bring sunlight and air into your home without sacrificing the
comfort of the great indoors. Sunrooms can be custom-designed or
purchased as a kit.
When planning, decide first
how you are going to use the room. For example, if you want to
extend your living room or kitchen, you'll have different
construction requirements than if you want to install a hot tub or
create a solarium for your plants.
Some other things to consider:
Remember to orient your sunroom so that the main windows face south.
Solar south may have a different track than the compass south. So
watch how the sun moves across your house. After you find the best
location for the sunroom, start your plans.
Roof and sides
A typical sunroom or solarium has a glass
sides, but circumstances should dictate your choice.
If your room is going to
be in an area with major exposure to the sun, you might want to
consider partial overhead glass or making just the sunroom
glass. Likewise, if you live in snow country and your sunroom will
be located below another sloped roof (which will dump onto the
sunroom roof), you might want to consider partial overhead glass or
roofing instead of glass.
If your sunroom is an
extension of your house, consider using standard roofing materials
corrugated steel roofing.
another popular option because they bring additional sunlight into a
And if you want to house
hot tub or
plants, think about enclosing the entire space with glass. This can
be an expensive option, and most hardware stores don't carry the
type of double-pane tempered glass you'll need. However, specialty
stores can help you out.
If you want your sunroom to feel more like an actual room, you might
consider a knee wall, which is basically
just a short wall about knee height, as the lower part of the
outside wall. You can also run electric lines through a knee wall,
something you can't do with glass.
you another inexpensive way to ventilate your sunroom. If the room
gets too hot, it's easy to crack the window and/or run a mechanical
exhaust fan to cool things off.
Outside shade screens can be
purchased from manufacturers and are placed over the top of the
sunroom to filter the sunlight before it reaches the glass itself.
As the amount of glass used in
a house increases, its energy efficiency usually decreases simply
because glass windows and doors are not as effective as walls for
insulating. A great deal of effort has been made in recent years to
improve the efficiency of glazing.
Today's windows are generally
dual-glazed or insulated. There are a variety of high-performance
glazings on the market. Low-E glazing is the most common. This
employs an imperceptibly thin metallic film or coating between two
glass panes that selectively rejects some energy wavelengths,
greatly reducing heat transfer through the glass and minimizing
fading of furniture and carpets caused by ultraviolet rays.
Where ultraviolet fading is a
real problem, for instance, in sunny climates, a solar-bronze or
gray-tinted glass can reject unwanted heat and UV rays. (Glass may
also be purchased with a polymer coating that repels dirt,
minimizing the need for washing windows.) Argon gas-filled glass can
be even more efficient. New super windows use two low-E coatings or
films to achieve incredibly high insulation values. Generally
speaking, the more energy-efficient the glazing, the more expensive
Sliding doors, which have one fixed panel and another that glides
along top and bottom tracks, can be good choices for sunrooms as an
entryway. They seal out the weather and admit plenty of light.
Many experts recommend installing
vents or a
ceiling fan (or both) in your sunroom roof to draw heat into the
house more efficiently and because the area can get fairly hot. (An
exhaust fan to blow the heat out isn't a bad idea, either.)
Depending on how much of the
roof is made of glass, installing ceiling lights to light the area
might be an option. And remember to include electrical switches and
outlets for all of your needs.
It's not a bad time to add a
couple of extra switches and outlets in case you decide to change
the sunroom's function, perhaps making it into an office with a
computer and phone in the future.