If your conservatory is more than ten years old, the chances are that it's not doing the job you'd hoped it would as a comfortable room that connects the house with the garden.
Too often, older conservatories are freezing in winter and boiling in summer. Research has shown the average south-facing conservatory reaches a comfortable temperature for just two hours a day if there’s no fan in summer and no heating in winter.
If yours is an aluminium affair put up before 1970, you're probably best off pulling it down and rebuilding from scratch - but those made of uPVC built in the eighties and later can be upgraded to become a space that's pleasant all year round.
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Start with the glass
Today's glass coatings make windowpanes much less prone to extremes of temperature, reflecting the sun and stopping harmful UV rays streaming into the property. This same coating also keeps the conservatory warmer in winter.
'Replacing the glass in a south-facing window will reduce overheating in the rest of the space,' says glazing specialist Everest. 'Conversely, installing more energy-efficient glass in a particularly cold window in the extension will help keep the room warm.'
Adding shade sail blinds, which cut glare, offer shade and privacy from neighbours and look contemporary.
Buying blinds to fit the spaces between the struts will also help – specialist fabrics can reflect the sun while adding insulation in cold weather.
Update the roof
Replacing the roof with solid tiles or a combined glass and solid roof could help turn your conservatory into a seamless, open-plan part of your home rather than a bolt-on addition.
Everest's Living Roof has skylights cut into a solid roof, which creates shaded areas suited to multi-functional modern living.
'The ceiling is plastered and insulated, so you get all the warmth you want,' says the Everest spokesperson. 'It’s the perfect solution for those who want the ease and cost-effectiveness of a conservatory with natural light. And your new insulation revives your existing structure, making it thermally efficient.
'On a tiled roof extension you can have tiles that match your house or lightweight synthetic tiles with all-weather thermal insulation. When replacing the roof on an older conservatory you have to be mindful of the weight - you don’t want your elderly conservatory collapsing.'
You'll need to mindful of the added weight of a new roof - not all structures will be able to cope, and be sure to choose a roof supplier that offers full insurance against any problems the new roof might cause.
A cheaper option that a brand new roof is adding a layer of window film to the glass roof. Its metallised coating prevents heat building up by reflecting UV rays away and stops fabrics fading.
Buying blinds to fit the spaces between the struts will also help – specialist fabrics can reflect the sun while adding insulation in cold weather
One cheap way to insulate a glass roof is fixing a second polycarbonate roof below the original to create an insulating air gap, held in place with double-sided sticky carpet tape.
Upgrade the frame
The walls can be improved by adding brick, and the bricks of the dwarf wall (which runs around the bottom of the conservatory), matched to the original house. Older dwarf walls can be injected to improve insulation. You could also insulate your conservatory floor, as you might be losing heat downwards.
If you're updating an all-glass conservatory, corner pillars will transform it into a more elegant, orangery-style structure.
'People care more about what conservatories look like: 10 years ago, frames were either white or aluminium, but today you can opt for contemporary colours such as on-trend anthracite or Chartwell green,' says Everest.
'Years ago the conservatory was an occasional room, but with moving being so expensive, people want to convert an occasional space to full usage, 365 days a year.'
Making it cosier
Adding heating to keep the space warm in winter is worth doing, but only if you've tackled the insulation issues first. In particular check the seals on doors and windows, and replace outdated doors with bi-fold or sliding doors.
I'f you're planning on replacing the floor anyway it could be a good time to install underfloor heating, but there are good electric options available now if you would prefer a simpler heating method, including wall mounted models and freestanding portable heaters.
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