If you’re a lucky enough homeowner, you already have an amazing sunroom built into your house.
For everyone else, you’ve probably considered adding one at some time or another, especially after seeing the countless beautiful images of these rooms online, and wondering whether it’s a possibility for you.
Sunrooms serve a few purposes in a home: they provide a good amount of natural heat, they look stunning, and they can be the ideal place to grow plants and greenery that will thrive.
What most people don’t realize though, is they’re also an easy way to reduce your reliance on heating systems and save a lot for your pocket and the environment.
What is a sunroom and how does it save on heating costs?
A sunroom is a general term to describe an area or room of a house that features more windows than walls. With the amount of heat and natural light that they invite in, it’s possible to harness this to heat by connecting it to an HVAC system, so that you rely less on electricity.
Although it sounds ideal, it’s not all that simple, especially if you don’t already have an existing and functional sunroom. We’re going to explore this natural space further to see what’s possible and whether you can get real savings on your home’s heating costs by utilizing it best.
What is a Sunroom or Solarium?
A sunroom is a type of room inside a house that relies mainly on glass and windows rather than walls.
These rooms were designed to get optimal sunlight and have a warm place to sit that allows natural light in without having to go outside, but they have now developed into one of the most energy-efficient spaces in the house.
A typical sunroom gets quite hot in summer, and colder in winter, but with a few adaptions and changes, it can be turned into a source of heat for the rest of the house regardless of the time of year.
Even if you have an existing sunroom, you can still turn it into an energy-efficient one, but there are a few things you have to check off first.
The most important factor of a sunroom is its position, and thankfully, even older spaces that weren’t designed with home heating in mind have this already.
The room should be well-positioned to receive the most amount of sun possible and without shade or obstruction, giving you full-time access to sunlight and natural heat.
How Do Sunrooms Work?
A sunroom designed for heating a house works predominantly through its windows, but these rooms should not be built for this purpose alone. The windows of a normal house allow the sunlight in but are also capable of transferring conductive heat from the outside to the inside, which isn’t ideal.
There are two popular options for sunroom windows that can improve thermal efficiency, including E-glass and double-glazed windows.
E-glass reduces the infrared light that passes through the glass, and double-glazed windows feature a layer in between them, usually of air or gas, and this reduces the heat transfer by more than 50 percent.
Once the correct windows have been installed, you can then determine whether you want to circulate this warmer air through the house.
You might install operable vents at the top of the room that can circulate the air through the house, or for a simpler approach, a standard fan with thermostatic controls that moves it around the home. Sometimes, the warm air will move on its own through doors and vents, but this is the least efficient option.
Issues During Winter
Winter can present challenges for sunrooms, however, those built with a primary purpose to heat the rest of the home shouldn’t come across this problem.
A sunspace that has all of the right elements including sloped glazing windows, insulation, unglazed walls, and a few carefully chosen plants will still get very hot during winter if it’s a sunny day outside.
Other sunrooms that weren’t designed with this purpose can get quite chilly during summer, and won’t be able to provide heat during the months that need it.
Though they might deliver some heat through the sunshine, because the windows are standard and not designed for thermal insulation, the cold temperatures from outside can penetrate through.
If you live somewhere with exceptionally cold winters, it’s worth spending some time choosing the right windows for a sunroom.
This will enable you to harness its warmth when it’s needed most and have a huge impact on reducing your energy bills, as well as your reliance on environmentally damaging practices.
The Energy Efficiency of a Sunroom
To ensure you’ve built the most energy-efficient sunroom capable of warming the rest of your house, there are some things you can do.
Follow these tips to have the most energy-efficient space that reduces your reliance on traditional HVAC systems.
Choose the right windows
Windows are the single most important part of a sunroom, and for them to be energy efficient they need to have some key features.
The angle of the window glaze and the type will be determined based on their position, so seeking out a professional contractor is best to decide this.
Place the sunroom so it’s facing due south as much as possible, depending on what your home allows. In this position, it’s primed for maximum solar collection and the most heat.
Insulate the area
Insulation is key when trying to make your home more energy-efficient, and this is especially important when building a sunroom.
Not only do the windows need to be insulated, but so do the sidewalls. With a solid insulated sidewall, you’ll prevent nighttime loss from occurring and boost the efficiency of your solar gain.
Home energy audit
Before making a final decision on building a sunroom, you should have a home energy audit performed first.
During this audit, they can show you the most cost-friendly and efficient changes you can do, including whether a sunroom is right for your home and where it should be positioned.
Potential Problems of Using a Sunroom
Although there are lots of good points to note, sunrooms aren’t completely without problems and they might not always be the right choice for you.
There are some potential issues you should consider when having one of these spaces built or trying to retrofit your existing house to have a sunroom.
Installing a new sunroom in your home can be costly, and may not be worth what you’ll save in utility bills. Costs of up to $55,000 should be considered for a sunroom capable of working through all four seasons, which is a hefty amount.
In addition to these costs, your property taxes may increase, so speak with a financial advisor before doing any upgrades to your home.
Lack of privacy
If the area you’re building a sunroom faces neighbors or a street, you will lose a lot of the privacy you might take for granted.
Using drapes or blinds reduces the effectiveness of a sunroom and takes away from the purpose of the room, so they’re not a possibility.
A sunroom is a beautiful way to increase your home’s energy efficiency and gives you access to somewhere visually pleasing to spend your time, but it’s not always the right choice.
This is just one of many ways you can adapt your existing home to be eco-friendly and less reliant on energy, and we’ve answered some questions about other things you can do to help.
How Much Value Does a Sunroom Add?
The cost of installing a sunroom in your home will depend on a few factors, but at their most expensive can cost upwards of $55,000.
It’s believed that a homeowner will recoup around 47 percent of these costs during resale, so it isn’t the wisest investment if you plan on selling your home any time soon.
How to Insulate a Sunroom for Winter?
Depending on what’s already built into your sunroom, the best way to add further insulation is through the windows and walls.
Another layer of glaze can help and insulation adding to the walls and ceilings may help keep the warmer temperatures in during winter, and reduce cold drafts from getting in.
Can You Sleep in a Sunroom?
A well-designed sunroom can be enjoyed as a place to sit, rest, and even sleep, and not just somewhere to attract heat for the house.
To make them more comfortable, you can add various furniture choices like sofas and beds, provided your guests don’t mind being exposed to the sunrise without any shade early in the morning.