Tuesday 5th June, 2007
Mark Hanson, Marketing Manager at Ultraframe and Chair of the Glass and Glazing Federation`s Conservatory Association takes a look at how, through some simple design and specification choices, installers and consumers working together can reduce C02 emissions.
Almost half of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions come from the energy we use every day - at home and when we travel. By saving energy we can all help to slow down climate change and there are lots of simple things we can do to reduce the amount of energy we use, such as ensuring that our existing dwellings are adequately insulated. The effects of climate change can be seen in our every day lives as the UK's winters have grown warmer, with heavier bursts of rain whilst summers are growing drier and hotter. So, by reducing CO2 emissions, not only will we be doing our bit to slow down climate change, but by reducing energy consumption we will also see a difference in our pockets. The average household could save up to £300 a year on energy bills by being more energy efficient.
Conservative leader David Cameron has installed a wind turbine at his Kensington property in order to play a part in energy saving but such drastic measures – some may even say `gestures` - may be considered unnecessary as there are simple ways that we can all make a difference, and one of these is to ensure that the products we install within our home are designed to be energy efficient. Of course, Building Regulations for new homes ensures that the products used within them conform to the latest standards, which now includes Part L to ensure that windows/glazing also conform. But what about older properties, such as those from the Victorian era, when energy efficiency was not such a hot topic? Is it the case that adding a conservatory is always going to increase carbon emissions?
The answer is a very definite `NO` and in this article I would like to outline key factors relating to specification and design choice that can reduce emissions or minimise them. Its clear that by giving due consideration of these factors –size/shape/materials/heating –varying outcomes are possible. Its useful to think of two key objectives, as far as energy consumption is concerned, when setting out to build a conservatory:
Winter objective……increase the capture of FREE renewable energy (the sun) whilst minimising expensive generated heating
Summer objective ...keep out the suns energy without resorting to expensive air conditioning
What practical steps, as say a retail design consultant or surveyor, can you take to meet the twin objectives above?
1. Consider the siting of the conservatory. Usually there is little flexibility with this due to the position of the property relevant to the plot and also giving consideration to the consumers desired use of the new room and what the adjacent rooms function is. However, if there is any flexibility with the consume, benefits are to be had by moving it from a North elevation to a South, at least in meeting the winter objective of generating more FREE heat…..but this will be at the expense of less utility in the hot summer months. At this stage shading should be considered. Look at adjacent trees and their type –can you minimise winter shading and maximise summer shading? Could the prudent replanting of certain species of tree actually contribute?
2. Pattern of occupation. Clearly, if a conservatory is built and used only in warmer sunnier months and left unheated in winter and closed off from the property, then the insulation of the house wall covered by the conservatory is improved and the energy usage of the dwelling reduced. Although this scenario of usage is unlikely it does indicate that a discussion with a consumer interested in energy conservation may pay dividends in terms of optimising energy use. .
3. Construction/materials. The base and floor MUST be insulated…surely we can take it as read that everyone is now doing this? Ignore this important issue and the energy consumption of the conservatory can increase by 20%!! The use of high performance glazing materials can also be beneficial as the U value is lower. However, choosing the right glazing for North and South facing conservatories can be a little tricky as, crudely speaking, you want solar gain in winter and yet to prevent it in summer and sometimes inappropriate sealed units are used that can cause other issues elsewhere.
4. Style and size. Energy used in a conservatory increases roughly in proportion to the size of the conservatory….not rocket science, I know, but still worthy of statement. Style for style, if the size remains the same there is very little difference in energy usage between them, certainly not enough to warrant steering consumers one way or another. However, what is a more important influence is the relationship between width and depth. A wide shallow conservatory has far less impact than a narrow one with a deep projection –again due to the `buffering` effect on the existing house wall. If the property has a solid wall –as in a Victorian property-with no cavity it is likely that the conservatory becomes a net energy saver, as the energy used in the dwelling can be reduced.
5. Heating and cooling. Without going into too much detail a couple of simple illustrations will make the point. A) In winter, raising the thermostat from 18 degree centigrade to 21 doubles the energy use whilst b) in summer artificially reducing the temperature to say 26 degree C uses roughly twice the energy as heating it in winter to 18 degree C. Far better to rely on the use of natural ventilation –using trickle vents, roof vents etc than use energy with air conditioners.
As responsible citizens its our duty to use sensible measures to reduce our energy consumption and the guidance and tips above will provide retail sales people with some knowledge to engage with consumers in a responsible way that actually enhances their buying experience as they view us as the experts in all things `conservatory`.
One further item on the current environmental agenda is the introduction of Home Information Packs, which sellers will be legally obliged to provide when selling their home. An important part of the packs will be Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for homes, which must be provided as part of HIPs for all homes marketed for sale from 1 June. The certificates will help homebuyers save an estimated £300 a year on their fuel bills if the recommendations are implemented. For sellers whose homes feature a conservatory, the EPC will NOT cover the conservatory, as we understand it today. However, we will keep you updated if this changes.
For users of its roof systems, Ultraframe have introduced chambered top cappings and high performance glazing such as Conservaglass or Polyspan Optimum as examples of a few of the ways that they can ensure that their conservatory is energy efficient. Chambered top cappings are available in a choice of 2 designs for the Classic system, and ensures thermals of up to 4°C warmer than similar systems, which equates to up to 40% better performance.
For many years energy efficiency has been the domain of enthusiastic environmentalists and fringe politicians in green parties, but the very real issue of climate change has made it important to us all. Ultraframe strives to offer its system users products that are not only fitter friendly and aesthetically pleasing, but also offer a high level of energy efficiency, ensuring that homeowners get a conservatory which is a room for all seasons, and a product which is performing in line with current energy conservation guidelines. Although the Ultraframe systems are widely acknowledged as being at the cutting edge of the market, we still strive to enhance them, to ensure they stay ahead of both any future legislation or consumer wishes regarding thermal performance, as well as offering features that help installers on site.
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Ultraframe deliver innovative and top quality conservatory roof systems for the trade which suit all styles, all applications, all consumer types and which offer excellent value for money.
The market leading company invests heavily in research and development to provide the most technologically advanced and stylish conservatory roofing solutions, maximising light and space. Ultraframe are at the forefront of conservatory design and its systems are mainly used in the home improvement sector but also in new housing and commercial applications in the UK and Europe.
In 2006 the privately owned Latium Group, which has many interests within the glass & glazing and home improvement markets acquired Ultraframe. The Latium Group is owned by entrepreneur Brian Kennedy.
For further media information:
Ultraframe (UK) Ltd