Some days in Minnesota the word cold just doesn’t describe how it really feels. Painful is more like the correct term. The wind cuts right through your jacket. Your cell phone battery drains, the snow blowing polishes the roadways to pure ice.
The whole state is pretty well shut down today. Schools are closed; the animals at the zoo are working from home. The ski hills are shut down. No one goes out.
What a great day to bask in the sun of the conservatory and watch the flowers bloom on the Thunbergia.
Lay back with a cup of tea and a good book, or in my case, make some raisin bread! Its -30 outside but the infrared thermometer shows the floor temperature to be 78!
So, let the yeast rise in the bowl, and a few hours later, enjoy the results! It doesn’t get any better than this.
So to those who think you can’t enjoy a conservatory in cold climates, like in January, let me just say that is exactly why we build conservatories.
January- and winter in general- is the time of year when sunlight is most important to us. We built a conservatory near Boston, MA for whom the owner has told us: “I used to have to go to Florida in the winter to escape the seasonal affective disorder. Now I spend my winter in the conservatory and enjoy it much more.”
So, what is the most efficient way to heat a conservatory in the winter?
I once had a client that said, “Jim, I want this conservatory comfortable on the coldest day in the winter and the hottest day in the summer.” Is that what you really want? If so, it can be done, but it also means designing and building the mechanical system for -30 or +110 F. This is a bit silly to me.
When the sun is out, and it’s -30 outside, my conservatory goes up to 85 degrees F. It is a very comfortable and bright place to be. When the sun goes down, the temp drops and then I have to make some decisions.
In-floor heat is a wonderful heat source. My floor stays pretty constant between 58 and 68 degrees. However, when determining the total cubic footage of the conservatory, the floor only produces about 36 BTU/SF and this is not enough.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like a cool conservatory because my plants do too. Winter days are short. Plants do not like short days and warm temperatures. It causes plants to grow ‘leggy’ and weak. They are best at 50-55 degrees.
Another thing is humidity. I have no trouble keeping humidity at 45% when its 55 degrees. However, when the temp goes up to 75, the humidity drops to 25%. That is another reason plants prefer cooler temperature.
Many conservatories are heated by independent forced air furnaces. A small heater capable of producing over 100 BTU’s per square foot can do the trick.