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Sunrooms have developed a very long way from the glassed-in porches of the 1960s. Today’s varieties are completely integrated year-round rooms featuring cathedral ceilings, skylights, energy-efficient windows, tile heat, flooring, and air conditioning.

Known as Florida rooms, sun parlors, and solariums, sunroom additions bring the outdoors inside– but without the bugs and bad weather. As a result, they usually become the family’s favorite hangout spot. Here’s how to evaluate whether a sunroom addition fits your house and your budget:

What Is A Sunroom?

The defining feature of a sunroom is the extensive amount of glass. Some versions, referred to as conservatories and solariums, consist of walls and a roof built entirely of windows that are held together by a strong cage of vinyl, metal, or wood.

The traditional sunroom is built like any other addition– using standard construction techniques and a roof that matches the rest of the house– just with a lot more windows. A sunroom usually has 20 or more windows, plus skylights.

Where Should I Build It?

One excellent spot for a sunroom is off of the kitchen, since that’s where a great deal of a home’s traffic is– and because the sunroom is in all likelihood going to be your preferred eating spot. If not the kitchen, make sure it’s adjacent to some major public gathering space, such as the family room, living room, or dining room.

You can create considerable savings off the cost of the project by utilizing an existing exterior door (or perhaps window opening) to access the new space, since it means almost no changes have to be made to the exterior wall.

Since sunrooms are indoor-outdoor spaces, you’ll also want to consider location from another perspective– the outdoors. Capitalize on optimal views and the best sunshine. A northern exposure will keep the room partially shaded much of the day, and is ideal for climates where cooling is the primary concern.

A room with southern exposure agrees with hot climates, since it allows the most sunlight in for natural light and warmth. Eastern exposure provides sunshine in the morning; western exposure yields afternoon sun. A good rule to go by is that the room should receive at least four hours of direct sunlight daily so it’s truly a sunroom.

Is HVAC Necessary?

If you make yours a three-season sunroom instead of a year-round space, you could slash 20% off the cost of the project. It wouldn’t need heating and cooling, insulation, or efficient windows. The savings aren’t worth what you give up in comfort and you can wind up with a room that’s a sauna in the summer and an igloo in the winter.

Still, there may be other ways to conserve heating and cooling. Instead of expanding your house’s ducts or pipes into the sunroom, which could require replacing the old furnace and compressor with a larger-capacity equipment, you could add independent cooling and heating to the room, using electric baseboard heat, for instance, and a ductless a/c unit. By doing this, you get year-round comfort for a smaller investment.