21/07/2017

Conservatories are you getting a straight answer?

Conservatories are you getting a straight answer?

Too Hot, Too Cold, Too Bright, No Privacy, Damaged Furniture……Or all of the above??

For over a decade I have been visiting conservatory owners with new and old, glass and plastic roofs who simply can’t use them.

 

Firstly I think some home truths and setting some expectations are needed. A conservatory is never going to be as livable as a room within your home. Whilst you need to be realistic there are ways of making them more usable more often and without pulling your home apart.

I’ve seen it all, from emulsion painted on the roof to old parachutes and other various types of fabric hanging from the roof fixed by whatever means available. I’ve seen patio umbrellas inside the conservatory and seen a baseball cap on every chair arm and an umbrella leaning against every seat for everyone to put up whilst sitting in there.

So what works? My customers are a great source of information and after all they are ones trying to solve the problems.

The standard polycarbonate roof sheeting whether clear, white or bronze do not address glare or reduce the heat effectively.However the newer solar control polycarbonate roofs where it’s white on the inside and silver/grey on the outside can be fantastic. Frankly I can’t improve on those and I don’t need to.I was also told by a glazing supplier that the thickest version has a better U value than most glass roofs; who would of thought that about a plastic roof! The downside is they still creak and bang in the suns heat and a drizzle still sounds like a rainstorm.

Glass roofs unfortunately are the biggest let down. Even where the newest solar control glass is specified, customers still complain about the heat and the tint isn’t dark enough to address the brightness of the sun. Many still allow some UV light to penetrate so if you’re using a glass roofed conservatory regularly you should either have it coated or use sun block.

So what are your options?

Firstly when I visit customers I ask how do you use the space or want to use the space? Is it always going to be used for that purpose or could that change in the future? Do you use it throughout the year or just summer months?

The most common 'solution' is to see already fitted is blinds.I sell blinds but I would never specify blinds to reduce heat in a conservatory because the infrared heat has already entered the room before it hits a standard blind.Even some solar reflective blinds I've seencan’t cope with the amount of heat pouring through the expanses of glass. To top it off the most modern glazing is designed to reflect heat back into the room and so all blinds have a battle to reflect the heat way effectively.

Blinds also go against the whole purpose of connecting you with the outside. Why have space primarily made of glazing and then cover it? Another common mistake is people use a light fabric that flares up and becomes a glare issue itself. You can end up creating a tent effect. Blinds also create additional surfaces that collect dust and insects. Sadly we actually remove a lot of very expensive blinds (especially roof blinds) after customers become fed up with them never to have them replaced. However blinds are very good for nighttime privacy, decoration and dealing with the low winter suns glare so it's not all negative.

Air conditioning is another option but quite often my customers say it’s too expensive to use and the unit can’t cope with the heat. Even if it does control the heat and humidity then it still doesn’t address the glare or fading issues.

Roof conversions are quite a new departure and I’ll be totally honest if you have a north-facing conservatory and want to use your room more like another room all year round then it’s an option to consider. However the practical way it’s done varies greatly and so does the price often being so expensive it would be nearly the same price to build a new extension. You should consider whether it is sensible to put a new roof costing thousands on top of an aging window system? Are they reinforcing the structure to take extra weight especially if the window system was originally intended to only carry a lightweight plastic roof system, have they accounted for snow loading?

It would be worth speaking to an architect or builder because some roof conversions aren’t far off the price of a brand new extension that would be more thermally efficient and would add greater value to your home. You also need to be mindful it may change the use of the structure so that it is no longer a conservatory. It could make it subject to building regulations and possibly planning permissions. I had a conversation with a Lincolnshire Building Inspector and his comments were “by definition a conservatory must have a transparent roof so therefore it’s change of use” but speaking with another independent building inspection company they base it on a percentage of glazing remaining including the side windows. This is such a grey area on what is deemed to be correct so do your homework and ask your local planning office personally don’t rely on what the sales person tells you.

I recently was speaking to someone who had converted their roof but when it came to sell his house he ended up paying hundreds of pounds trying to get it signed off by local planning officer as it was picked up on the building survey. He nearly lost the sale of his house over it. If he hadn't the original plans of the conservatory he was going to have to dig up his patio so an inspector could check the footings depth which would of added even further costs.

Although the solid roof will solve a number of problems it will lose you a lot of natural light entering adjoining rooms and you still haven’t addressed the heat, glare or UV entering though the side windows.

Upgrading your poly roof glazing panels to the latest specification polycarbonate does works but you might need to also change the roof structure to accommodate the thicker panels. You could also upgrade the glass to improve the U value if winter heat retention is your priority or lower the G Value to reduce solar heat gain.However you need a glass which blocks 80 - 95% of the light in an over head situation to control glare issue buts it is simply cheaper and quicker to retrofit the final product.

The last and little known option is architectural solar control glass coatings or better known as window film. They are very common and used regularly in the USA, UAE, Australasia and other hotter parts of the world keeping skyscrapers, offices and homes cooler. Some versions also have additional coatings to retain winter heat which may be useful on older glass types. The technology is proven its been around for over 5 decades is available in various shades and grades it also filters out 99% of harmful UV and some brands are recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation so it can be tailored to your needs.

It is generally the cheapest retrofit option here and has no running costs or creates any extra cleaning.I’ve personally had a customer report a temperature reduction in their glass roofed conservatory (which already had the standard anti-sun solar reflective glass fitted) of between 10 – 15˚C just by removing the solar reflective roof blinds and installing coatings to the roof alone. A note about that particular conservatory is that it also had an in-wall air conditioning unit but was still unusable when the sun was out.

The way the coatings work is they reflect and absorb heat before it enters the space and the best thing is you can see through it just like a window was intended to.

Careful consideration regarding the type of product installed onto the right type of glass is required and a glazing survey is a must. Incorrect specification can lead to damage to the glazing systems so a professional is needed to test the glass and undertake the appropriate checks. Like all things in life there are varying degrees of quality too so do your homework.

Window film isn’t always going to solve every problem much like like all the other products discussed here but it can be used on the roof and windows and works very well to complement roof conversions, blinds and air conditioning giving a very rounded package.

People still think that by fitting one product it will solve all their conservatory woes such as summer & winter glare, winter heat loss, fading, skin protection, summer heat, humidity, privacy, and safety and security. Each product has its merits and limitations.

When I visit conservatory owners I give them all the options available.

Do your homework, look at the options, listen to the people who visit and ask about the products they are selling. Probe them and ask those difficult questions, such as 'what brand of product are you using? How long will it last? Do I get a written warranty? What happens if you go bust? What happens to my warranty? Can I see some written testimonials or can I go see one that you have done locally?

If you have an existing conservatory or thinking of building a new conservatory, sunroom or orangery or even an extension with an extensive glass facade I’d be happy to advise you based on my knowledge and proven results achieved on hundreds of conservatories and buildings here in the UK and my time in Australia.

 

Most asked questions from Conservatory and Orangery Owners!

How to keep my conservatory cool in the summer?
The most cost effective way to keep new or old conservatories cooler is using architectural glass coatings or window film more powerful than current specified solar glass being able to reduce temperatures by up to 15°C* with no running costs and retaining a clear view. We have customers contact us within weeks of their brand new conservatory being erected even ones using the latest solar glass. (*figure taken from customers written feedback form)

How to keep my conservatory warm in winter?
Our Low E winter heat retaining glass coatings are able to retain heat actively although our customers tell us our summer heat reflecting films also retain heat for longer too making it more comfortable.

How can I stop the glare in my conservatory?
More glass means more light, simply by having a slight tint seen on most solar glass simply isn’t enough to reduce the glare from the sun. Our glass coatings can be tailored to your needs and can block up to 95% of the light which sounds a lot but you don’t wear sunglasses with a slight tint!

A conservatory installed with a neutral window film on the windows and the specialist Metalux Plus on the polycarbonate roof.

And more recently: Do I need to get a new roof conversion for my conservatory, is that my only option?
No, solar control glass coatings can make your conservatories more usable while being the only product that retains a clear view out and without replacing ANYTHING.

Mr & Mrs Snelling from Louth were on the verge of pulling down their polycarbonate roofed conservatory after receiving quotes for roof conversions which were not cost effective and the ageing vertical blinds offered no relief and cluttered the space. CoolGlass coated the roof and the windows as well as a garage window and two front bed rooms….these are their words from the survey form returned from them.

"A thoroughly professional service. From the start when Mark gave us his knowledge and guidance as to what film would suit our purposes best, to the installation with his colleague Adam. They were punctual, skilled and tidy. We are delighted with the end results. There has been a noticeable reduction in heat and glare in the conservatory and garage and the privacy we now have in our front bedrooms has enabled us to remove the vertical blinds making the room feel so much larger. We would not hesitate to recommend Mark and CoolGlass to anyone thinking of installing window film. We wished we had known about this product sooner. Thank you Mark & Adam."

Conservatories are great addition to any home offering an additional room in a cost effective way. People also want to have a link to the outside world which they can use all year round sadly this is often not the case because of the nature of the beast, its predominately glazing.

CoolGlass has solutions for your conservatory or orangery against problems such as over heating, winter heat loss, annoying glare, expensive fading, privacy, skin protection, safety and security for a fraction of the cost of made to measure blinds or expensive roof conversions which rob joining rooms of natural light. Our products are the cheapest and highest performer pound for pound and the only one which will retain the conservatory as it was originally intended and it utilises your existing windows and frames so you won’t be contributing to land fill as the old glass is deemed to be contaminated and often isn’t recycled.

Example costs* for a sized as conservatory pictured below:

  • Solar control window films installed to the roof AND windows £900 – £1800+
  • Pleated blinds fitted to the windows and roof £2000 – £6000+
  • Roof conversions £4000 – £8000+
    *prices are estimated and depends on quality and specifications chosen

For the cost of a roof conversion we could probably install high performance glazing coatings to the roof AND windows AND install brand new blinds to the windows and you’d still saved enough for a weekend away.

A glass roofed conservatory previously fitted with roof blinds is now enjoying a new lease of life as the space was originally intended….a connection to the outside world.

This film is fitted with winter heat retaining summer heat reflecting films showing how no view is lost by installing films.

Sunrooms tend to overheat and suffer from excessive glare and the expensive wicker and rattan furnishings fades at a rapid rate due to the high levels of UVA & UVB passing through the glass. There is also the danger of skin cancer if prolonged usage occurs.

Our customers have found that their conservatories with blinds and air conditioning are also struggling to be usable plus the running costs of A/C systems are very expensive and pump out CO2 and often can’t cope.

Also why have a room which is mainly glazing for the sole reason to connect with the outside then cover the windows with blinds or a solid roof?

Using blinds as a window dressing or privacy at night is fantastic but they are not the right product for a conservatory to control the suns energy.

Now with roof blinds discarded glare is reduced by 80% and they can now see the sky. The customer recorded a temperature reduction of 10 – 15°C compared to the pleated roof blinds which had a solar reflective coating but just couldn’t cope with the level of suns energy that a film can.

This conservatory owner had spend over £10,000 on these blinds and it was still too warm to use, suffered from lots of glare from the light fabric and had debris falling from the over head blinds onto them and trapped insects which was irritating.

Solar Control Window Films or glass coatings do like it says on the tin, it controls the amount of solar energy passing through your glazing to a level you want. There are different colours and shades available to tailor it for your needs what ever your particular problem whether it’s Glare, Heat gain or Fading even privacy. There are even window films now which are designed to retain the heat in the winter as well as control the sun in summer reducing heat loss through your glazing by as much as 41% single glazing and 17% on double glazing so in a room which is predominately glass you really do feel a difference in the space and your bank balance.

More conservatories which are now part of the home structure where they are used to link two rooms together or as a fully functioning kitchen, living space or office so they are more than an occasional room.

There are films for polycarbonate roofed conservatories as well as glass; a special film must be used due to a reaction between a normal window film and the plastics would cause an incorrectly specified film to lift over time.

There is also some science in choosing the right window film so before you rush off to the local DIY or motor factor as stick “a film” on your windows you are at risk of damaging or worst case breaking your glass completely. Solar window films absorb and reflect solar energy as they work and it’s the absorption which can thermally stress your glazing causing the double glazing to fail and condense up or stress the glass so much it can break it. This is where you need to call the experts who will test your glass and advise you on the best film for your needs but also the ones which won’t harm your glazing. The installations carry comprehensive manufacturer backed warranties of up to 16yrs but it’s very very rare that you will ever have any issue if professionally installed.

Window films have no maintenance or running costs and can last for quarter of a century in certain situations they have also been proven to be one of the fasted paying back home improvement products you can have fitted to a property with certain films also have been proven to be carbon negative so for the people who have environmental concerns it means they actually save more CO2 that it actually took to manufacture and install them. Our window films have an SPF of 285+ and blocks 99% of harmful UVA & UVB to protect the user and have been approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation they will reduce the fading of furnishings by a minimum of 40%.

Métaux plus polycarbonate solar control film showing glare reducing properties.

Window films are not a new fad they have been produced and developed in the early 1960’s and are used regularly in the USA, Asia and Australasia and we have a lot of happy customers who don’t know how they ever lived without them. If it can cope with the Florida heat and reduce temperatures in sky scrapers is can transform even a south facing conservatory.

What’s the down sides? There aren’t many but one is that although they offer extra privacy during the day but at night they offer none so a traditional window covering would be need if you require that. You have also to be aware that adjoining rooms light levels maybe reduced but no where as near as the new solid roof conversations which are being heavily publicised. We would advise customers of that and help them choose a film which wouldn’t impact too heavily.

The alternative is solar blinds although not as effective as a film it’s the next best option. The foil blinds which can offer a clear or semi clear view out but you wouldn’t have night time privacy using them and would only be offered where flexibility is required but they do have an industrial look not always suited in a domestic environment.

 

More frequently asked questions.

The suns damage to furnishings. Most glass even the solar reflect glass doesn’t block all UV unlike window films.

Can window film be installed on to already tinted solar glass?
Yes it can and it will retain the blue colouring enhancing it making it more vibrant. It will effectively turbocharge it. Our glass survey and test will highlight issues here but you may be asked for the comprehensive glass specifications occasionally if on obscure glass has been installed so our computer modelling for the glass risk assessments is accurate. This is free of charge and part of our service.

Can it be used with existing blinds?
Yes it can when is comes to the windows but the roof blinds need to be removed to install the films and we haven’t had customer who ever wants them refitting due to the extra dust and insects they collect. Window film doesn’t create additional surfaces like blinds to collect dirt.

Can we contact CoolGlass to advise us on the best way to go regarding a new conservatory?
Yes you can because we are problem solvers we will give you impartial and ethical advice on the best way forward for your individual needs and we can even recommend trusted companies to carry out the work for you using our recommendations.

Are the films fitted internally?
90% of the time yes as it gives much better durability (up to 25 years) but sometimes due to the type of glass or access reasons external films are used but they will still give you 10 years good service.

Is there a special way to clean film?
Not really we recommend using just water and a Streak free cloth but a traditional squeegee or soft brush using pure water is suitable. You will be given a comprehensive after care leaflet with the do’s and don’ts and all the frequently asked questions about the application often a the time of ordering so you know in advance what to expect immediately after the installation.

Will they stop the gold fish bowl effect and give me privacy?
Yes it can and if that is priority to you we can adjust which film is going to give you more privacy but this would be discussed during every survey and consultation.

Are the films a CoolGlass Product?
CoolGlass is a Solargard dealer which is part of the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Division. Saint-Gobain is a global company over 350 years old and have been making glass for decades and we are proud to be part of the dealer network. We are transparent about the products we use which have had their performance figures independently verified so you are getting what the spec sheets says. Where Solargard don’t offer a product we need we deal with another companies Solarscreen or 3M which have excellent standards and we deal directly with the manufacturers not distributors in most cases.

What is the warranty on the films and how long will they last?
Our internally fitted solar control films have between 12 – 16 years warranty with the poly carbonate film being 5 years. External films range from 3 – 7 year warranties depending on products and internal films are expected to last a minimum of 15 years but can achieve 25 years and still be serviceable while external films can last 5 – 10 years depending on how they have been maintained and their situation.

If you have a question contact us today.