Blinds and Shades for Your Conservatory or Greenhouse

The appeal of a conservatory is the flood of natural light that sweeps over the room. No other home addition can offer a space where plants grow, humans live and the surrounding landscape is brought indoors.

But sometimes the heat from the sun can cause room temperatures to skyrocket, making the room feel like a sauna. Conservatory roof and side blinds reflect the sun’s rays with a unique aluminum backing to provide the ultimate in heat reflection, each pleated blind whisking away the heat. They also provide year long comfort, because the pleated fabric is also efficient at retaining warmth during the cold winter evenings.

Conservatory blinds offer different levels of translucency to give you a choice of shading options, and turns the harsh glare of the sun into a soft, dappled light. Custom-made to ensure the perfect fit and ease of operation, even in the most complex conservatory window shapes can be fitted. The wide versatility of all our pleated blinds are ideal for conservatories, bi-fold doors, skylights, roof windows and patio doors. They are available as free hanging or tensioned inside the window beading.
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Our pleated conservatory roof and side blinds are available in a wide choice of colors to meet every taste and match every décor scheme. Duette Pleated Blinds are similar in appearance to classic pleated blinds, but have a double-layered honeycomb construction that provides a stylish, yet functional window covering with high insulation properties. This fabric layer is designed to deflect excessive heat during the summer, and provide insulation during the winter with a 60-80% thermal barrier.

Conservatory Craftsmen also offers Alu-Pleat® blinds, which is specifically designed to reflect heat. In fact, Faber Maunsell, a leading international environmental consultancy, put our exclusive Alu-Pleat® climate control fabric to the test. The findings show that on a typically hot day in July, the temperature in the conservatory peaked at a stifling 109 degrees Fahrenheit when no conservatory roof or side blinds were installed. With Appeal’s roof and side conservatory blinds in place, the peak temperature was reduced to 90 degrees.
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For homeowners looking for a more natural look, Pinoleum is crafted from the lightest quality reed, which minimizes the need for support wires in the roof. Consequently, using fewer wires gives the blinds a neater and more uniform appearance without sagging, while specially developed polyester stitching and acrylic edging also promotes longevity. Pinoleum blinds are complemented by a variety of operating systems, including pole, cord or remote controlled, for convenience and ease of use.

Conservatory blinds and shades create a relaxing ambience all year round and protects your plants and furniture by effectively controlling the room temperature and greatly reducing the harmful effect of the sun’s UV rays.

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Smart Home Automation

Today’s modern family loves to add space to the house in a manner that adds light to the house and does not reduce it like a standard room addition will. The conservatory in today’s world also allows families to grow healthy plants and crops for eating and seasoning.
However, it can be difficult to maintain the growing greenhouse conservatory in a busy life that takes mom and dad to work every day, kids to school, after school activities and soccer games on the weekend. Unfortunate, it only takes one bad day, and the plants in the greenhouse conservatory can be ruined by drought.
We have automated greenhouse conservatories for our customers so while they are at the soccer game, they can; open the windows, turn up the heat, water the plants, switch the lights on and close the blinds all from their smart phone or touch pad.

How does Smart Home Automation work?

Window Blinds. We offer comfy controls in all our window blinds that will raise and lower the blinds based on time of day, sun intensity or just plain want to show the neighbors! Smart home automation also allows us to watch this process on live video as it happens.

Windows. We automate the windows in your conservatory greenhouse by small 24 volt motors that open and close the windows on pre-set commands. Open when it’s sunny outside but hot in the room. Close again if it gets too chilly or if an air conditioner comes on. Even text or email the homeowner if the temperature gets too hot or too cold in the room.

Plants. A small solenoid valve turns on the water and small spaghetti-like tubes feed each plant individually. Worried that some plants get too much, others too little? Not a problem, small water emitters at the end of the tubing dictate .25 gallons per hour, all the way up to 2 gallons per hour.

Lighting. We have said before that winter gardening is not impossible, but some plants will require additional light. Many very low energy, highly efficient growing lights have come on the market thanks to the research and development done by manufacturers filling a market created by the marijuana industry. These lights will also be on timers and you can set them for maximum light, and an 8-hour dark period that all plants need each day. None of us do well without our 8 hours of sleep!

Hydroponics. Some of you may become a bit more adventurous and want to learn how to grow plants in hydroponics. Actually, you would be surprised to know that most of the marijuana grown for use in this country are grown without natural light. Hydroponic growth chambers fueled by artificial light are the norm. You may also be surprised to know that 21 million acres in the USA are now under a greenhouse growing your tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

With all this to think about, don’t forget the core reasons you considered that conservatory in the first place, your ‘cave’ to sink into at the end of a hard day, a cup of tea or a glass of wine, music that calms and soothes. All good reasons to add a room to your home unlike no other. Learn More.

The Best Choices for Conservatory Flooring

Traditionally, conservatories were built as a place to sit and relax in the sun, or grow exotic plants. Today’s conservatories, however, are used much more as a home addition and space for your family to use year round. With this in mind, Conservatory Craftsmen recommend flooring materials that not only complement the existing homes interior but that will also be able to handle the extreme temperature changes that occur in this sunroom.

We like to use a practical hard surface tile and within this group there are a there are many choices:

Ceramic tiles: These tiles are very durable, easy to maintain, and are a non-porous stone making them an excellent title to us in a conservatory kitchen. This option also offers a lot of versatile in design due to the variety of color, and size options. The material works well with in-floor heat and is cold to the touch so will work well in a hot south facing conservatories.

Porcelain tiles: The hardest man-made tile made from compacted clay, these tiles are water resistant and are maintenance free. This option is non-slip when wet and strong enough to face any elements.

Travertine: Most conservatory owners live in older or historic homes and that is what draws them to the vintage architecture. Travertine has an old-world feel, with scalloped edges and pitted surfaces; making travertine is a very cohesive decision. It is inherently porous so be sure to get your surface sealed!

Slate: Slate is a natural stone that is loved by gardeners for its natural organic feel. It comes in different colors and textures . They also have a cleft surface which makes clean up a bit cumbersome and will need to be sealed to protect them

Marble: Depending on the type selected it could pose a slip issue as marble is typically very slippery when wet. It is available in a variety of colors and has a vintage charm that other flooring just cannot replicate. It does mark and is damaged very easily from everyday acids found in lemons or orange juice.
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Other flooring options to consider are:

LVT: New on the market is Luxury Vinyl Tile. Looks like a ceramic but is actually a vinyl. LVT can be used with in-floor heat and can even be grouted! A variety of colors and styles, from slate to wood make this trend a practical, option.

Engineered Hardwood: Unlike regular hardwood, this wood can withstand heat and moisture with minimal movement. The wood is very strong and is good for high traffic areas such as a conservatory kitchen or playroom.

Cork: This choice provides excellent thermal benefits for your conservatory, it is fire and insect resistant, great for sound control and soft which makes it a top choice for a playroom. Cork flooring comes in a wide selection of colors and shapes and is considered to be a recycled material making it a great option for eco-friendly designs.

Your choice of the conservatory floor will play a key role in the interior design of your conservatory; let us help you find a suitable conservatory flooring that will suit your style and budget.

Conservatory Windows and Glass Efficiency

Over the years, I have made a point of visiting conservatories in every city and country to which I have had the privilege to travel. My fascination with green spaces under glass began as a child in St. Paul, MN where I would make frequent trips to Como Park (now Marjorie McNeely) Conservatory in St. Paul. Built about 100 years ago and a terrific specimen of Victorian conservatory design, it is far from ‘old’ in the world of conservatories.

Given the fact that people have long been fond of natural light during inclement weather, the smell of plants and soil, do you think this trend will come to a halt because we have developed more efficient ways to grow plants? Hardly.

Today’s conservatory is already the conservatory of the future. Designed and modeled after traditional conservatories built by craftsmen over the last 100 years, they are married with the implementation of new and exciting innovations to make them energy efficient and productive. Let’s explore ways in which this has happened.

Window Glass

Once the prize of any building, today’s glass is a technical achievement far beyond the expectation of our forefathers. Have you ever been to London and gazed at old buildings and noticed where windows may have been, to be bricked over with a none-too-well matching brick? Do you think this is the result of a remodeling project that changed the need for a window? Not likely. British homes are already dark enough.

At one time, when wood was needed in Great Britain to fashion boats and maintain world trade, glass makers were using wood to fire kilns and make glass. Hence, the government put a tax on glass (also known as the ‘Glass Tax’), and your property was taxed by the number of windows you had! Times changed and so did glass manufacturing. Remember ‘hauling coal to Newcastle’? When coal was discovered in abundance in England, glass manufacturing methods changed and the tax was eventually repealed.
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A celebration of glass took place. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, the Crystal Palace of 1848 had over 18 acres of glass. I have personally visited homes in Great Britain with conservatories over 150 years old. Glazing methods improved greatly over the years. Although most cities in the USA had public conservatories at one time, the structures had a bit too much wood that contacted poorly glazed glass and the structures failed. Cities faced with the high costs of restoring their conservatories simply took them down and scrapped the metal.

Modern Conservatory Windows

Today, conservatories are built with highly efficient glass. The insulated glass panel became popular in the 1960’s and has developed ever since. Our glass has highly efficient coatings and films that change the infrared and ultraviolet waves of light and produces incredibly efficient glass. Most glass today is more energy efficient that the walls of the home you grew up in.

Shedding Some Light on Adding a Skylight to Your Home

Is there a room in your home that is a bit gloomy? That no amount of creative lighting or a cheerful paint colors will brighten up? You need a skylight!

A skylight is basically a window in your roof which offers both natural light and ventilation to make otherwise dark and dingy rooms bright and inviting. Skylights are perfect for bathrooms and kitchens as these rooms often only have limited wall space to install regular windows, and also provide excellent privacy for the homeowner.

There are three major advantages to adding a skylight to your home as oppose to a regular window:

  • Add Natural Light. Unlike windows in walls, skylights directly face the sky. Windows on walls usually have indirect access to sunlight, and so the sunlight entering is usually reflected from buildings, trees, fences and the ground
  • Energy Efficiency. Skylights will save you money on electricity as the abundance of natural light streaming through will decrease the need to turn lights on during the day.
  • Architectural Detail. Skylights can be cut into different shapes and sizes, and are designed to fit seamlessly into the roofscape

Ok, so we’ve decided a skylight is the way to go. Now what? When researching how a skylight could fit into your home, it is important to consider the location and the position. If you choose to face the skylight towards south or west, (i.e. in the direct sunlight), you are sure to have a sun filled room all day long. Plan on purchasing blinds or shades to help adjust the amount of light entering and keep the room from overheating in the summer. North facing skylights will give you soft, subtle sunlight throughout the day.

While skylights as we know them are considered to be a fairly modern architectural detail, the concept can be traced back to the Ancient Roman, where the most wonderful example can be found in the Pantheon dome. The oculus at the top of the dome provides the inside with light during the day and acts as a cooling and ventilation system for the hot Roman summer.

The next generation of skylights were constructed by steel, which eventually degraded over time and used single pane, wired glass for safety. Today’s modern skylights are made from powder coated, thermally broken aluminum which will weather exposure to the elements, and use energy efficient, insulated glass which is tempered or laminated for safety. Often, this glass has special low-emissive (Low-E) coating which allows sunlight to pass through and reflects excess heat, providing a cooler, energy efficient home.

So, think about adding a skylight to your home. As well as adding a beautiful design feature to your home, skylights add natural light and reduce your carbon footprint.

Greenhouse or Conservatory: What’s the Difference?

We are often asked about the differences between our conservatory designs. There are many words associated with a glass-enclosed room including conservatories, greenhouses, orangeries, sunrooms, and enclosed porches.

While all of these terms are related, it is important for a homeowner to identify how they would like to utilize the space. Typically, a conservatory is a glass-enclosed living space for people in which plants exist. A greenhouse is a more rugged structure, a place that plants can nurture and grow and people visit.

Orangeries originated in the Victorian era when British aristocrats wanted to grow the mysterious fruits and vegetables that tradesmen brought with them from their countries. In the winter, the trees would be brought inside the warm enclosure while still having access to the natural sunlight. In the summers, the doors would be pulled open and the trees would be rolled outside, leaving a stunning entertainment space for the wealthy to enjoy. They are most similar to the modern hybrid, a greenhouse conservatory, which performs the functions of growing plants but most importantly looks beautiful and becomes a living space for playing, dining or relaxing. It also becomes an asset to the property that will add value to the home.

So, is it a greenhouse or conservatory? Let’s discuss the similarities between the two:

  • All are glass structures
  • All provide an ideal location for plants to grow
  • All can be attached to your house (but greenhouses seldom are)
  • All have the ability to be designed using solar energy to be environmentally sound
  • All can be customized with Conservatory Accessories to add style and design intrigue

Features of A Conservatory

  • Crafted of eco-friendly materials, such as mahogany or sustainable aluminum
  • Incorporates many automatic components without detracting from the visual appearance
  • Used mainly as a living space, but still integrates plants into its design
  • Interior décor includes conservatory furniture and accessories

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Features of A Greenhouse

  • Built economically, using some automatic conveniences
  • From the exterior, the greenhouse will appear to be quite utilitarian
  • Crafted to meet climatic and environmental needs

Greenhouses are an ideal place to grow out-of-season fruits and vegetables in cold weather. Americans today are more health conscious and choose to live and eat more organic food. As horticulturalist, we praise the effort of sustainable, local food. Greenhouses are an emerging market as our clients are looking for a place to grow and enjoy plants, grow winter edibles, and start their own plants for spring and summer gardens.

4 Tips on Keeping A Conservatory Cool

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:

Exposure

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

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.

Blinds

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!

Mechanics

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.

Five “No-Fail” Tricks For Cleaning Glass Ceilings

Most people want to ask that question because it crosses your mind at one point or another. I am a bit of a glass fanatic myself. Having been in this industry for 25 years, I like my glass clean and do not feel good about seeing dirty glass.

Here are a few ‘tricks’ to take care of the glass ceiling in a conservatory and keep it looking good.

 

Viewing autumn through the roof of a 5 bay Conservatory Craftsmen

First trick: not something I thought of. Something the clever Victorians thought of. That lovely cresting that we put on top of the roof? Well it’s not just a decoration. It keeps the birds off the roof, and it does work! The birds do not like to sit on the fleur-de-lis design and if they are not on the roof, you have fewer annoying bird droppings

Second trick: self-cleaning glass! There actually is a readily available glass option surface that is self-cleaning.
Self cleaning glass is a bit like a permanent Rain-ex coating on the glass. You know, Rain-ex? The stuff you clean your windshield so that glass beads up and rolls off. It does this by establishing a surface ‘grain’ to the glass that all sheds one way. In addition to this coating, there is a chemical put into the coating that actually reacts with organic material to dissolve it to dust and it blows or washes away. So, every time it rains, or you squirt the roof with a hose, it cleans the roof.

As you can well imagine, self-cleaning glass is expensive. Not only from the perspective of the manufacturing of the glass, but also the handling of the glass. We can only handle the glass with special gloves on and we cannot touch the glass. When hoisting a 120 pound unit of glass to your roof, that becomes a challenge!
In conclusion, let me just say, it does work.

Third trick: tools. The great tools used by professional glass cleaners are not expensive. Go to www.jracenstein.com. That is where I go to buy poles, squeegees, cleaner, etc. You will find a whole lot of cool stuff to use that you don’t find at the store. I love their products for getting the film off the shower glass.

Fourth trick: see my blog on The Art of Washing Windows The Norwex rag set is the easiest thing you will ever use in the whole house for quickly and thoroughly cleaning glass…everywhere in the house.
I honestly clean the inside ‘ceiling’ of the conservatory once a year. It does not really need more. The exterior, the rain usually takes care of, but when I want it really clean (I love spring) then its time to get out the garden hose and go at it.

Fifth trick: many people hire a service to clean the glass. Our conservatory roofs are stronger than many other companies, and we can put ‘one, two, three men’ on one piece of roof glass. Why not four? Well, if we fit, we could! So if your glass cleaner has a ‘cup’ a sucker cup as the British call them, they can stand on any roof we make.

Make sure not to use abrasive materials to clean glass. Kitchen scrubbers can scratch glass in a jiffy and are not to be used on your glass. Please do your homework before using scrubbers on the glass.

If you have mild lime stains on the glass, try some vinegar and if that does not do it, go to J Racenstein for tools and cleaners that will clean lime stains from any glass you have.

I enjoy cleaning glass, but I understand that most people do not. I hope these few thoughts will give you the courage to take on the roof and keep it as clean as the day we leave the job.

Happy cleaning!

Fairy Gardens: A Conservatory Lover’s Obsession

img_0381The driving passion of most conservatory owners (or those who are dreaming of owning one) is their tropical plants. Be these orchids, fruits, herbs, flowering or herbaceous, a plant lover will put an entire addition onto her house just to spend winter with these joyful green friends. We are no different except my family has picked up a new obsession over the last year, fairy gardens. This is the hottest new gardening trend and the little people in my life are looking somewhere to ‘winter’ their fairies. The conservatory is the obvious answer to them. My beloved grandchildren now beg to join me in a trip to the garden center to look, observe and gather ideas to take home.

This is the original fairy garden from early spring. The pot seemed too confined for children’s imagination. The fairy gardens began to go ‘rogue’!

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Over the summer, fairy gardens were appearing literately everywhere. Watching the children use their imaginations and become exposed to the world of plants is priceless to this plant lover.

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Awake your inner Fairy! Tinkerbell is not dead! Plan your conservatory and decorate for Thanksgiving and Christmas in this miniature home for the fairy and gnome! Hundreds of photos are now online, every garden center has plenty of options to choose from and I guarantee, the wee ones will start to enjoy gardening as much as you do.

Winter in the Conservatory

img_2955I am often asked, ‘How do you heat your conservatory?’ Living in Minnesota, and having also built conservatories for over 20 years, we have learned a few things.

First of all, conservatories are easier to heat than they are too cool. What are your expectations for heat in winter in the conservatory? We use our conservatory in the evenings while we read a book, tussle with grandkids or I practice my Hammond B3.

If the sun is out, and winter in Minnesota affords a lot of sunny days, the room has heated itself to the low 90’s during the day. We gather the warm air near the ceiling of the conservatory and power vent this into the house to supplement the heating needs of the house.

I run a humidifier constantly, mostly for the sake of the plants, as humidity drops to 15% when the thermostat hits 90! As the temperature creeps down and the sun dips to the west, the humidity begins to rise again. By sunset, the humidity is back up to near 40%.

We installed hydraulic pipes on the floor when we built the conservatory and those pipes are hooked up to a manifold run by our small boiler. The Navien boiler also heats the water in the house and the floor in the company office. Warm feet in the winter are a real treat!

Now the real fact is, the temperature will often plummet on a Minnesota winter to well below zero. Does the conservatory stay near 70 degrees with just in-floor heating when it’s below zero outside? No, it does not. We either wrap in a blanket and enjoy watching the winter moon travel across the bright winter sky, or we turn on a small supplemental heater to keep the temperature up.

So, if your expectation is 70 degrees any time, any day, then plan on a secondary source of heat. Or keep the plants healthy with a lower temperature, high humidity and you will be much healthier.

Paula, whom we have spoken about before in the blog, grows her food crops in her winter conservatory. Her husband Marc, an engineer, keeps very close track of the energy used by the conservatory and his claim is that over the last 3 years, he has never spent more than $40 in any month heating his conservatory.