Choose the right windows for your climate to help control sunroom temperatures.

How to Heat and Cool a Sunroom

by Lori Lapierre

Sunrooms, also called Florida or three-season rooms, are considered a valuable addition to a home. While increasing living space, they also allow homeowners to feel closer to nature. The room can even be used as a greenhouse in colder months. Because of the amount of glass used in their construction, temperature control can be a bit tricky. But there are ways to accomplish the task, no matter what your budget.

1. Building Considerations

Create a sunroom that works with nature to heat and cool itself. Build the sunroom so that the glass windows are facing true south for best wintertime sun exposure. Warmer temperatures in the south allow homeowners to use single-pane glass; in more northern climates, use double to quadruple glass thicknesses to attract heat. Northerners should also avoid reflective glazing as well as low-e glass, which deflect solar energy, according to Mother Earth News. Keep an even interior temperature by using dark tile, concrete or stone floors to soak up the sun. Insulate the roof and the exterior walls, and provide plenty of ventilation -- windows and skylights that open, doors that can provide a cross-draft and even ceiling vents -- to keep the room from getting too hot in summer.

2. Existing Systems

Homeowners have the option of using the home's existing heating and cooling system for a sunroom addition. A contractor can add additional ducts from the existing lines to heat and cool the sunroom. This can create a problem if there is one central thermostat, which will not be able to regulate the temperature extremes seen in sunrooms. Homeowners may want to consider adding a zoning thermostat, which allows different temperatures to be set for different parts of the house. This can keep the sunroom comfortable year-round even if the rest of the house does not require a boost of heat or air.

3. More Systems

An independent heating and cooling system, on its own thermostat, can be installed in the sunroom. While adding an additional furnace or central air unit is extreme, homeowners can install electric heating in radiant or baseboard units for the colder months. And ceiling fans and window air conditioners can be used in the summer months to control the rising interior temperature.

4. Portable Options

If you have an older sunroom or can't swing for a contractor just yet, keeping the sunroom comfortable may be as simple as using several inexpensive fans. In the summer, open windows and doors to create cross-ventilation. Use box fans to either draw cooler air inside (facing in) or to pull hot air outside (facing out); placing one in each position on opposite sides of the room helps the cross-draft. Since hot air rises, place smaller fans on the floor to circulate the cooler air. Heating the room can be as simple as using space heaters, a patio heater or a portable fireplace when the room is in use. Cover the floor in a thick rug to absorb heat, or lay thick carpeting and padding to help insulate the floor.

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