How to make a conservatory warmer - ways to heat and insulate for all-year round use

Experts explain how to make a conservatory warmer, to help keep you warm in your orangery or garden room whatever the weather

Conservatories are notoriously challenging for keeping the heat in, but you do have a few options when looking into how to make a conservatory warmer.

When brainstorming conservatory ideas, it is likely that you had an image of basking in the warm sun filtering through the glass roof. However, conservatories are for all seasons, not just warm summer days.

These glasses structures require smart heating solutions and careful consideration of how to insulate a conservatory effectively.

How to make a conservatory warmer

In anticipation of autumn creeping over the window sill, we have rounded up some expert tips on how to make a conservatory warmer in cold weather.

1. Invest in a heating element that complements the conservatory size

vale garden houses

(Image credit: Vale Garden Houses)

The first step should always be to assess what's possible in a conservatory of your size. Larger conservatories with 'rear or low wall space' can fit radiators, explains Lisa Morton, Director at Vale Garden Houses.

However, this isn't automatically an option, especially if space is very tight. Lisa cautions that 'choosing what type of heating you want in your conservatory or orangery will depend much on the space available to you.'

If you're looking at small conservatory ideas, you likely will need to explore non-radiator options.

2. Consider the position of the sun

dining table with flower vase

(Image credit: Future Plc)

If you're starting a conservatory project from scratch, then working out its aspect is crucial to choosing the correct heating options. Lisa points out, 'One thing to remember is that a conservatory will gain heat very quickly with a little sunshine at any time of the year. It will similarly lose heat in the evening as fast.'

If your conservatory is south-facing, then it is likely to be warm throughout the year. And you will only need a backup instant heating source for those surprise cold nights. A north-facing conservatory will inevitably always be cold. So, you will need more permanent heating solutions.

When planning, think about what time of day you will be using the space. Conservatory kitchen ideas will need to be kept warm in the morning and evening. However, you will also need to consider the combination of the heat of the sun and the kitchen itself.

3. Invest in underfloor heating

thames valley window

(Image credit: Thames Valley Window Company)

Underfloor heating undoubtedly is the most popular way to keep a conservatory warmer, but it divides our experts on its efficacy.

For Lisa, the benefit of underfloor heating is mainly that it's a 'space-saving solution'. However, she points out that the 'downside to underfloor is that it is not instant heat and will take a while to reach an ambient temperature.'

Ryan Schofield, Managing Director at Thames Valley Window Company, gives underfloor heating the highest praise. He calls it 'by far the most effective heating for a conservatory.'

'As most conservatories have stone or ceramic floors, apart from in the summer, the floors will always be cold and uninviting,' he explains. 'As heat rises & cold air drops a conservatory heated by radiators will have many more ''cold zones'' than a conventional brick-built extension.' 

sofa with glass window and plants

(Image credit: Thames Valley Window Company)

Ryan acknowledges that many have safety fears about installing a system under the floor in case it leaks or breaks down. 'Water-driven under-floor heating water has no joints under the floor, so can only go wrong or leak above the ground if at all,' he reassures. Meaning the leak can be dealt with the same as any other heat source.

However, if you opted for electric cable underfloor heating instead there are some extra safety measures to consider. 'You must ensure the cables are completely covered with screed and have not slipped in between or over the edges of the Celotex insulation boards,' says Ryan. 

'If the cables are not covered with screed they will burn out, and this can take up to 2 years to develop. A repair is possible but only by lifting the area of floor in question and taking up the screed to expose the damaged cables.'

4. Install window treatments to insulate

sofa with table and flower vase

(Image credit: Blinds2Go)

Adding in double-glazed windows is a must when insulating a conservatory to make it warmer. However, if your garden room is still chilly after adding in double-glazing, blinds and curtains will help bolster the effect.

Marc Husband, product design lead at Leader Doors, says that 'installing some curtains and blinds in your conservatory will massively reduce heat transfer. So, your conservatory will stay warmer for longer.'

If going for conservatory blinds, experts recommend considering cellular blinds. Their honeycomb-shaped pockets trap air inside and limit heat transfer from the window.

To avoid any drafts and to reduce the heat escaping consider investing in made-to-measure-blinds. They fit flush to the frame.

5. Don't underestimate the power of a portable heater

corner sofa

(Image credit: Future Publishing Plc/ Colin Poole)

The power of a portable heater to keep a conservatory warm should not be sniffed at. They are a simple option if you don't currently have the budget for any major installations, or have a small conservatory.

'Many companies still recommend electric heaters. They do work and will heat the conservatory,' explains Ryan. 'However, there is one downside with portable heaters, oil-filled and convector heaters can lead to potentially high energy bills.'

To help keep energy bills low seek out infrared heaters or panels. They heat objects rather than air and will instantly warm you up while consuming less electricity.

How can I heat my conservatory cheaply?

If budget is an issue many of the tips around how to keep your house warm in the winter can be applied to the conservatory. Consider turning old jumpers into draught excludes and laying them at the bottom of the windows and doors.

Incorporate rugs into your conservatory flooring ideas. These will provide an extra layer of insulation, while also keeping your feet away from the cold floor.

If all else fails make sure your have baskets filled with blankets for snuggling up with a good book.

Anna Cottrell is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.