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.