In Canada, there are few places where people do not want the sun. Saddled with our long winters we are used to the long hours of darkness in January and treasure the few hours when the sun is actually shining. In fact many of us try to magnify our winter connection to the sun by having southern-facing windows and areas dedicated to having sunlight. These areas are commonly called sunrooms and they are built in many different styles that have varied functions.
In a nutshell sunrooms are home additions that have large windows to let in the sun. The main objective of such a space is relaxation and recreation such as a television room, greenhouse, reading room or dining room. In the summer the windows can be taken off to expose a screened-in area. Because most sunrooms have a roof the high-flying sun is not a factor until the equinox and after that the rays are welcome all fall, winter and into the spring.
The price of a sunroom depends on the function. For example four season sunrooms are actually room additions. So the cost to build one will come in at about the same as adding a bedroom onto the side of the home plus the large windows. However, what you are getting is more than just another room because a sunroom has more uses. A patio can evolve into a sunroom with little trouble if it has a foundation or permanent piling.
Types of Sunrooms
- Three Season Sunrooms: This sunroom can be built on a deck. So if you have a deck that is mounted to the house with concrete pilings below the frost line then the sunroom can go over top. In the winter this can be used to store tools but using it for recreation would be hard on the heat bill because the glass is not thermal.
- Four Season Sunrooms: because it will be used in the winter the floor has to be insulated. Preferably there should be a knee-wall foundation below the frost-line. The glass will be double or triple-paned, low-emissivity and argon gas-filled. In addition, the aluminum frames will have a thermal break because straight metal frames would conduct the cold. This area can be heated so its use as a greenhouse would be ideal but it can also be used for any room desired, even for a hot tub.
- Solariums: Solariums usually come in sunroom kits and lean against the side of the home. The main difference between a sunroom and a solarium id that a solarium has glass or plastic above as well as on the sides. Most solariums are used as greenhouses or a place to put a spa and are rarely geared for all-season use.
- Conservatory: If you put a transparent roof on a four-season sunroom you would have a conservatory. These are majestic buildings that can be as intricate as the homeowners desire. The main reason conservatories were invented was so that exotic plants from tropical areas could flourish in the cold European winters. They were usually heated and sometimes used as giant birdcages.
- Screen Room: These are an inexpensive way to enjoy the outdoors without the insects bugging you. They are shaped like a sunroom but have screen from top to bottom. Many of them also include covers for rain.
The Solar Advantage
One of the newest uses for a sunroom is passive solar heating. The room is built on the south side of the home that must be free of trees and other obstructions that can cast long shadows. The floor and back wall of the sunroom is built with brick or tile that act as thermal storage. Underneath the floor and wall are thin pipes placed in parallel and spaced every foot. These pipes come together into a single duct that links to other areas of the home.
In winter the sun is low but the few hours that it shines on the sunroom the thermal mass (brick and tile) is heated and this heat energy is stored until the outside temperature goes down. When the home begins to cool a thermostat activates a low-voltage fan that draws air through the pipes in the floor and walls of the sunroom. This air is heated as it passes through the thermal mass and is sent off to heat the other areas of the home. Along with being a heat source this space can be used to grow vegetables and herbs in the winter. A sunroom can also be used as a collector for solar hot water. Usually these collectors are placed on the roof but can operate efficiently in a sunroom.
A sunroom can turn an ordinary home into a gemstone for a little more than adding a bedroom to the home. For more information on sunrooms consult our Contractor Directory for a company in your are or post your project online at TrustedPros.ca.Posted by: TrustedPros