Don’t Isolate Conservatory Glass Performance to the Roof Only

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13 Jan Don’t Isolate Conservatory Glass Performance to the Roof Only

A number of leading installation companies are now specifying specialist glass for the door and window frames as well as the conservatory roof. Jason McCabe of SMARTGLASS® explains the rationale of offering solar control glass from footings to finials.

It’s only in the last dozen years that we’ve been increasingly concerned with the glass that we install in replacement windows and doors and also into conservatory roofs. The launch of the Window Energy Ratings scheme back in March 2004 did much to catapult everyone from large glass processors, testing houses and spacer bar manufacturers into the limelight.

But now we’re faced with an industry that’s pretty much obsessed with ‘A’ ratings and even the new “A++’ rating. But while the BRFC has designed the mathematics behind the assessment of windows and doors to account for any solar heat gain in a positive way, we are in fact guilty of introducing something that the conservatory sector has been trying to address for decades, unwanted solar heat gain.

Typical replacement windows are installed to one side of a room and often at a cill height of around 3 feet or 920mm, yet a conservatory is typically glazed on three sides with a very low cill (600mm) and a glass roof. Thus, the effect on any solar heat gain through a replacement window is minimal in comparison to a glazed area that’s roughly 4-5 times the same size in a typical conservatory.

It’s for good reason therefore, that in quarter 3, 2015 we launched SMARTGLASS®-W, the industry’s first ever dedicated range of glass for conservatory doors and windows. The proposition was simple, to offer a range of glass that has been purely designed for the door and windows installed in conservatories, with the key features from the equivalent roofing glass including enhanced security, anti-fade technologies and a true self clean coating.

For the sales savvy conservatory specialists it’s been an opportunity to offer a product USP, that has helped close more sales and increased margins. The reality is also that the standard SMARTGLASS®-W with warm edge technology is typically the same price as the type of glass specified in ‘A’ rated windows. For a small uplift the ‘Plus+’ derivative will offer enhanced security and 98% UV protection through the use of a specialist laminated glass. Meanwhile at the very top end the ‘Ultimate’ product offers all this and with a true self cleaning coating in addition.

The launch of the first UK manufactured specialist conservatory roof glass was back at Glassex in 2003 and at the time it caused quite a storm, it was far more expensive than polycarbonate, but quickly established a 20% share in the market, which is now estimated at over 80% of all conservatories installed. I do believe the same premise could well apply to the door and window glass installed into conservatories, after all the homeowner has already bought into the merits of the roof glass.

But like everything it will take a little time for us to travel down the adoption curve from the present position of innovators that make up 2.5% of the market, through to the early adopters at 13.5% and then on to the early and later majorities when the market will be truly established for all parties. We’ve already seen companies such as SEHBAC quickly establishing sales through their 10 show sites and others have also been quick to pick up on the sales opportunity, including Prefix Systems. They have also been actively promoting the proposition of solar control glass throughout a conservatory, which they believe should be the future standard for the sector.

The future for overall conservatory performance is to offer glass that is specific to the main requirements of solar control, anti-glare in the roofing plane and true self cleaning properties. Warm edge technology is also a pre-requisite as is the priority to vastly reduce solar heat gain from the doors and windows.

As an industry we must treat replacement doors and windows for conservatries completely separately to those that we install in the main house, as they each have clearly defined needs in terms of performance. As this market takes shape, the early adopters will soon join the innovators and so a new market will emerge for the benefit of consumers looking for a technically better performing conservatory.