Conservatories, Sunrooms, Garden rooms, Solariums - Your Questions answered
Sun Blind/Shading (19)
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Question submitted by Helen
I have just had a conservatory built on a south-west facing site, and as I expected, although it has good ventilation, it gets very hot, especially when it has to be closed up during the day whilst I am out at work.
I have had a quotation from a leading conservatory blind manufacturer (Appeal) and although suprised that roof blinds are so expensive, I understand that the quotation is 'average' for this type of product. I am looking at both the pinoleum and the roller blinds, and am having difficulty making up my mind as to which would be the most appropriate. I am hoping that I will be able to use the conservatory throughout the year, so am looking at heat retention as well as shading in the summer.
Are there any 'pitfalls' that I should be aware of between the two products. For instance sagging over time etc. I am sure I also read somewhere that reflective backings can cause the space between the blind and the glass surface to build up to such a degree that it can cause distortion of the frame. Is that true?
||This question answered by Paul McCullagh of Appeal Conservatory Blinds.
Both products offer an excellant shading solution.
The roller blinds are more efficient at reflecting and retaining heat due to the reflective backing, however, your preference on the style and look of the blinds should be an equally important consideration given that you will be looking at the blinds throughout the year.
All blinds cause heat build up between the glazing and the blind causing heat expansion of the structure. However, reputable conservatory companies all design their conservatories with heat expansion (and contraction) in mind. Appeal have installed solar reflective blinds for more than 10 years without any problems to my knowledge.
As you identified, Appeal are a leading blind manufacturer making good quality blinds so sagging over time should not be an issue. As regards other 'pitfalls', I am not aware of any. The roller blinds are more efficient but some people prefer the style of pinoleum.
Question submitted by Matt
I want to fit non retractable louvred blinds (50mm aluminium slats in white) to the roof of my conservatory. I know of two companies that can supply them....Hall Blinds can supply Solarshade and Betta Blinds can supply the T12 system from Australia. Both are expensive! Do you know of any other companies that could supply either of these systems or perhaps manufacturers of other systems?
||This question answered by David Anderson at www.insu.co.uk
There are basically two systems in the marketplace. The manufacturers are as follows:
The T12 system, is made in the UK by Shy-Zip of Stevenage 01438 227788 web: www.shy.co.uk email email@example.com I assume that Betta blinds are one of their retailers.
The alternative is based on a system pioneered by Technical Blinds, and there are three manufacturers.
Hall Blinds Brand name 'Solarshade' made in Italy.
Hallmark Brand name 'Techtonic' made in the UK Tel:0207 837 0964
LevoLux Brand name Skyvane and made in the UK Tel: 020 8863 9111
Most of the above companies supply the trade so you will need to contact then to obtain the names of local retail suppliers/installers.
If you have difficultly sorting out quotes/installation companies contact me as I know many of the principals of the manufacturing companies.
Have you considered a glazing solution such as a Solar reflective laminate for glass roofs to upgrade the specification of the glass to a solar glass standard. Or a Solar Insert heat reflector for polycarbonate roofs. Both these systems have similar performance to external louvre blinds without the problems of maintenance. You can obtain information on these products from insu www.insu.co.uk or email them on
Question submitted by Beaulah
Our conservatory gets too hot in the summer and cold in the winter. We have vertical blinds on the windows but nothing on the polycarbonate roof. I would like to move my computer and equipment into the conservatory to make better use of it but can't because of the variances in temperature and glare. Any ideas?
||This question answered by David Anderson at www.insu.co.uk
A) Summer Comfort
This can be achieved in a number of ways:
External roof blinds - There are two types: roller and, fixed and adjustable vertical louvres. Both can be expensive, depending on the design of your roof, and will need maintenance. They have a finite life as they are subject to the weather.
Glazing solutions - Solar laminates for glass roofed conservatories and Solar Insert Heat reflectors for polycarbonate roofs. They are fitted within the glazing system either before or after the conservatory has been erected, and function by reflecting heat and glare out before it enters the conservatory in a similar way to specialist solar reflective glasses fitted in commercial buildings and atria. They have similar performance to the external solutions, without the need for maintenance, and as a consequence they have excellent life expectancy. In the case of polycarbonate roofing they will last the life of the roof - 30 to 40 years.
These products have excellent glare performance, to combat problems with computer screens. However it may be necessary to use side window blinds to deal with glare entering through the side windows.
B) Winter Comfort
External louvre blinds provide virtually no improvement in winter insulation, as it will be necessary to open them fully to obtain adequate winter light. Solar laminates and Solar Insert heat reflectors provide a certain amount of winter insulation as they are transparent.
The extent of winter insulation you require will depend on the way that your conservatory faces and the current roof glazing.
Until recently most conservatories were fitted with triple wall polycarbonate roofing, or double glazing. These materials provided inadequate insulation, in most cases, for full winter use of the conservatory without significant additional heating costs.
However K glass and quadruple and quinne - wall polycarbonate roofing is being increasingly being specified. As it generally provides adequate winter insulation for economic heating, except if the conservatory faces north, or is heavily shaded from the winter sun by trees or buildings.
I do not have the exact details of your conservatory but if the roof glazing is triple wall I would recommend that you have the roofing upgraded to the new higher standards, and most importantly ensure that you have adequate heating.
Question submitted by Heather
I have at home an excellent conservatory shade made by Koalashade - which fits externally. It works extremely well although does need putting up and taking down again. Excellent for giving plants maximum light in winter though when shading isn't really needed. I haven't seen a reference to it in your questions/answers although may have missed it. Have you come across it before?
||We do know of Koalashade and like you say it does have some good points. Its not a product to everybodys "taste" - but it certainly has a role to fill
We asked David Anderson at www.insu.co.uk to comment and this is what he had to say.
Koalashade is a green netting which is stretched over the roof of a conservatory. Each year the conservatory owner has to clamber on the roof and stretch the material between four or more fixed points.
It is similar to the greenhouse netting used in commercial greenhouses to help control excess light and heat.
It certainly has a part to play in the Conservatory shading story since it extremely inexpensive, and this is its main attraction.
It has, however, a number of limitations:
1. Appearance - many conservatory owners find it unattractive since the green netting is literally draped over the conservatory.
2. It can be a problem in high winds, especially at night, as it can flap and be noisy.
3. Performance - we have assessed its performance and find that it will exclude, at best, 50% of the suns heat - the heat enters between the gaps between the open weave and weft of the netting. This level of performance is marginal, and would not be considered adequate for conservatories with modern high insulation roof panels. It may however be adequate in well ventilated conservatories, but high temperatures may still build up when the windows and doors are closed. It should also be
acceptable, again with ventilation, in older single glazed conservatories which have a lower standard of roof insulation.
4.Durability - because the product is mounted externally it has a limited life. It deteriorates due to moisture and the damaging effect of the suns ultra-violet rays. I has a life expectancy of around three or four years.
5.It can trap debris and bird droppings which make the roof unsightly.
6.The conservatory owner will need to remove the product in the Autumn to provide adequate light and replace it again each Spring . It is necessary to clamber on the roof to do this.
7. It reduces light levels and can darken rooms leading off the conservatory.
In summary the product can provide a cheap solution in well ventilated conservatories if the conservatory owner is not concerned about: the appearance of the conservatory, light levels in adjacent rooms, the need for annual maintenance and, removal and replacement.
Question submitted by Hilary
Do you regard Thomas Sanderson a reputable manufacturer of Conservatory blinds? I am considering purchasing some in the very near future and would appreciate your view.
||This question is answered by the Conservatories Online editorial team - While we are reluctant to exclusively recommend any one blinds company there is not much doubt that Thomas Sanderson are the market leaders for conservatory blinds. Their quality and features are amongst the highest we know. We always advise conservatory owners to deal with specialist conservatory blinds suppliers - rather
than using a general blinds supplier who occasionally fit conservatory blinds. Fitting conservatory blinds well is a bit of a "science" and Thomas Sanderson have led the way in perfecting the technique.
Their web address is http://www.thomas-sanderson.co.uk/
Question submitted by Martin
We have just had a south west facing conservatory built and we find it too hot during sunny weather. We have several quotes for blinds and window films. The price difference for films and blinds is not significant. What we want to know is which product, film or blinds, is going to exclude more heat.
||This question is answered by the Conservatories Online editorial team - Window films and conservatory blinds are usually chosen for quite different reasons and it's not entirely "fair" to compare one with the other.
While both perform similar functions in that they will reduce heat gain we find that blinds users are often adding blinds because they wish to be more private or decorate their conservatory. Users of window films are usually more concerned with heat gain and in that area there is evidence that some window films such as Sun-Gard do in fact perform better. There are also special films available - sometimes referred to as computer blinds (although they are not blinds) which are particularly good at
reducing glare and fading. These are particularly suitable if you are using your conservatory as a study / office and wish to retain a view of your garden rather than looking at say vertical or roller blinds. We also find that some people will use both of these products in their conservatory - for instance adding blinds to the roof and using window films in the sides.
Question submitted by Peter
One company we are dealing with specialises in Solar strips for Polycarbonate roofs. Do you have an opinion of this product? (Question edited).
||This Question answered by Tina Dunlop - For help with answering this question we consulted David Anderson of INSU - UK - one of the UK's leading supplier of Solar Inserts. While David can hardly be described as "impartial" I do feel he has some valid points to make.
When a solar strip or tape is used it must be inserted into the roof by roding which means that the strip lies on top of the centre horizontal portion of the cavity. This limits the performance of the product, and may compromise the integrity of some roofs. The reason for this is that strip material absorbs up to 35% of the sun's heat, which leads to an increase in the temperatures inside the roof.
For this reason INSU solar heat reflectors are shaped like a staple to ensure that any absorbed energy is transmitted directly to the outside surface of the roof and hence to the cold outside air. (They are not rodded into the polycarbonate)
This heating up of the internal part of the roof leads to a certain amount of heat entering the conservatory, which limits the performance of the product. This would not in itself be sufficient to cause a loss of comfort in a high roof conservatory, say average height of 9 feet or above, but below this there may be insufficient solar heat rejection performance especially on lean too types, particularly those fitted onto bungalows.
With some roofing systems and polycarbonate, there could be difficulties with guarantees. The reason is that PVC is a thermoplastic material, which softens with increased temperature. The danger is that this could lead to shrinkage of the lower roof panel and loss of integrity of the roof.
Because strip type products have no inherent rigidity and are simply tapes they must be rodded up the roof, there is also a danger of the rod puncturing the top cavity seal. It is difficult for an operator to feel the thin piece of aluminium tape, which forms the top seal. This is why conservatory companies supplying Polycarbonate roofs may void the supplier's guarantee by fitting this type of product.
Some time ago INSU - UK tried this type of system but because of the above limitations then decided to develop the Solar Insert heat reflector system (in a staple shape) instead.
The INSU web site is at http://www.insu.co.uk
Question submitted by Jackie
We have just had a conservatory installed, and specified double glazed panels, argon filled, with Pilkington K glass, as the conservatory faces North to Northwest. However, we will need some degree of shading during the height of (if we're lucky) summer, as we will be using it all year round and do not want to be driven out by the heat. This is especially important as it is an extension of our kitchen, which has no other source of ventilation than thru' the conservatory.
My question is: What parameters should we apply to our selection of blinds. One set of blind suppliers advises their product is best because any solar radiation will be best reflected back through the glass as their blinds are installed to be close to the glass, and have a reflective layer. Another suggests that in our case, the determining factor should be a well ventilated gap between the glass and the installed blind.
||This question is answered by the Conservatories Online editorial team - For a North / Northwest facing conservatory, it is not essential to have highly reflective blinds although if the budget allows it would be preferable.
For high reflective blinds it is essential to have good ventilation between the blind and glass as temperatures can reach 100 degrees centigrade. These temperatures could cause heat distortion on the conservatory if not adequately ventilated.
On less reflective blinds you will require less ventilation although it is still desirable.
If you use for instance a pinoleum fabric then it would be possible to fit the blind closer to the glass. (If this is the appearance you prefer) With pinoleum you get some ventilation due to the open nature of the product. It's also possible to have a very small gap at the side for additional ventilation.
Question submitted by Richard
We are investigating pinoleum blinds, and have two quotes from leading manufacturers that differ by around 2x. When quizzed, the expensive one claims the difference is based on the quality of the pinoleum (the factory which supplies both companies makes 20 grades apparently) - the expensive one is grade 20, the cheaper grade was judged to be grade 2. Is this a real factor, and if so, how important is it?
||This question is answered by the Conservatories Online editorial team - A company called Ballauff is the manufacturer who supplies most companies in the UK with pinoleum fabric. They produce 30-40 styles of fabric with differing reeds (the strips of wood) and stitching layout. The configuration of the reeds and stitching has an effect on the shading characteristics and
strength of material. In particular check out the stitching and edge tape material. - Cotton stitching and edge tape rots in sunlight and will reduce the longevity of the blinds. A quality product will use acrylic.
Generally speaking, the pinoleum supplied by Ballauff is all good quality, it is how the rest of the blind is put together and the expertise of the company that has the greatest impact on quality and hence price.
We are not aware of varying grades - but as with all products there will be varying quality standards depending on the calibre of the company.
Question submitted by Jac
Our Conservatory is almost finished! We fancy pinoleum roof blinds in a natural colour. We know of 3 suppliers, Appeal, Marston Langinger and Vale. Are there others? Do you know how much they cost? As you do not know our roof size is there a rough price per square metre we could use as a guide?
||This question answered by Tina Dunlop (with help from Paul McCullagh of Appeal Conservatory Blinds) - The three companies you mention are probably the best know suppliers of "made to measure" Roman or Pinoleum blinds for conservatories. The important thing to note is that they specialise in conservatories. This is very much a specialist field and unfortunately we can't think of any other
companies you may wish to consider.
As a guide to cost Paul McCullagh of Appeal Conservatory Blinds says the following.....
It is very difficult to give a price per square meter for pinoleum roof blinds. The layout of the blinds has a large impact on the price. For example, the price can be significantly reduced by having fewer, larger blinds that cover rafters but some may think that this detracts from their appearance. As a guide, for a fairly large conservatory requiring 10 blinds the price would be in the region of £2,700 but much depends on the size of the blinds, it could be as little as £2,000 or as much as
£3,500. (So if you know the number of blinds you will require you could cost your conservatory at a rate of £200 - £350 per blind)
Most suppliers offer a free, no obligation design service and this is the best method to arrive at a suitable layout and price. The key area's to look for when considering alternatives for pinoleum blinds are:
1. Stitching and edge tape material: - Cotton stitching and edge tape rots in sunlight and will reduce the longevity of the blinds. A quality product will use acrylic.
2. Bulky Components: - A quality blind has less obtrusive components
3. Choice of operation methods: - Manual or automated
The raw material, the pinoleum, is fairly standard and usually sourced from France. The difference is in the manufacturing expertise and the use of quality ancillary components.
Finally, satisfy yourself that you are dealing with a reputable company that will be around to honor the guarantee.
Question submitted by Keith
How are conservatory blinds/curtains fixed? I do not want to drill holes in my brand new conservatory.
||We consulted THOMAS SANDERSON Sunblinds for an answer on this - Apparently blinds are fitted into small sprung steel brackets, allowing them to be easily removed. (cleaning etc) Brackets are secured using 10 mm self tapping screws. Their installers are fully
conversant with profiles used in conservatory construction, and take great care that they are not fitting screws into drainage channels or glass lines.
Clearly having the correct brackets etc is essential to making sure a neat fixing on your new conservatory is possible.
Question submitted by Dennis
I have wood cased aluminium clad windows with insulated Approx 1/2" Some of the glass is starting to fog up and I would like to replace the glass with some that have micro blinds in them. Is this possible. Also on my atrium style doors. Thanks
||This question answered by Chris Edwards of Classic Conservatories - Micro blinds within glass units are a system provided by Pella Windows. The frame of the window holding the glass assists the function of the micro blind, therefore, you would need to change the complete window including the frame. In the long-term, this would be the best
investment. You can visit their web site for more information and a list of suppliers in your area. (USA only)
Question submitted by Ralph
I am considering a conservatory as a home office - with the intention of using all year round. I'm concerned about over exposure to UV radiation and have found various films and coatings for roof and sides plus, of course, tinted polycarbonate roof panels - what do you recommend as the best solution?
||This question answered by Tina Dunlop - I doubt that tinted polycarbonate roof panels alone would be the best solution. In your circumstances (i.e. you wish to use as an office / all year with I imagine computers and such like installed) I do feel it will be worth while considering the various films available. I believe your biggest "problem" will
be heat gain and one product that will help with this is called Solar Gard Film. You can find out more about this product at......
http://www.penumbrablinds.co.uk There are other products such as COOLKOTE which are worth considering.
If you go with Polycarbonate in the roof please consider using the 25 mm option for the extra insulation this gives. (Especially in the Winter). You may also wish to consider Pilkington K Glass in the side frames for the same reason.
On the issue of privacy I would still recommend blinds. (at least in the roof) Whilst there are various privacy films available they are really best used in office blocks etc. In my opinion there often "reflective" appearance can make your conservatory look some what strange.
Question submitted by Gives
Is film type shading effective and what is average price for a 14ft by 7ft conservatory.
||This question answered by Tina Dunlop - I assume that you are referring to Solar Film Laminates. These are a worth while consideration. You will have a slight "tinting" effect on the glass with this product. Additionally most laminates now combine some form of winter heat loss retention with high solar reflectivity in the summer. I would ask
about this when shopping around.
Only MAJOR disadvantage I would point out is that Film Laminates on the glass do not give you any privacy. If privacy were a big issue then I would stay with blinds.
Costs vary from around £500 for a small glass roof to £1000+ on larger installations.
Question submitted by Lesley
We're looking into erecting a conservatory on a S-facing site. Our main concern is that it may get too hot. An architect friend says that there are ways of putting screening, such as louvres on the outside, rather than blinds on the inside, though she says it is more expensive. It would seem helpful to stop the sun's rays getting in the first place. Do you know anything about such systems and who makes them in the UK?
||This question answered by Tina Dunlop - I have seen similar to what you describe fitted externally on a timber conservatory. If I remember correctly the client bought some standard size shutters (external grade) which their very clever site carpenter fitted to the conservatory framing. (They where hinged - not lift off) The whole effect was quite
impressive - they made the shutters a different colour to the conservatory frames! I'm not sure you will find anyone who specialises in this for conservatories. (If you do - let us know) It would be a good idea to let the Conservatory Company you use know of your intentions. Its important that there is enough room to fit the shutters on the external framework and off course you still need to be able to open the windows.
Clearly something like this needs a lot of thought and a "sympathetic" conservatory contractor / carpenter who will accommodate your wishes. Unless you really have some very strong preference for this form of sun shading I would be more inclined to consider sun blinds myself.
Question submitted by Judith
How efficient are roof/window blinds or should I consider air conditioning/fans?
||This question answered by Tina Dunlop - You can consider both. My preference is blinds and a fan for the hotter days. I'm not sure that air conditioning itself will eliminate the need for blinds as you can still have problems with glare if no blinds or shading is fitted.
Question submitted by Judith
Will roof blinds alone be sufficient to reduce glare to watch TV?
||This question answered by Tina Dunlop - If you intend watching TV then I would consider you need both roof and window blinds. The only exception to this may be if your conservatory is North Facing - in which case roof blinds alone may do.
Question submitted by Ian
Do you know of any sort of "tinted film" I can put on the roof of my conservatory to stop the glare of the sun. I know about a product that is similar to cling film i.e. not very sticky and is kept up by static, is this true and if so where can I buy it from. Thanks
Question submitted by Mark
We have recently had a south-west facing Georgian conservatory built (3m by 4m)and now realise we need to fit blinds. This is mainly for reducing glare rather than heat as we have good ventilation. Roughly how much should we budget for roof and/or window blinds and if we can only afford one, should we opt for roof blinds first?
||This question answered by Tina Dunlop - Speaking personally I would always favour roof blinds over window blinds. Costs vary considerably - depending on the quality and standard of blind. What I quote here can only be a guide.
Prices for roof blinds only start at £1000 - but frankly its not unheard of to spend as much as £2000 - £3000 for SOLAR type blinds. I am not involved in blinds everyday but I have known of people spending £4000 plus when window blinds are included.
Finally as when you selected your conservatory supplier its important that you use a conservatory blinds specialist. So often individuals or companies who only occasionally do conservatory blinds will tender for the job when in fact they know little of the complexities of fitting conservatory roof blinds. Their prices will often be more attractive - but often they do not have the expertise to carry out an excellent job. (In my humble opinion that is!).