So here’s the thing, It’s the middle of November as I write this article. I’ve got a gorgeous conservatory room which is beautifully decorated with lots of plants and beautiful soft furnishings, including a 2 seater sofa from John Lewis (which also seconds as a sofa bed), and a lovely arm chair and a rattan coffee table. The room is light (one wall is white brick) and it’s got some lovely artwork and books. I had the conservatory built about five years ago as my house backs onto a disused railway line which now has sheep and cattle grazing in it, and fabulous views across the Somerset village where I live. My plan was to use this space to relax, read and enjoy the view – There is one major problem though. It is just too cold to enjoy!
Every winter, I close off my conservatory for general use (yes it’s great when Christmas arrives and extra storages is needed for the turkey or keep the extra wine chilled), but realistically, unless we are having a super warm October, my conservatory is shut from mid October through until mid / end March when we start to see some milder days.
So I can use it in the summer I hear you say. WRONG! We’ve just experienced one of the hottest summers on record – don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – but sadly my conservatory wasn’t happy! The fabulous weather that we experienced this summer made the room just unbearably hot and it’s lead me to the conclusion that conservatories are just not built to cope with the British weather and are generally too warm in the summer and too cold in the winter. This leaves a couple of months either side where the temperature is perfect and the rooms can be used as intended probably April/May and September/October – if we are lucky!
So what’s the solution?
I, like many other people would love to be able to sit comfortably in my conservatory and enjoy the extra room all year round. Therefore, I’ve been looking at different solutions on how to make the space more habitable and here is what I’ve found:
In 2010 planning regulations changed. Prior to this date, your conservatory roof had to be at least 75% translucent. Since this change, you can replace your roof without permission which leaves a great deal of options open to homeowners who want to make alterations to their conservatory.
So in looking for the solution to enable me to use my conservatory all year round, the first option I was presented with was blinds. Blinds look lovely and give a colonial feel to the room, however, I’ve discovered that they can be very costly to install and offer no insulation. Blinds are great for the summer for reducing the glare, and they will make your conservatory a little cooler and stop the furniture from fading, but if you are looking to use your conservatory in the winter months, then blinds probably won’t offer the extra insulation that you are after. The other problem with blinds of course, is keeping them dust and bug free!
The next option to come to light is using blue glass. Blue glass is also known as ‘solar’ glass. It is widely known for keeping conservatories cooler in the summer. Blue glass is a pricy addition to your conservatory and whilst it looks lovely, people don’t feel the insulation
benefit from this roofing option. There are also a lot of mixed reviews as to whether it helps to keep the room cool in the summer.
The cheapest option that I could find (apart from a DIY with plasterboard – which comes with it’s own issues), is the new polycarbonate. Sheets are made to order and can be ordered online however on researching this as a possible solution, there are many reports of poor insulation and high heating bills plus panels leaking after a couple of years. I guess it’s all in the installation technique!
One online forum recommends building a flat roof within the ceiling. Leaving the original roof in place, adding horizontal joists and then adding insulation and plasterboard. Whilst this may help to keep the temperature warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, it will block out a lot of light, plus it will enclose your conservatory immensely as the ceiling will be much lower and make the room much smaller inside. Plus from the outside, there will be a massive gap between the vaulted clear roof and the horizontal ceiling gathering up condensation and other nasties.
One of the best looking options for a conservatory roof is by far a tiled roof however this is a very expensive option and also most conservatories are not built to support a heavy roof which means that to successfully install a tiled roof, your conservatory will probably need to be looking at strengthening the existing structure to support it. A lot of upheaval and not an easy fix as installation will generally be at least 3 – 4 days, leaving your conservatory open to the elements during this time. If you decide to go with this option, it’s advisable to get at least three quotes and don’t forget to check credentials as a poor job, will make the problem worse, not solve it.
The last option that I’ve come across, is to replace the conservatory roof with Thermotec insulated panels. These are panels that are made from aluminium and a high density insulation foam, which are made to order so that they slot into the existing roof structure and look great. The reviews for this product are outstanding as the panels not only regulate the heat all year round, they reduce noise and glare. They are uber light which means they are suitable for all conservatories, come with a ten year guarantee, plus they are so energy efficient, the VAT on these panels is only 5% – AND, they can be fitted in less than a day which means no disruption! For me, this is by far the best option. The Thermotec roof is also only available by certified installers so depending on where you are in the country, you will need to check out who your local supplier is. In the South and South West, it’s a company called Green Space Ltd.