The Sun, UV and your Conservatory

Once again, winter is drawing to a close and we arrive at the point of the year where we all start looking forward to a long, hot summer.  At least, that’s what we all hope for!  No matter what the great British weather has in store for us one thing is certain: those of us lucky enough to have a conservatory will be cursing the sun at some point. 

Longer days, less cloud cover and a Sun high in the sky is the ‘perfect storm’ for creating a conservatory hell.  Solar damage, solar heating and unbearable environmental conditions are all big problems experienced by conservatory owners during the summer months.  The big question is, can anything be done about them?  The short answer is yes, but first let’s try to understand cause.

What is Sunlight and how does it work?

Sunlight is made up of three different types of electromagnetic waves, that’s light to you and me, Infrared light (44%), the visible spectrum (48%) and ultraviolet light (8%).  Some of this light we can see like the visible spectrum, think of all the colours you can see in a rainbow.  Some of this light we can’t see like infrared and ultraviolet light, but we know it’s there as we can see and feel its effects. 

Ultraviolet light is more commonly known as ‘UV’ and although it makes up only 8% of sunlight it has the most energy.  The heat you feel on your skin when you are outside sunbathing in the full summer Sun, that is the UV light from the Sun hitting your skin.  If you expose your skin to it for a period of time it becomes uncomfortable for most people, stay in it too long and you’ll get burned.  Considering UV makes up only 8% of sunlight, that should give you an idea of how much energy UV light contains. 

 

So, what’s the problem with my conservatory?

Many conservatory and roofing companies will tell you that it’s the glass in the conservatory roof as they want to sell you expensive replacement glazing or modifications, most of them useless.  They claim that the glass has a magnifying effect on the UV light.  That’s why it’s so uncomfortable to sit in direct sunlight inside the conservatory and why all the fabrics and carpets are fading. 

It sounds logical but it is incredibly misleading.  It would feel exactly the same if you were sitting in the garden and fabric and soft furnishings would fade in exactly the same manner if they were also left in the garden.  The glazing has no magnification effects what so ever.

The only problem a glazed roof is responsible for is letting the UV light in to start with and then trapping the air inside the conservatory that is gradually heated by the UV light.  Over a period of hours, this cycle of gradually heating the ever-warmer trapped air raises the temperature of the conservatory to the point where a very uncomfortable environment is created.  Unless you have a roof vent/window it’s time to open the doors and buy a fan to free that air. 

The real problem is the UV light itself.  When it hits skin or another object some of the UV light is absorbed and some is reflected.  It is the UV light that is absorbed that causes damage to soft furnishings, skin (yes, it is possible to get sunburn sitting in a conservatory!) and causes the internal temperature of conservatories to rise to such uncomfortable levels. 

The Proof of the Pudding

The amount of UV absorbed or reflected, like all types of light, depends on the colour of the surface it hits, dark coloured surfaces absorb more light than coloured surfaces.  This is why most plastic garden furniture is white, so it reflects as much light as possible and therefore stays as cool as possible in the sun.  UV light also applies a heating effect and raises the temperature of any object that is exposed to it.  This is why you can feel your skin getting warmer when you’re sunbathing and why a dark coloured leather sofa that’s been in the sun gets quite hot. 

When UV is absorbed over a long period it causes a noticeable visible effect on whatever is exposed to it.  It causes skin to react by turning brown and to prematurely age, making it dry and wrinkly.  With fabrics, it causes colours to fade and the fabric fibres themselves to degrade resulting in the fabric fibres becoming stiff and brittle.  If you have ever seen a bookcase in a conservatory you will notice that all the book spines will have suffered a ‘bleaching’ effect. 

So, the proof of the pudding is this, if we consider a conservatory on a sunny day, UV light is flooding through the glazed roof.  Curtains and soft furnishings are fading and degrading, the glazed roof is trapping air inside.  Every object inside the conservatory is being warmed up and acting like a little heater to raise the overall temperature to an uncomfortable level.  We can see and feel the problems, we know why they occur.  What can be done to improve the situation?

The Solution

The only way to effectively solve the problem is to block or reduce the amount of UV light that enters the conservatory.  This can be accomplished in two ways; replacing the glazed roof with a traditional one or install Shade Sail Blinds.  Let’s look at the options. 

A Traditional Roof

This is the most effective solution available.  But it is not without its drawbacks.  Replacing the glazed roof with a traditional one will turn the conservatory area into a traditional internal room.  It will have an insulated plastered roof space which will block all UV light.  It will massively reduce solar damage and heating effects while helping to stabilise temperatures in both summer and winter. 

However, you will lose the one feature that was probably why you purchased a conservatory in the first place.  That ‘garden room’ feel, being able to look up and see nothing but sky.  The ability to sit in an armchair and feel like you’re outside, inside.  Of course, another major drawback of this option is the cost.  Most conservatory owners are unwilling to spend another £13,000+ on a conservatory that has already cost them upwards of £20,000! 

http://shadesailblinds.com

 

Shade Sail Blinds

There is, however, another option which is far more cost effective.  Installing contemporary designer shade blinds from Shade Sail Blinds. 

The addition of Shade Sails in the roof space prevents a large proportion of the UV light from reaching people and objects in the conservatory.  This instantly reduces the solar damage and heating effects, prolonging the lifetime of soft furnishings and creating a much more pleasant environment to spend time in. 

We manufacture our Shade Sails from a unique high-quality stretch fabric with a high polyester content that is inherently UV resistant. They retain almost 70% of their initial strength after a year of intense UV exposure which is significantly more than other fabrics.  We produce our Shade Sails so they ‘stretch to fit’ which gives them a beautiful translucent quality unlike traditional ‘black out’ style blinds.  This translucent property creates a soft shade, like the dappled shade of a tree, that maintains the light and airy feel of a conservatory while providing practical shade coverage. 

Our bespoke and unique designs can tailor Shade Sail coverage, gaps, shapes and colours to create stylish contemporary designs.  We work with our clients to create design they are right for them that offer practical shade coverage while maintaining the outdoors indoors feel of a conservatory.  We also offer part coverage solutions for limited budgets so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of Shade Sail Blinds. 

To find out more about how you can reclaim your conservatory from the sun this summer please browse our website or get in contact with us directly on 0844 8111 382 or hello@shadesailblinds.com we look forward to hearing from you. 

Web Link 1 “three different types of electromagnetic waves” –
http://naturalfrequency.com/wiki/solar-radiation

Web Link 2 “inherently UV resistant”  –
http://www.servicethread.com/blog/the-uv-resistance-of-polypropylene-and-polyester-explained