Planning Ahead for Heating and Cooling Your Conservatory
Another homeowner concern that I read on the internet is that of temperature control in the conservatory.
Comments on Houzz often say “it’s beautiful but you will never afford to keep it warm in the winter” or “you will roast like a bug in an oven in the summer”
Funny thing, I never see that objection about a new Lexus or Mercedes! Couldn’t you say the same about them? Oh, but one thing, you assume the manufacturer has considered climate control in the vehicle, and you will always be comfortable.
I guess the ‘sunroom’ industry has deserved the bad rap it has earned. Too often, a sales guy, eager to close a ‘deal’ will do so with no consideration or discussion about climate.
That is a different company than Conservatory Craftsmen. Ask anyone who has worked with us. The discussions are long and detailed about how the conservatory is going to be used and what are the expectations of the homeowner.
Let’s start with the plants. When building a greenhouse, we assume all owners of a conservatory are going to grow some plants. Some people build the conservatory because they want to grow a serious crop of citrus and vegetables. Others want to enjoy sitting in the starlit evenings with the fragrance of Meyer Lemon filling the air. Either way, I have to make sure the humans and the plants can co-exist. Conservatory Craftsmen has been building conservatories in Minnesota for over 25 years. Does that say anything? We use these rooms 365, and my customers are happy.
A few rules to consider:
Plants never sleep. Keep a door between the house and the conservatory. In the winter, when it’s below zero, the conservatory should not be kept at 70 degrees while you are in bed sleeping. Plants respire at night, they have no sun so they change their activity from photosynthesis. They don’t want it to be 70 and dark. They grow long and leggy looking for the mythical sunshine that only lasts 8 hours in Minnesota.
- Thermostat. The temperature of your conservatory should be set 45 to 50 degrees at night.
- Heat Sinks. One of my customers has several ‘heat sinks’ going in their conservatory. Water columns hold heat and can be fun. Trombe walls and heat sinks all help to hold the day’s free heat into the night. This very customer is also a professor of engineering at the University of Minnesota. He keeps very close track of the energy consumption of the conservatory and tells me he has never spent more than $40 in any month of heating in Minnesota. My heating bill is more than that, but not crazy. We will spend as much as $250 in the winter to heat the entire home, conservatory and our hot water in the worst month of winter (ok, I admit, I have a heater in the garage set at 40 degrees too). That is less than many spend on just their homes.
- Insulation. I will honestly say, the high-tech insulation and thermal efficiency of our conservatories make them easy to heat in the winter. You should never say ‘it’s too cold to use the conservatory today’.
Cooling, however, requires discussion also. One cannot build a conservatory and expect to cool with air conditioning. That is not a responsible choice.
Here is how we manage summer climate.
Plant a tree. If you are on the south or west exposure, you need shade. The beauty of a shade tree is that it is a natural, free air conditioner that loses its leaves in the winter and provides plenty of sun and warmth that time of year.
Use efficient glass. There is a battle between plants and humans when it comes to glass. We will have that discussion when planning the room. However, we can achieve great things with the glass we use, so chat with us about high-efficiency glass.
Blinds. We offer blinds for sloped glazing. We have the best products in the world for conservatory roofs. Our blinds can be manually operated or they can be automated to work themselves when it becomes too hot or sunny.
Move air. Commercial greenhouses don’t air condition. They move air and lots of it. Chat with us about air movement and how we can help you design a system to exchange the air in the room all day long. In the winter, capture that air for your house, in the summer; exhaust that air to the outdoors.
So, you naysayers who scribe on the walls of Houzz speak not from the hip, but talk to us and you will enjoy your conservatory, and the weather, any day of the year.