What are the best HVAC options for sunrooms?
- By: Cheli Scott
- Date: Oct 27 2022
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What are the best HVAC options for sunrooms?
Extra windows are a beautiful addition to your home, but are hard to enjoy if you are having trouble choosing the best HVAC options for sunrooms. If you are thinking of adding one or already have one and are unsure about your best heating and cooling options, keep reading this guide. We’ve assembled tips and tricks to prepare your sunroom for the summer and winter seasons, as well as ideas you on how you might want to heat and cool it year round.
A sunroom is a room in your home that is usually enclosed in glass. You may have screens that allow for natural air flow or you may not. Some sunrooms have skylights, but many do not. These rooms make perfect recreation spaces because they are beautiful and let in lots of natural light. They are also excellent for potted plants that can be grown year round in the controlled environment. Many families like to use them as playrooms or dens because they are bright and welcoming.
Because of the amount of windows, sunrooms can be challenging to heat and cool. On one hand, they are not well insulated meaning they lose heat very quickly. On the other hand, the windows allow copious sunlight that will quickly over-warm the room. In either season you may have trouble controlling the temperature and humidity in your new sunroom.
Preparing your sunroom
There may be things you can do to make your sunroom retain warm or cool air more efficiently. Often sunrooms lack adequate insulation if they were not constructed properly. You may have to deal with this or other challenges when trying to keep your sunroom a comfortable temperature.
Before you start purchasing appliances to heat and cool your sunroom, take some time to inspect it for leaks. Make sure to seal windows with caulk or apply weather stripping.
If your room has a tendency to get too hot, you can install curtains, blinds, or drapes to block some of the excess light entering the room.
In the winter, add plastic film to the windows to add an extra layer of insulation. Alternatively, you can apply window tinting to your windows to lock solar radiation inside.
Building a new sunroom
If you are interested in building a new sunroom, there are some things you should keep in mind to build the most energy efficient space possible. Prioritizing energy efficiency will save you money over time in repairs and energy costs.
One important factor in energy efficiency is the glass you choose. Windows are rated on their ability to retain heat, called the “U-Factor”. A low U-Factor, like 0.3, means that a window can retain heat better. This results in higher energy efficiency.
Insulation is another important element in the comfort of your sunroom. When you are building your space, be sure to work with a reputable contractor who has experience with sunroom insulation. A good contractor will know to seal your floors and use good quality insulation between floor joists.
Heating and cooling options
There are many options for a sunroom air conditioning system ranging from freestanding units to full integration with your existing HVAC system. Depending on your circumstances you may be limited in the amount of money you can put into energy costs.
On average about 40% of a family’s budget goes to heating and cooling costs, so it makes sense to save money where you can. A beautiful sunroom should not come at the expense of your pocketbook.
Depending on the size of your sunroom and where you live, you may not need to spend a lot to effectively heat and cool your space. Heating and cooling options range from simple, cheap solutions, to much more expensive endeavors.
Window air conditioning unit
One simple cooling solution is a window air conditioner. These units are relatively inexpensive and do a good job of cooling small spaces.
In order to know what size air conditioner you need, look at the BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating. An 8,000 BTU air conditioning unit will cool an average sized, 200 square foot room effectively.
One drawback to these units is that you have to turn them on and off manually. However, they don’t take any major construction to install. You can usually do it yourself with an extra pair of hands.
Portable heating and cooling units
Portable heating and cooling units are inexpensive and can easily be stored away with the change of seasons. They require little to no installation.
Using a space heater
If your sunroom is small, a space heater may be all you need to keep it cozy in the winter. Heaters can range from as little as $20 to as much as $300 depending on the size you need. Fortunately, space heaters only use a small amount of electricity when used for short periods of time. A small 200 watt heater will cost you only $7 a month to run 8 hours a day.
Using portable air conditioning units
Portable air conditioning units are an easy way to cool your sunroom and are a great option if you either don’t have or your room is not connected to central air conditioning. They usually only require a small gap in a window to use for exhaust and can plug into a regular outlet.
One downside to portable air conditioners is that they do make some noise. However, you can purchase units that are quieter than others and many market their decibel level so you can chose the lowest available.
Modern portable air conditioners come with many features including thermostat, remote control, and dehumidifier for your convenience.
Dual hose vs. single hose
Portable air conditioning units can come in a dual hose or single hose designs. The dual hose has two hoses, one for intake and one for exhaust.
A single hose design has only one hose for exhaust. Single hose units are not as efficient as dual hose. In fact, a dual hose unit will cool a room 40% faster than a single hose unit.
Freestanding electric fireplaces
Another option for portable heating is an electric fireplace. They don’t pollute the air and are 99% efficient at heating.
While you can choose to have an electric fireplace installed, a freestanding one is a great cost effective heating option that doesn’t require much work.
Many electric fireplaces can double as a piece of furniture. Wall mounted electric fireplaces are also available to save even more space.
Ductless mini split system
A ductless mini split system is an excellent choice for a single room like a sunroom. It is composed of two parts, an indoor unit and an outdoor condensing unit. This system can provide both heating and cooling for your sunroom.
Mini splits are simple to install yourself and don’t take up much room. They also don’t require any expensive ductwork to get up and running. The drawback to these systems is that they are more expensive than a portable heating unit or a window unit, ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.
Install a ceiling fan
A ceiling fan is a simple way to cool your sunroom and is a perfect DIY weekend project. A ceiling fan works by simply sucking hot air that has gathered at the ceiling towards the fan and blowing it downwards. Installing one may sound daunting, but if you already have a light fixture in the ceiling of your sunroom installation is easy.
If you are uncomfortable with working with electricity feel free to contact an electrician to install it for you. However installation is actually pretty simple and will save you a $300 bill.
When you are shopping for a fan be sure to look for one that has an energy efficient label to save the most money.
Expand your existing HVAC system
The most labor and cost intensive option for heating and cooling your sunroom is giving your air conditioning system an upgrade. Depending on your current HVAC system, you may need to increase its capacity to account for the extra space.
In order to expand your HVAC system you will need to work with a trained professional. They will be able to guide you through installing new ductwork and accommodating increased load. This can cost upwards of $20,000, so it is a big investment.
It is often cheaper to simply use one of the solutions listed above. However, the renovation can add value to your home, so it may be worth pursuing in the long run.
Heating and cooling options
There are many options for heating and cooling your sunroom. What works for you will depend on your budget, the size of your room, and the weather in your location. Many options are simply DIY solutions, while others require a little more investment.