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Published Mon, Jun 20th 2011

Heating A Conservatory - What Options Do I Have?

Even with rising global temperatures, a conservatory in the UK will need heating if it is to be used all year round. There are several heating options for conservatories, and your choice will depend on various factors particular to your project. This article provides clear guidelines to help you choose the best product for heating your conservatory.

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Even with rising global temperatures, a conservatory in the UK will need heating if it is to be used all year round.

There are several heating options for conservatories, and the best choice will depend on various factors particular to your project.

Conservatories can have high heating requirements, due to large expanses of glass, outside walls and high ceilings. Greater heat loss will occur through glass (even specialist glass such as Pilkington glass, or gas filled glass) than through a standard interior or exterior wall. Similarly, conservatories are subject to more extreme heat variations than other rooms. When the sun disappears and the outside temperature drops, good efficient heating enables continual use of a conservatory.

There are several options available for heating conservatories:
· Electric underfloor heating;
· Piped underfloor heating run off a boiler;
· Additional radiator on an extended piped hot water central heating system;
· Independent electric radiator;
· Additional radiator on an electric central heating systems; and
· Trench radiators.

The suitability will depend on how a household uses a space so it is important to consider both the pros and cons when deciding on the right heating choice for your conservatory.

And, whichever option you go for, it is essential that the particular heat output required is calculated, to ensure that the temperature of the conservatory is kept at a comfortable level.

Underfloor heating
This option is available in two formats: electric (dry) and central heating (piped hot water).
In general, underfloor heating provides a warm floor and will equally act to radiate heat upwards into the conservatory to provide even warmth in the room, with no space lost to radiators.
However there are a number of negatives to bear in mind when considering underfloor heating for your conservatory.

· Conservatories tend to have high ceilings and big expanses of glass relative to their floor area; so underfloor heating often isn't sufficient to heat some conservatories during the colder months. Additional heating such as radiators may be required.
· Underfloor heating takes a long time to warm up, so planned rather than spontaneous use of the conservatories in the colder months is needed.
· This slow response time can also result in the conservatory becoming too hot and taking many hours to cool down.
· Certain floor coverings are best avoided for use with underfloor heating - such as carpet, which will insulate the heat and stop it rising, or solid wood, which is prone to split or warp when used with underfloor heating. Tiles or engineered wood flooring (including laminate) are a good choice instead.
· Piped underfloor heating systems are often only an option at the design stage of the build and due to the disruption and labour involved, installation costs can be prohibitively expensive. Also, installation needs to be carefully co-ordinated with the construction of the conservatory itself.
· Electric underfloor minimises installation costs as it is easier and more convenient to install and can be fitted retrospectively, however with the slow response time and the cost of electricity still being more than gas, running costs could be relatively high.
So for many homeowners, underfloor is not a suitable option leading them to look for alternatives.

Electric radiators

A popular and straightforward option to heating a conservatory is adding an electric radiator. As you don't need to extend any pipework, it eliminates the disruption and cost of installing or extending a fully piped, wet system. Electric radiators are a perfect solution:
· If there isn't already a central heating system in the rest of the house;
· If you don't want to extend the existing central heating system from elsewhere in the house to the conservatory; or
· If you need additional heat in the conservatory.
The market in electric radiators has boomed over the last few years and as a result the choice of electric radiators has increased significantly. Many shapes, sizes and finishes are now available ranging from minimalist flat panels in white, ultra modern spirals in chrome and traditional cast iron designs.

Due to the large amount of glass, conservatories often lack wall space; so electric radiator options now include low level and tall, skinny wall-mounted designs as well as floor-mounted options.

Electric radiators offer efficient performance and the nature of their design means they can bring a room up to temperature relatively quickly, in comparison to other options such as underfloor heating.

Extending your piped central heating system and adding a radiator
Adding another radiator to your central heating system is a good option provided you already have a central heating system that can be extended.
Radiators, whether they are central heating or electric, can achieve the necessary heat output required a conservatory in full due to their increasingly high performance.
Following the boom in the interior decoration industry over the last 20 years, radiators are now available in a vast array of designs and finishes, in styles to suit any interior whether it is contemporary or traditional.
There is now a wide range of radiators that are popular for heating conservatories, where the heat output required is high, yet wall space is limited. A wealth of vertical models are now available that can utilise otherwise unused space, short radiators are now often in heights to go underneath windowsills in conservatories and bench radiators offer the option of combining your radiator with a piece of furniture.
Modern radiator valves have also followed suit with a wide variety of models available to match any radiator, alongside offering the option of thermostats that ensure a room never gets too hot and heat isn't wasted.

Trench Heating

A less recognised option, but effective none the less, trench heating offers a toasty warm room with the benefits of radiators, without the loss of wall or floor space. A trench provides a site for a radiator below floor level with a stylish grille being placed over the top at floor level allowing heat to convect up without the slow response times of underfloor heating.

Summary

As there are many factors affecting heat loss in conservatories, your conservatory supplier or heating engineer is best informed to work out how much heat is needed to keep your conservatory warm. Failing that, a real underfloor heating or radiator expert can work out the approximate heat outputs required, based on the information provided by you - e.g. dimensions, materials, etc. 

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