The sunroom market is growing as homeowners become more interested in comfortably spending time outdoors in all seasons. In a recent NAHB Remodelors Council survey, sunroom additions ranked in the top seven home improvement projects.
"Interest has gone up over the past five to 10 years, due in large part to the Internet," says president of Solar Innovations, Greg Header. "Homeowners can easily access information on all of the companies, both American and English."
Even during cold, wet winters, homeowners want to be able to enjoy the outdoors. Energy efficient sunrooms can be designed and constructed for year-round use, and several sunroom manufacturers offer a multitude of designs."If you're in the market as a remodeler to offer something a little bit different, it's nice," says Kimberley Beckman, vice president of Four Seasons Design & Remodeling, a Four Seasons Sunrooms franchise. "And more of our clients -- especially in the last year with the way interest rates have dropped -- have chosen to go all the way and use the room year round."
Header says the improvements in glass technology and the many energy efficient varieties of glass available make year-round sunrooms more cost efficient to heat and cool than they used to be. High-performance glass, such as Low-E2, double-paned, or argon-filled, provides better control over heat gain and loss. Thermally broken structures and insulated roofs and floors work with the high-efficiency glass to increase insulation properties and help reduce heating and cooling costs. Independent heating and cooling systems are a good option for year-round sunrooms that will be used sporadically, but manufacturers recommend that if daily use is intended, the heating and cooling system should be connected to the rest of the house.
Sunroom manufacturers like Solar Innovations, Four Seasons Sunrooms, PGT/Naturescape, Artistic Enclosures, Gorell, and Patio Enclosures offer year-round or multi-season sunrooms from simple to architectural styles. Sunroom structures are also offered in a range of materials, including vinyl, aluminum, wood, and aluminum-clad wood. And the uses of a year-round sunroom are virtually limitless; they can function as kitchens and dining rooms, living rooms, game rooms, spa and exercise rooms, or just a place to relax in all weather.
"Combining the kitchen and sunroom together has become popular," Beckman says. "It adds light to the cooking and washing chores."
The sunroom's use should be considered before making design and structural decisions, and evaluating the sun exposure on the lot will help determine the choice of high-efficiency glass. Ed Overberger, president of Artistic Enclosures, recommends that the remodeler's first question to the client be, "How do you plan on using this room.
"It's a question that remodelers may not be used to asking, because when remodeling or adding a bathroom or kitchen, you know what the use will be," Overberger says. "This question helps guide the remodeler [and homeowner] toward the choice of materials."