The most attractive feature of a new conservatory or orangery is the light it will bring into your home. Unlike a standard extension, which will inevitably darken the room it extends, conservatories and orangeries capture natural light by the use of glass particularly in their roofs. Yet many conservatories have polycarbonate or plastic roofs, with the aim of saving on cost being the main reason for this choice. It is true that the installation of specialist glass in a conservatory can add a significant amount to the cost, but it can be a false economy to save money on what is the central feature of conservatories and orangeries.
Polycarbonate or plastic roofs are not energy efficient. When they first became popular some years ago this was not such a major concern, as energy prices were steady and not rising steeply as they are today. If you plan to install a heating system in your conservatory, probably because you want to enjoy the new space all-year-round, then energy efficiency is a good economic reason to consider having specialist glass installed.
The same is true if you plan to install air-conditioning units. Just as polycarbonate or plastic roofs leak heat they also leak the cooler air generated by your air conditioner. In the long term and a conservatory is certainly a long-term investment the money you save by installing cheaper roofing will gradually be lost just like the energy that is lost right through the roof. The cost of installing specialist glass is a fixed and one-off, whereas energy prices are only predictable in that they will certainly continue to rise.
Another disadvantage of polycarbonate or plastic roofs and one that is often overlooked is the level of noise. Plastic is not efficient in isolating a room from outside noise. For many people this appears as less of a concern because their conservatory is generally facing their back garden, but after the first heavy rainfall it quickly becomes clear that noise is a factor even in the quietest of locations. Rain on polycarbonate or plastic roofs makes more noise than on glass and this can mean you’ll be closing the doors to your conservatory even in the April showers of early Spring.
There are many types of specialist glass that are used in modern conservatory design. They vary widely in cost and also in function, but a reputable conservatory builder will be able to talk you through the different options available.
Solar controlled glass will benefit a southward facing conservatory, because it reduces the temperature caused by prolonged periods of direct sunshine.
Self-cleaning glass will not wipe out the need for cleaning altogether, but it will help reduce the frequency of cleaning. It works by encouraging the rain to do some of the cleaning by helping to remove dirt from the glass.
Insulating glass is more energy efficient and is particularly worth considering if you are installing a heating system or air-conditioning unit in the conservatory.
High-performance glass that offers a combination of these benefits can be installed, but each benefit will add to the cost of the glass. The most important thing is that the cost should be weighed against the benefits. Because a conservatory is not only a long-term investment, it should be a place to relax and enjoy the outside, not one to be closed off for most of the year even when there’s just a bit of a shower.