make before you begin building a conservatory, or any home extension:

1. Know your goals.
Before anything else, you need to determine what you’re using the space for. Understand the size your property can accommodate, and how the design will work with the existing structure of the home.

2. Create a plan.
Now that you know what you want and what purpose the addition is for, you need to map out your plan. Communicate openly and regularly with your builder; make sure that all payment installments are in writing, and that expectation is set in terms of time to completion.

3. Set up a budget.
In setting up a budget, make sure it is realistic and within your means. This is a complicated process as the budget can restrict the whole process. Get quotes from several trusted contractors and understand the cost of labor in relation to the cost of materials.

4. Hire the right people.
Ask for as many references and feedback as you can before handing over any deposits. Check for negative feedback and complaints as well as certifications. Your choice will depend on your goals and budget, but there should be a long line of clients willing to offer a recommendation.

5. Prepare for inconveniences.
Because you hired the right people, this step, in theory, should be unnecessary. But the reality is that big projects with many details can run into unforeseen issues. Make sure to set aside a few extra dollars for unexpected problems.

Solar Savings: 5 Ways to Conserve Energy in Your Home

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As energy costs continue to rise and environmental concerns grow, it helps to start thinking about ways on how you can minimize your home’s daily energy consumption.
There are now ways for you to conserve and offset the amount of non-renewable energy your household uses on a daily basis.
There are also ways for you to generate your own electricity so you won’t have to be entirely dependent on the power grid. Here are five ways to conserve energy in your home.

1. Harness the power of the sun.
One way to reduce your daily power consumption is to use solar power as an alternative source of energy. Among alternative and renewable sources of energy, solar is one of the most popular and easily accessible. To harness the power of the sun, photovoltaic solar panels store a bit of excess energy on a rainy day. While function is paramount, homeowners are incorporating them to work with the overall design of the home.Using solar power has numerous benefits. Not only does it help you minimize your daily power consumption, it also allows you to save money on utility bills. It also lets you qualify for tax incentives because solar power enables you to reduce your carbon footprint.

2. Use screens or blinds
Instead of turning up the air conditioning, consider installing shades or blinds in your windows. Shades and blinds, which can be automated for ease of operation, reflect solar heat away from your house on a hot day. In the winter months, that same technology retains heat. Instant climate controls without the high costs.

3. Take advantage of geothermal heating and cooling
Using geothermal heating and cooling is another way to conserve energy in your home and reduce your electricity costs. This system relies on a pump to circulate water through underground pipes. Through the Earth’s natural temperature, your water supply will be naturally cooled in summer and heated in winter.

4. Utilize passive solar heating
Passive solar heating is the benefit of southern facing windows, which capture the heat and sunlight all year round. This heat is distributed in the rooms nearby, therefore reducing your daily energy consumption. If your conservatory or greenhouse is built on the south side of the home, planting trees outside will offer shade in the summer. In the winter when the leaves fall, the sun will be able to reach the windows and the heat will be trapped inside.

5. Switch off and unplug electronic appliances that are not in use
Perhaps the simplest and the easiest way to conserve energy in your home are to switch off and unplug all household appliances when they are not in use. As long as they are plugged in, electronic devices will continue to consume electricity even if they are in standby mode. Unplugging home appliances and electronic devices as a habit will reduce your daily power consumption.

The Case of the Homeless Lemon

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This lemon needed a conservatory home built for it in Atlanta, GA.

The “Homeless” Meyer Lemon

I received a call from a lady with a slight southern charm to her voice, right after Christmas.

She said, she needed a conservatory and was coming to see me, ON NEW YEAR’S DAY!

Well she showed up, Meyer lemon in hand and declared that this lemon “needed a home.”

As it turned out, a recent storm had removed a huge beech tree from her back yard, and it was time for a ‘do over’ of the back yard.

Coupled with the fact that she had just bought a Tesla and had no place to charge the vehicle, a garage was also on the list.

She had studied and planned for quite a while and was clear what she wanted to have.

A conservatory to her was a place to grow many varieties of plants for great joy and healthy eating.

She grows herbs and other edibles and wanted access to them all year round. In addition to growing plants, she also wanted to be able to spend serious time in the conservatory, enjoying the Atlanta seasons and even sleeping in her room as well.

Carol commissioned CC to build a conservatory to house her Meyer Lemon tree.

Jim and Our New Friend, Carol

I first visited her when the construction of the garage was first breaking ground. She had a great contractor named Wes who looked after her every detail.

We had come up with a plan for the conservatory that was a bit of a cruciform with a linkway to the garage, as there was a second floor to the garage plan (a bit of an apartment) and it had a window we could not remove. Solution? A linkway from the garage to the conservatory.

We also designed a lantern roof for the second elevation of the roof to gain a lot of height, for tall plants and trees.

She invited me to stay as a guest at her house and we got started early every day, laying out and planning the room.

Her Tesla was being charged from a cord that extended from the driveway into the laundry area, where she unplugged her dryer to charge up the car! She was so very eager to get the project to a point where she could park in the garage and charge her cool car.

The landscape garden was laid out and the room was designed to fit as a feature in the garden.

We did the pre-manufacture of the room and shipped it and our crew to site. On site we assembled the steel portal frame (for the lantern roof) and began to build the conservatory.

Local stone masons were on hand building the stone knee walls and work progressed along in a wonderful fashion.

Jim and Mary, the great neighbors next door, put up the crew for the 10 days we were there and everyone got to work and relax with one another. Truly a unique experience.

We completed the Conservatory and left Carol to fill in the blanks with her many orphan plants from the patio and the house.

An arial shot of the completed conservatory complete with the hanging bed she had envisioned.

Completed Conservatory with “Tingling” Bed

Her conservatory was designed and built to serve many functions.

The Conservatory’s Hanging “Tingling” Bed

She then began a plan. She wanted a work table to hang in the middle of the room, but she also wanted this work table to transform into a bed, so she had a place to stay on the beautiful Atlanta star lit nights.
She called it a Tingling Bed but it is a wonderful creation that doubles as a work table and a comfy sleeping quarters for a truly remarkable lady from the south who is as smart and gracious as any Southern Lady could be.

Historic White House Conservatories

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Would you believe the White House probably had the most historic US Conservatory you have never heard of? The conservatories of the West Wing, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

white-house-conservatoryPres. Buchanan was the first to add a wooden greenhouse on the roof of the west terrace in 1857, adjacent to the State Dining Room. One could enter a private world of plants and flowers grown for decorating the entire White House. The flowers grown in this conservatory provided for one of the most elaborate White House weddings in history. Nellie Grant, the daughter of Ulysses S. Grant, had the entire East Room covered in flowers. The crown which she wore upon her head was made of orchids from the conservatory as well. Unfortunately,the structure burned in 1867 and was replaced by iron and wood structure twice as large as the earlier one. They were most fortunate the entire building did not burn at that time.

In the 1870s and 1880s additional conservatories were added to the exterior of the White House, including rose houses, a camellia house, orchid houses and a house for bedding plants. One was removed to add the West Wing by Teddy Roosevelt, the other was removed for no apparent reason that we can find. However, in their day, these structures were used to grow all the produce and flowers that graced the White House — all year long.
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Mrs. McKinley loved to celebrate the holidays in the White House Conservatory, as evidenced by stereoscope photos she used for her Christmas Cards. Abraham Lincoln grew lemons in the White House Conservatory and gave them as gifts. On his last day, he met a foreign ambassador in the conservatory, peeled an orange and ate it while offering another to his guest.

A conservatory on the White House has its place in history when our Nation had an abiding appreciation for the very objectives you are achieving through your garden — the growth of fresh nutritious foods.

Today’s conservatories easily meet the green building standards President Obama is so committed to. In many of the structures we build, we use solar glass that collects Solar Power, produces electricity and are completely self-sufficient. Imagine a year round garden room that literally costs nothing to operate and extends your passion for healthy, nutritious food to year round.

What the White House is now missing, you can have for your own. Call us and we will help you fulfill your dream.

Water and Lighting in a Greenhouse

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Water and light are crucial to enjoying a thriving greenhouse. Here are a few helpful tips for installing drip irrigation and some advice on the best lighting for a greenhouse.

Water and light are essential to plants, and in a greenhouse you’ll have to provide both. There are several different watering methods to choose from: hand watering, capillary mats that bring water up from below, overhead watering, and drip irrigation that delivers water directly into each pot.

ts-200391680-001_vines-growing-in-greenhouse_s3x4A drip irrigation system is easy to lay out and is very cost-effective. It delivers small amounts of water over long periods of time, so plants stay uniformly moist. Installation is fairly simple:

Be sure the mainline that carries water into the greenhouse is sunk underground at least four feet, which is below the frost line, to make sure the water in the line doesn’t freeze.

Use a 3/4-inch poly pipe as the water supply line. Position it to run down the length of the bench.
From the main line, connect lateral lines to run between pots.

Set the system on a timer to ensure regular watering.

Once the water system is in place, you’ll need to address any lighting needs. Although fluorescent lights are popular, they help the gardener more than the plants. This type of lighting is good to work by, but plants need more light, especially in northern regions.

A high-pressure sodium bulb does a better job of simulating sunlight to stimulate plant growth. A 125-watt bulb gives off plenty of light when hung at least three feet above plants or seeds. This is a good distance to avoid heat burn.

Grow lights help to lighten shady spots and propagation areas in the greenhouse. What you are germinating or propagating determines how long you need to leave the lights on, usually an average of 12 to 16 hours each day. If you are growing tropical plants, you may need to set up grow lights if the plants don’t get at least eight hours of sun each day.

Four Tips to a Cooler Conservatory this summer

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I have been building Conservatories for over 25 years I often hear (right after “how do I heat it?”) is how do I keep a glass room cool in the summer? Fear not, Conservatory Craftsmen doesn’t just build your structure and leave. We work with you during every step tackling all aspects of the design phase to create a suitable glass enclosure for your unique lifestyle.

Here are some design elements we consider when designing your conservatory and how to keep it cool and comfortable for people and plants!

1. Nature
Planting large trees on your property that will shade your room and keep the sun’s hot rays from pouring through the windows. You can also decorate the inside of your room with interior large tropical plants; these love the summer sun and again will work well on shading the interior.

2. Independent Cooling/Heating
A small air conditioner unit placed in the knee wall works great and maintains the temperature in most conservatories. Some companies make units that heat and cool, which is a great option if you also need something to help with the temperature during the winter.

3. The Right Glass
All glass allows sunlight to enter and heat to be trapped. However, there is much that we can do to address that. We add filters, films and tints to the glass to reduce the effects of the sun. The market has many glass options and we offer any glass of any kind made.
Keep in mind, there is a difference between light and heat. Knowing your particular situation, the exposure of the conservatory and the expectations of you, the owner, allows us to create the best glass for all issues.
We are not a ‘one glass fits all’ company

4. Blinds and Shades
Conservatory Craftsmen offers many varieties of window shades that will assist in blocking out the sun when you need them to. Not only will properly positioned window treatments help control heat gain or loss; they will also help with privacy. We even offer window shades that will reflect the sun!

Grow it in a Greenhouse!

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Over 21 million acres in the United States are now covered in greenhouses, growing fruits and vegetables. I’m old, and constantly reminded of that fact by the team at Conservatory Craftsmen, but I remember a time when going to the store, you bought fruits and vegetables that were ‘in season’ and if you wanted a particular fruit or vegetable out of season, you canned or froze it. In today’s America, the consumer goes to the store and wants what they want, when they want it and in order to provide for this market, advances were made in plant research and facilities, massive, commercial greenhouses have sprung up all over the country growing, well, you name it!

Today, at Conservatory Craftsmen, most of my inquiries are from people who have visions of building a glass room and benefiting from fresh herbs and vegetables. Some plants are easy to grow and some take a bit more experience, but it is fun and rewarding.

Where do you start?
Well, call us, of course. We are not just designers and builders of specialty glass spaces, we are also horticulturalists who love to design ‘environments’ not just spaces. Once you have your conservatory/greenhouse, plan your indoor garden. Since we live in our conservatory as well, we want the plants to co-habitat with us in our environment. We both give a little to make this happen. The plants get some room and we get the chair! However, in the winter time when my Fogger/humidifier is going, this is the healthiest room in the house!

Be creative.
Incorporate plants into planters, and pots. Hang vines, grow trees, have fun with this!

Plants need sleep too!
Remember, your plants need 8 hours of darkness each day, so give them a break. Leaving the light on all night does not help.
Here are some things to think about: If the plant is leafy (lettuce) you can usually grow it with little additional assistance. However, if the plant fruits (tomato), it needs additional light. I use a Sun System light on a timer. You can shop lights and get great light source with little heat and power.

greenhouse3Water.
This is an easy one. The irrigation section at your favorite home improvement store with sell you timers, valves, drip tubing. However, go on line and get a bit more sophisticated. You can buy small emitters that regulate the amount of water going into the plant. .5gph up to 2gph are typical.

Glass.
We can design any kind of glass today with any goal in mind. Glass is not glass anymore. You have to know your glass for maximum effectiveness. Talk to us about what you are trying to achieve, and we will design the glass to best hit your goal.

Blinds.
Believe it or not, your plants are more likely to have too much light than not enough. To regulate the amount and the quality of the light, we offer ceiling blinds that go up and down based on the time of day, or the intensity of the sunlight.

Think small.
Only two of you in the house? I take an 18” x 4” planter and each week, I plant a new one with my tossed salad. No one can eat all the lettuce the come ripe at once, so I stagger it out in salad planters and remember, plant one each week, up to 6 weeks going, depending on what you plant.

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We partner with Logees.com on many plant orders. They offer the best variety of edible plants you will find today. You can grow lemons, limes, oranges, avocados, you name it. Some of these trees are going to take a while to fruit, but start today! If you are in a rush, there are many companies that will provide more mature trees for your conservatory, they just cost more.

So what is the future of this business?
Well, we all want to eat, right? And it is likely that our food is not going to get more healthy that that which you grow on your own. NASA is experimenting and developing many new soilless methods for growing edible plants for the Space Station and space travel in the future. We offer glass that will generate its own electricity and will power your greenhouse accessories. Tesla is now developing a battery that they will rent to you on a monthly fee and it will store the electricity you produce from your solar glass, to be used at night when you really need it.
Plants you will have fun with:intallations-greenhouse

  • Meyer lemon (always a favorite)
  • passion fruit
  • limes
  • avocados (not the ones your start from your store bought! They do not produce)
  • olives
  • coffee
  • figs
  • bananas (if we build a really big room for you!)
  • mandarin orange

We also grow: tea, vanilla, curry, allspice, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions, shallots (if you eat it, we can grow it!)

My Conservatory Soil Mix

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There are times when my family thinks I am entirely nuts and they just go off to do their own thing until I am done. This is one of those times. A conservatory in the spring can be an intense place to start your garden for the year. I have about 45 flats of flowers and vegetables going in the conservatory, for outdoor planting when the weather is right.

Keep in mind, I raise bees in the backyard, and also am a huge supporter of Monarch butterfly revival, so I plant a garden that is compatible to all three of us: bees, butterflies and me!

Zinnia is a huge fan with all three of us and so easy to grow. I have Tudor for the tall and also planted shorter varieties like double white double cherry. All the good guys like Heliotrope, Impatiens, Four O’clock, salvia, more perennials like Monarda Last fall, I collected milk week and put it in a jar in the garage over the winter. I put raw sand in the jar this spring and shook it up. This removed the seed from the cotton and scarifying the seed. Great germination.

Do you know that monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed? I am planting a lot. And the rest are all our favorite vegetables, which I am anxious to enjoy.

But first the soil: I have been following a site that endorses the hydrophilic properties of diapers to improve basic things, like potting soil! I admit I was embarrassed to buy Depends at the store, so I ordered a case on Amazon. When it arrived, I was so happy and that is when the family decided they had errands to run. I raced to the garage with a utility knife and cut open all the ‘nappies’ and put the stuffing into my Homer (Home Depot bucket if you are new to the planet).
From there, my trusty cordless drill hooked up to my paint mixer and the stuffing turned to fuzz. My soil selection is a good potting soil in a bag but avoid the soils with coconut and other additives. I tried them, fruit flies love it. Add a slow release fertilizer.

I went to Gerten’s, a local garden center, but you can use Osmocote. Three bags of potting soil, 3 pounds of slow-release fertilizer, 1 case of diaper stuffing and hit it with the paint mixer. Voila! Best soil mix ever. The diaper mix holds 400 times its weight in water; the fertilizer will be there for the roots when it’s needed.

Take a look at the image above, this is a 4-day old cucumber from seed. How much fun is that!

Winter Living in Your Conservatory

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Whatever type of glass enclosure you want to build, you may feel like it won’t be as effective a living space in the winter because of the temperature outside. This is actually a misconception; with the right kind of design and execution, winter living in your conservatory is very possible, even if you reside in a very cold part of the world. There are a few important elements to know about winter living in your conservatory so that you can design it in a way that makes it comfortable to be in during the winter months.

Picking the Right Glass

One of the most important elements of winter living in your conservatory is making sure that you pick the right type of glass for the structure. Photovoltaic glass (PV) absorbs and reflects the infrared light from the sun so unwanted heat is reflected in the hot summer and retained in the winter. It is important that you have glass that does not bring in an excessive amount of heat in the summer time, yet still brings in a sufficient amount of heat to the conservatory in the winter when you need a warmer conservatory.

Incorporating Elements of the Outdoors

When the mercury drops and it gets too cold to go outside, a conservatory can be a great place to be since people often feel like they are very connected to nature because of the many windows out of which they can see the world. You can make your conservatory even more connected to the outdoors during the winter by adding plants, trees, and other natural elements that you can enjoy when it is too cold to be outside.
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Picking the Right Builder

One of the most critical issues relating to building a conservatory that is suitable for living in the winter is finding a builder that you can depend on. Remember to take your time and speak at length to prospective builders about what you are looking for; this way, you can determine very quickly whether or not they will be able to get the job done. A quality builder should have experience with the kind of conservatory project you want to build, as well as glowing reviews from previous clients.

Winter living in a conservatory is very possible; however, it does require proper design. Plan your conservatory carefully, pick the right materials, and choose a reliable team of builders so that your conservatory is suitable during all months of the year.

Greenhouses of the Future

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Greenhouses are important for facilitating plant life in a variety of settings: whether they are residential or commercial in nature, the most advanced greenhouses of today are the ones that have sophisticated features that improve their energy efficiency, optimize their ability to grow plants, and create less work for their owners. Here are some of the most exciting technological advances in greenhouses of both today and tomorrow.

Advanced Greenhouses with Climate Control
Many of today’s most sophisticated greenhouses are built with systems that allow people to monitor the temperature of their greenhouse even while they are away from it, using an application on their smartphone or laptop. These applications often have controls that allow the user to increase or decrease the temperature in the greenhouse by activating a climate control system or opening vents in the greenhouse. In some cases, automated greenhouses can be set up, where there are temperature sensors that can detect when the greenhouse reaches a certain temperature and then automatically make the necessary adjustments.

Rain Sensors and Watering Systems
Some rain sensors are also set up to make sure that a greenhouse does not fall victim to flooding as a result of heavy precipitation in the area. These sensors can detect when the rain begins to fall and will automatically close vents, doors, and windows to a greenhouse to ensure that the plants and equipment inside are not ruined with water damage.
Automated watering systems are also valuable because they know exactly how much water your plant life needs to grow and stay healthy. Irrigation systems have been popular in greenhouses for many years: some predictions indicate that as standards for water use and runoff get tighter, more and more greenhouses will use automated watering systems.
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Energy Efficiency in Greenhouses
Some of the major technological advances in greenhouses are the ones that make them more energy efficient. One great example of this type of technology is a geothermal heating pump, which can be used as a way to either heat up or cool down your greenhouse using the ground as a source for warmth or a way to absorb it, depending on what the weather is like outside.
Another major way that technological advances in greenhouses are becoming more energy efficient is through the use of solar energy. Solar energy is a quickly-growing source of power in the United States: did you know that according to the government, solar capacity in the U.S. has grown by 400% since 2010? Many people are adding solar panels to their greenhouses, to help cut down on the amount of traditional fuel that is used by the technology that supports the greenhouse.

It is an exciting time to be someone who is interested in greenhouses, whether you work with them in a professional capacity or you are simply a hobbyist who wants to have a sophisticated greenhouse around or attached to your home. Technological advances in greenhouses can help you ensure that your own greenhouse is doing what it needs to do with a minimal