Investing in a lovely new conservatory for your home is a fantastic move. With just a few thousand pounds and a couple of weeks of upheaval, you have added a beautiful new room, just perfect for sitting and looking out over your garden in the summer.
But what about in the winter months? When the weather turns colder and you switch on the central heating in the home, you realise just how cold your conservatory is getting. Unless you want to mothball your beautiful new room until the spring, you’ll have to come up with a plan to make it usable through the winter.
Could you just put a central heating radiator in the conservatory?
A conservatory is essentially a greenhouse attached to your home. They became fashionable in Victorian times, when people liked to overwinter their potted plants in a large greenhouse. Because they were just greenhouses, they were typically exempted from Building Regulations, and have now become desirable additions to many people’s homes.
One regulation that has been enforced, however, is that the external wall of the original house has to be retained, otherwise it’s effectively an extension and therefore liable for planning permission as well as all the modern standards of insulation.
Secondly, it is forbidden to extend the main heating system of the house into the conservatory, as the poor thermal performance of the room would result in excessive heat wastage and unacceptable carbon emissions.
So, in a nutshell, no, you cannot extend your main house heating system into your conservatory.
The options for heating a conservatory
The first choice you will have to make regarding your conservatory heating is whether you wish to heat with electricity or with gas. Gas heaters are usually cheaper to run, but require ventilation which his often not possible in a conservatory environment.
Bottled gas also requires ventilation, and can cause terrible condensation as well as harmful build-ups of carbon monoxide if the ventilation is not adequate.
For this reason, most householders choose to use electricity to heat their conservatory. There are a number of different solutions for heating your conservatory with electricity and the right one for you will depend on how you want to use the room and the budget you have available:
• Wall mounted panel heaters: These are one of the less expensive forms of electric heating, and it’s easier to control the energy they consume than some other electric heaters. Because they heat with convection, quite a lot of heat can be lost out of the roof before the benefit is felt.
• Fan heaters: More expensive to run, but provide instant heat and can be directionally controlled for maximum effect. Heat will vanish as soon as they are switched off.
• Oil filled conservatory radiators: Take longer to heat up but still give out heat after being switched off. Can be good if you plan to use the room for long periods of time.
• Portable convection heater: Like panel heaters, the heat can be lost upwards, but as they are cheaper to run they can be a good solution. As they can be moved around, they can be placed closer to the inhabitants, allowing them to feel the benefits sooner.
• Halogen conservatory heaters: One of the cheaper methods of heating with electricity, halogen heaters give out radiant heat, which can be felt by the people in the room faster. They also warm objects in the room, which makes them a great choice for conservatories.
The type of heater that will suit your needs will depend on how often you intend to use the room, and for how long each time. Check the Wattage of the appliance you’re thinking of purchasing, as this will indicate how much it will cost to run.
How to use conservatory heaters more efficiently
It’s important to understand that, even with ultra-modern triple glazing, glass is always going to let heat escape much more rapidly than a wall would. There is no point in setting a timer on your heater to warm your conservatory before you get in there. All that heat is just going to be lost to the outside, and will just be money wasted.
Choose a form of heating that can warm up rapidly, such as a convection radiator or fixed panel conservatory heater, and just switch it on when you want to use the room. Use the thermostat to maintain a comfortable temperature, and place the heater in a position where the warmth can circulate around the room, not just disappear out of a window before it gets to you.
There are some measures you can take to reduce the amount of heat loss, such as installing foil backed blinds on the windows and glass ceiling of the conservatory. However, this is not going to reduce the heat loss by enough to compensate for the incredibly expensive nature of these items, so unless you really like them or want them for aesthetic purposes too, it’s not worth doing just to save energy.