Four Tips to a Cooler Conservatory this summer

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!

Greenhouse Technology

There is no better way to extend your living space than by adding a greenhouse or conservatory to your home. While at the same price point as any other home addition, the value of having such an unusually beautiful, functional room makes the return on investment a no-brainer.

But the financial benefits are the least of it. Homeowners appreciate the way their conservatory has enhanced the quality of their lives – there really is nothing like enjoying the snowfall from a cozy sofa. Folks who live in the coldest parts of the country are growing organic fruits and vegetables all year round. Not too shabby…

The other reason why homeowners love a conservatory is that they are crafted exactly to specification; no two are alike. One may be built entirely of glass while others feature stone knee walls and custom woodwork. And with the trend in greenhouses and conservatories rising, technology is catching up, making them attractive alternatives in the home renovation market.
These tech-savvy plant enthusiasts are opting for automated greenhouses that have climate control systems for managing the light and heat inside the greenhouse despite the weather conditions outside. Automated greenhouses use sensors to automatically adjust features such as lighting, temperature, and humidity depending on the needs of the plants. The homeowner can even set it up so that the system can be controlled from a laptop or an iPad.
Some of these modern features include:

Water Irrigation Systems
Drip irrigation, polyethylene tubing, sprinkler systems and reservoir systems offer efficient watering of your plants.

Energy-Efficient Glass
Insulated glass has a special low-emissive (Low-E) coating to allow sunlight to pass through but reflect excess heat. Installing skylights, windows and doors with this premium material is a little more costly upfront, but it’s natural ability to keep the space cool in the heat cuts electrical costs considerably.

Roof Vents and Automated Skylights
Roof lanterns and skylights that incorporate mechanical windows allow hot air to escape from the top of the structure. Electric roof vents with climate control and rain sensors can be installed to operate automatically and maintain a comfortable room temperature set on the thermostat. Rain sensors will override the climate control and close the roof vents if it detects rain.
Automated Blinds and Shades
Window treatments not only add to the decor of a conservatory, they are also very efficient at retaining warmth during the cold winter and reflecting the sun’s heat in the summer. Retractable screens allow the cool breeze into your home while keeping insects and environmental elements out.
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Hydroponic Systems
Hydroponic plants are grown indoors and without soil. Instead, they require a water-based, nutrient-rich solution that is delivered directly to the roots of the plant. Growing hydroponically is one of the earliest methods of gardening, and also one of the easiest.

The advancement in technology has enabled greenhouses to be practical and esthetically pleasing at the same time. A state-of-the-art greenhouse not only offers more convenient features for the owner but does so without negatively impacting the environment.

My Conservatory Soil Mix

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.

Spring Gardening: Tips from the Botanist

Gardening is good for the mind and the heart. It is a very therapeutic activity, and those with a conservatory or greenhouse are fortunate enough to be able to do it year round. Nothing adds more color and texture to your surroundings than plants and flowers, and in those cold, dreary months it almost feels like you’re living outdoors.
Now that spring is here once again, have you thought of what would you do with that vacant patch of soil outside of the conservatory? Spring is a great time for growing plants because the mild weather aids in their growth and development.

Here are some springs gardening tips to help you get started.

Prep your yard
Before you set up your garden, make sure that nothing would impede the growth of your plants. Remove any tree limbs that overhang structures and cut down last year’s perennial foliage. Take note offences, steps, and pathways that need to be repaired or replaced and be sure to refresh mulch in planting areas after soil warms.

Choose what to plant
After preparing your yard, the next step is to determine which plants you’d like to grow. Do you want to grow your own vegetables so you can have access to organic produce? Perhaps fresh flowers are your thing. Do some research on the spring flowers or vegetables you’d like to plant; this way, you’ll know exactly how to care for them and ensure their optimum growth and development.

Test the soil
Before you start planting, don’t forget to take a soil test to determine its pH or acidity levels. You can do this with the help of a home soil test kit. Be sure to take several tests to get an accurate reading. Depending on the result you’ll get, you can raise the soil’s pH level by adding dolomitic lime or lower it with elemental sulfur. If you’re unsure, a local nursery will be able to show you the products you’ll need.

Prepare new beds
Once the soil has the right pH level for the flowers or vegetables you want to plant, make sure to sod the soil and remove weeds and debris left by winter. Spread a four-inch layer of compost over the soil and cultivate it to a depth of 10 to 12 inches with a spading fork.

Plant!
When planting, experts recommend doing this task on a cool, cloudy day if possible. If you need to transplant container-grown plants, this should be done anytime except during midsummer when the heat is stifling.

Water your plants
Watering frequencies usually depend on where you live. For instance, if you are living in rocky and mountain areas where the soil is most likely to be fast-draining, you should water your plants more often.

Generally, you should start watering your spring plants sometime in mid-April, about once every seven to ten days. When the weather starts heating up, you should increase your watering frequencies to about once every five to seven days.

Outdoor Living without Insects

Retractable Screens to the Rescue

Motorized power screens offer sun and shade protection at your fingertips. Our screens are unique in the industry, made in the USA, and offer a perfect solution for the garage, patio and oversize doors and entryways. Invisible retractable screens tuck out of sight when not in use and with 11 colors to choose from plus custom colors they will seamlessly blend into your home’s décor. Retractable screens are the perfect rainsolution for keeping out bugs with the added bonus of not covering up your beautiful doors and still being able to enjoy your spectacular views.

Adding power to your patio shades and bug screens are the ultimate in convenience and elegance, with custom sizes big enough for your garage, patio and oversized entryways and doors, they are truly unique in the industry.

Learn more on Retractable and motorized screens here.

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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Five Things You Didn’t Know About Geothermal Heating and Cooling

Geothermal heating/cooling is one of the best ways to effectively cool or heat any given space because it uses the natural temperature variances of the earth to change the temperature in a certain area. While you may know that geothermal heating/cooling is beneficial, not everyone understands exactly why it is such an excellent technique.
Here are five things you might not know about geothermal heating/cooling.

1. Geothermal Heating/Cooling Systems are Safer
Since geothermal systems do not use any type of open flame or ignition process, they are often safer than traditional methods of heating or cooling. This is great for people who have pets or small children that they want to safeguard from dangerous heating or cooling systems.

2. Geothermal Systems are Less Expensive
Geothermal heating and cooling systems do not rely on traditional fossil fuels. By some estimates, they can be between 50 and 70% more efficient than more traditional forms of heating and cooling systems used in similar applications.

3. Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems are Environmentally Friendly
Using a geothermal system for heating and cooling can be very valuable for those who want to minimize their environmental footprint. These systems do not consume finite resources the way that heating and cooling systems that use electricity or gas do, which means they put much less strain on the environment.

4. Geothermal Systems Run Quietly
You are probably familiar with the loud humming and buzzing noises that most traditional heating and cooling systems emit. With geothermal systems, you can be confident that your system will not make loud noises, since they tend to run quieter than regular heating or cooling systems.

5. Geothermal Systems can be Consolidated
Some people who need both heating and cooling systems for a conservatory or greenhouse area have to go through the trouble of purchasing, installing, and maintaining two different systems for heating and cooling. With a geothermal system, you can heat and cool the desired area without having to invest money or time into setting up two different systems for each function.
Once you know the benefits of geothermal heating and cooling, it makes sense to look into your options for these kinds of systems in your greenhouse or conservatory area. If you are interested in a geothermal system for heating or cooling, make sure that you get in touch with a specialist that understands how they work and can give you the advice you need on getting a great geothermal system set up that satisfies your needs.

Winter Conservatory Maintenance Checklist

Winter weather brings some big challenges with it when it comes to keeping a conservatory-style roof in good condition. Winter ice and snow that builds up on roof windows or skylights can cause moisture damage to the wood parts of conservatories and rooftops. The weight of the snow and ice on the roof of a building, sometimes known as an ice dam, can also cause damage through sheer weight, especially if there are enough snow and ice to cause gutters to back up. When the snow and ice melt, moisture may damage the roof and condensation could seep inside the building through the windows.

To prevent this from happening, there are several steps that you can take. By following Winter Conservatory Maintenance Checklist for skylights and roof windows, you can minimize the impact of cold weather and prevent winter storms of ice and snow from wreaking havoc on your residential or commercial rooftop.

1. Repair Leaks. Even minor leaks that may not seem like a huge issue can be the first sign that the integrity of your roof or skylight has been compromised. If you see any kind of leaks or moisture building up inside of your home or building, it is a sign that the weather is impacting the integrity of the structure: you must repair the leak as soon as possible.

2. Keep Gutters Clear. Your home or conservatory’s gutters are critical for making sure that rain and melted ice can flow properly away from the building. If your gutters are backed up or clogged, rain and melting ice and snow can cause foundation damage to your home. Clear gutters will help make sure ice dams eventually melt safely off your roof or skylight.

3. Inspect Roof Window Seals. The seals around your roof windows are what determine whether or not moisture and snow enter the building. For this reason, it is important that your roof seals are strong enough to keep your building safe from ice and snow from melting down into your home or conservatory.

4. Keep Warm Air Flowing? Whether you have an ice dam built up on a home or other kind of building with space above the ceiling, it is important that warm air is allowed to move and does not become trapped right under the roof. This can cause snow and ice to melt, exacerbating the problems caused by an ice dam.

5. Remove Snow and Ice From the Roof. If it is feasible, another excellent solution for preventing damage to your roof during the winter is manually removing accumulations of ice and snow. This way, you will know for sure that the ice dam will not melt and cause moisture damage to your building.

6. Keep Paint and Varnish Fresh. All coatings of paint and varnish on your wood need to be in good condition to stop the wood on your roof or skylight from sustaining damage. If the wood gets compromised, ice and snow could leak into the building this way.

With the right steps taken and an understanding of the dangers of cold weather precipitation to conservatories, glass rooftops, and skylights, it is possible to protect your home or building from the elements by minimizing ice and snow damage.

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.

Growing Winter Crops

These days, people are more conscious than ever about what they’re eating. More and more people are opting to develop their own sources of fresh food that they can feed their families. Growing winter crops is a great option for people all around the country. Whether you live in Minnesota and you want to make the most out of the colder months of the year or you live in Florida and are interested in extending your growing season so that you have year-round crops, a greenhouse is a great way to make growing winter crops a reality.
Designing an indoor garden for growing winter crops is not all that different than growing an outdoor garden. You still have to consider the sunny areas, the shady areas, what to do about bugs, the temperatures that work best for your given crops, and whether or not you need to add light. Thinking about the following factors will get you on your way to growing winter crops in a greenhouse with success.

Plants
Plants that do well in cooler weather are a great choice for winter gardening. If the temperature in a greenhouse is below 50 degrees at night, you still have a warmer environment than you would outdoors in many parts of the country, offering a wide variety of plant choices. Flowering crops are the toughest to grow in winter, because they need additional light. If you would like to grow flowering plants, plan to provide supplemental light.
Leafy crops, such as kale, lettuce, and Swiss chard, are relatively easy to grow in winter. If you’re looking for additional food to grow, think about beets, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, turnips, garlic, radishes, onions, and Brussels sprouts. Many herbs also make great winter plants including parsley and cilantro.

The Right Soil
Always use sterile soil for your winter greenhouse garden. Never bring soil in from an outdoor garden because many insects are soil born. The last thing that you want is to ruin your winter crops by bringing in white flies or mealy bugs. It is also important to remember to make sure not to compact the soil and give your crops roots space for water and air circulation to ensure healthy growth.

Lighting
Every conservatory or greenhouse has its own lighting needs. How much shade do neighboring buildings and trees provide? Is your greenhouse oriented for more light in the morning or afternoon? What happens to the low sunlight during the winter? Be realistic about the lighting that you get so that you can provide adequate supplemental light sources. Even if you have great natural light, you will need some sort of additional light source to raise edible crops in your conservatory in the winter.
Blue spectrum light is ideal for leafy growth, such as lettuce. Red spectrum light is better for flowering plants, such as tomatoes. Keep in mind that plants need a minimum of six hours of darkness for respiration. As such, don’t leave plant lights on all night. Install a timer so that your plants get just the right amount of light.

If you’re ever in doubt about growing winter crops or any other aspect of gardening, talk to family members and friends who also garden or consult with your local nursery. Getting the advice that you need can save you hours of frustration.