When designing your new conservatory it’s easy to overlook the question of how you will heat it after it’s built. Yet this consideration should be among the first on your checklist as you go through your requirements with your conservatory builder. In fact, a reputable builder will ask you what your plans are for heating, because as construction progresses your options will become more and more limited. This article takes a brief look at the question of underfloor heating and if you do decide on this method then it must be included in the initial design specifications certainly ahead of any choice of the actual flooring to be fitted.
Underfloor heating is a particularly efficient option for a conservatory for a number of reasons.
Firstly, heat rises.
Secondly, if your conservatory is only to be used occasionally in the colder months then it is a means by which to heat it only as and when you need it. This is because many conservatories are isolated from the rest of the home in terms of heating: they are literally ‘bolted on’ to the existing property, so that the exterior walls, windows and door remain the same (retaining the same insulation as before). If the conservatory is not used very much in colder weather then it makes sense to take advantage of this isolation from the heating system and give the conservatory its own separate heating method.
Thirdly, many homes are fitted with boilers that only have the capacity to efficiently heat the number of rooms that the home had when the boiler was fitted. A conservatory can place a burden on such a system that will reduce the heating efficiency of the entire home, meaning that in the coldest weather it will never feel quite warm enough. Boilers running at full stretch will also cost more.
Finally, if your boiler does have spare capacity or you plan to upgrade your boiler then certain underfloor heating systems can easily be incorporated into your current radiator circuit. Some suppliers offer affordable special-packs that are designed specifically for conservatory installation.
Types of Underfloor Heating
Systems that are incorporated into an existing radiator circuit are made up of pipes that run under the floor. The most modern versions do not require an additional pump nor wiring, but they do have a minimum thickness for the flooring (usually around 75mm), and the special packs for conservatories are often limited to floor areas of less than 15 square metres. The easiest way to think of these systems is to see it as a radiator running underneath the floor, with the same control and demands that this would have on your current radiator circuit. Just like most radiators, you would be able to turn off this heating to the conservatory and if it is isolated as described above then you would not lose any more heat from your home than you did before (so long as the doors and windows are closed).
Electric underfloor heating systems provide an alternative option particularly important where your current boiler does not have spare capacity or the physical location of the conservatory prevents incorporation into the existing radiator circuit. There are several types of electric systems – mats, cables or film. These differ in terms of cost, efficiency and requirements in terms of the type of flooring under which they can be installed.
A reputable conservatory builder will be able to advise you on each of these different options, including their specific advantages and disadvantages for your particular home and conservatory and the very different costs. As with so many issues surrounding conservatory design, it’s very much about being able to ask the right questions at the right time, and hopefully this article will add a little (yet timely) detail to your check-list.