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5-Key Elements of a Great Sunroom
We all remember the first time we heard the idea, ‘form and function’ in an art class or maybe an introduction to landscaping. We learned that form and function together create something appealing and useful. One without the other and eventually the product lands in the trash heap. There are 5-key elements to design and build the form and function of a great sunroom.
Great sunroom design derives from the principle of form and function.
The previous blog, Sunrooms that Connect the Indoors to the Outdoors explained that the type of sunroom you choose derives from having clear goals about how you want to use it. This blog explains how the design, products and installation decisions come from an understanding of the elements that make a great sunroom.
If you create the right form by focusing on energy efficiency you will achieve the optimal sunroom function of comfort and savings.
Contrary to the ads and flyers, sunrooms are not just glass walls surrounding happy people. Use the methods below to create a well-designed sunroom that provides daylight and comfort all year. Homeowners and building professionals need to pay attention to five elements of the sunroom construction to avoid mistakes that you’ll realize when it’s too late.
Five elements of a great sunroom
3. Thermal Mass
Orientation. The ideal location for your sunroom is to face due south (30º E or W) which gives you the maximum potential for solar collection. The goal is at least four hours of sunlight at midday in midwinter. Sit in the spot at different times of the day to be sure the sun shines on the location with minimum obstruction from trees or structures. If you were building a new home with a sunroom, be build close to the north property line leaving more open space and sunlight behind the sunroom.
Glazing. Always use glass, rather than plastic alternatives because it’s more durable and traps more heat. We recommend vertical dual clear glass panes, rather than sloped glazing because it’s more practical and efficient. Slopped glazing collects more heat during the day and looses more heat at night making the temperature too hard to control. Low E or reflective glazing can prevent solar heat from entering the sunroom through the glass. Solid insulated walls are recommended on the east and west sides, however if an access glass door is needed, install it on the east side if there is an option. Solid walls reduce unwanted solar gain and nighttime heat loss.
Thermal Mass. Attention to the types of building materials further adds to your ability to control the sunroom temperature. For example, using concrete, stone or tile floors, which absorb and hold heat, rather than carpet or wood will improve the natural heating and cooling efficiency. Basically, these materials are natures time release capsules that allow buildings to store and release heat in step with daily heating and cooling needs. That’s why we wear dark clothes in the winter and light clothes in the summer for instance.
Insulation. Structural insulated panels (SIPs) provide the best moisture barrier than any other choice in the market today. Add a fully fiberglass insulted roof with an R value of 20-50 and you’ve covered the primary sources of heat loss and temperature control. The wall between the sunroom and the house can be insulated with conductive materials to encourage heat transfer between the rooms if desirable.
Ventilation. Here’s the final element, which along with thermal mass can control the temperature swings in your sunroom. It’s said that depending on your climate, and we know that ours always swings to the extremes in both directions, sunroom temperatures can swing between 40º-100º. Installing operable vents at the top and bottom of the sunroom will facilitate airflow and eliminate extreme temperature swings. Other measures include cross breezes from windows and doors, skylights or sidewall vents.
Understanding how a sunroom works before you add one to your home will allow you to avoid the mistakes most people make that cause the room to be either too hot or too cold, too bright for reading or too much humidity producing moisture stained windows.
Visit our showroom to see the products yourself. A Woodland Exteriors sunroom meets the National Sunroom Association codes. Woodland sunrooms are designed and installed to maximize daylight and comfort – form and function matter.