Green building design is more than a commitment to sustainability or any political ideology. It is also a long-term investment in reduced operating costs. Green principles are still left out of most building designs due to the substantial upfront cost. While justifiable with traditional buildings, this is a bad idea with sunrooms.
Adding any room to the home increases air volume for cooling and heating purposes. For a small room addition with walls, this is made manageable with inclusion of adequate insulation. In the case of a sunroom of any size, it can mean significant energy loss and the need for an HVAC upgrade. The long-term savings make choosing a green design a very wise investment. Consider these five tactics for increasing sunroom efficiency.
Solar and Wind Orientation
Depending on the micro-climate, most people do best by orienting the sunroom towards the south. This maximizes solar heating in the winter. Some climate, such as the seasonally mild coastal regions, may benefit from other orientations. Keep in mind the sun’s angle changes with the seasons. Even more important than this consideration is the prevailing wind pattern. Your goal is to maximize air flow across the sunroom.
The primary source of energy loss in a sunroom is the very feature that makes them so attractive. More surface area covered by windows will result in larger HVAC costs. There are several green options to help overcome this loss, and they will have the greatest impact on long-term savings. Multi-paned windows are a great start for increasing insulation without losing the view. One pane is placed over another with a pocket of air between them. Windows with low-e film or glazing will restrict the movement of radiant heat even more without impacting light.
Strategic Low-emittance Window Placement
New technology has also created windows rated for high and low solar gain. When placed strategically, these will further minimize energy costs and possibly result in overall energy savings for the home. Low-gain windows should be installed in the eastern and western walls for warmer latitudes. High-gain windows are good for southern exposures in cooler climates. High-gain windows should be covered on hot days, or you can use the following tactic.
Evergreen plants deserve space in the landscape for their contribution to year-round landscaping. Avoid letting them block the winter sun, however. Place deciduous trees and shrubs to block summer sun. In the winter they will let the light through for passive solar heating. You could also use evergreen canopy trees to block the high angle of summer sun depending on your latitude.
A cool summer is possible with sufficient flow across open windows and ventilation placed at the peak of the sunroom. Ceiling fans are a must-have investment. They can be reversed in cool weather to push down warmth gained through passive solar.
Many other features should be considered for those serious about going green. Drip irrigation for the landscape, radiant floor heating, excess insulation for sunrooms with a closed ceiling, stone flooring, and green building materials are all wise choices. Plants in your sunroom are a final, inexpensive investment in good health.