Dear Jim: I would like to add a bright, efficient sunroom to my house for an "outdoors" feeling during the winter. What reasonably priced sunroom options do I have and is it possible to use one to help heat my house? —Peg N.
Dear Peg: There is a vast array of sunroom options depending on your budget. These designs range from low-cost aluminum/acrylic kits to elaborate decorative wood/efficient glass models. Some are do-it-yourself kits while others are delivered to your home completely assembled.
It is possible to use your new sunroom to capture solar heat and reduce your overall heating bills, but this will effect the basic design and interior space. For most sunrooms used primarily as living space, a reasonable efficiency goal is to just make it energy self-sufficient in the winter.
The newer do-it-yourself sunroom kits, thanks to computer-aided design procedures, have a professionally built look when completed. While a few manufacturers sell only through contractors who build it for you, they often will let you help build it to lower the overall costs.
Sunrooms are classified as three-season or year-round models. You probably want a year-round model with double-pane thermal windows and a wood or thermally broken aluminum frame for efficiency and to control condensation.
Three-season sunrooms typically have just single-pane windows and screens. The simplest design to build yourself uses an aluminum frame with double-pane clear acrylic windows. To create a screened porch in the summer, the windows can be removed and are self-storing beneath the screens. The clear roof is made of tough double-pane polycarbonate (bulletproof glass).
Most sunroom kits, whether contractor-built or do-it-yourself, bolt together like an erector set. All of the color-coded components, hardware and fasteners are included. If you order one of the completely assembled sunrooms, you can be using it three hours after delivery. Large models are delivered in several preassembled sections.
Models using frames with a curved transition from the front to top are the most attractive but more difficult to build. These often use wood frames instead of no-maintenance aluminum. If you want curved eaves and no maintenance, choose a kit with wood interior and aluminum exterior framing.
During the summer, sunrooms often overheat in the afternoon sun. Adding some type of shading device and ventilation is imperative. Write for (instantly download — www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 640 — buyer's guide of 12 efficient sunroom/kit manufacturers listing styles, frame/glazing materials, ventilation/shading options, features and passive solar heat producing tips. Please include $30 and a business-size SASE. James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244
Dear Jim: I have always wondered if I should leave the ceiling fan running when I leave the room. It certainly seems to cool the room in the summer, so I imagine running it keeps the room cool. Is this correct? — Kerry G.
Dear Kerry: Running a ceiling fan does not cool the air. The air circulation that it creates makes you feel cooler. Actually, the ceiling fan heats the air because of the electricity that it uses. Turn it off whenever you leave the room and don't plan to return shortly. To the contrary, in the winter, running it more often on low speed (reversed direction) will gently move the warmest air from the ceiling down near the floor.