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What is a Sunroom?

Updated May 16, 2024
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The term sunroom can mean slightly different things to different people. By definition, it is an enclosed room or porch specifically created to allow as much sunlight in as possible. These rooms have lots of glass or synthetic window materials — many include floor-to-ceiling windows and glass roofs. When people refer to one, many times they use the terms conservatory, greenhouse, sundeck, sun lounge, sun porch and solarium as synonyms although builders define these terms more specifically.

Plans for sunrooms can be part of a home's original architectural design, but in recent years, they have also become a popular addition to any house. Unlike the average greenhouse, which is usually a stand-alone entity, the sunroom is typically attached to the home. With the advent of prefabricated sunrooms, most homes today can add one that will be enjoyable, economical, sturdy, energy efficient, and increase the value of the home. Prefab construction has improved vastly through the past several decades; new designs and materials bring in the warmth of the sun even in the most northerly climates, and this addition can be ready to enjoy within weeks.

Normally, these rooms are constructed of frames of aluminum or decay-resistant woods that hold glass panels. The glazing may be single-pane, but double-paned glass is almost always used because it is most efficient for keeping the extreme heat out in the summer and the chill out during winter.

Besides spending hours in a comfortable indoor garden setting, people who have sunrooms installed will reap another major benefit — energy savings. The natural light emitted into the room can cut down on the need for lights on a dreary winter's day. They can also have solar panels installed to capture the sun's money-saving rays and distribute it throughout the rest of the home.

Some people design their sunrooms as basic greenhouses where they can enjoy their gardening hobby year round, while others use theirs as extensions of existing rooms. Still others plan their rooms to be the hub of the house as the den or family room. Regardless of how a homeowner plans to live in it, construction advances have eliminated some of the problems of the past. Newer materials and construction methods cut down on issues like heat loss, condensation, and sun damage.

Modern sunrooms are available in a wide range of sizes, styles, colors and shapes and can be custom designed or purchased in kit form for the do-it-yourselfers. Those with glassed-in ceilings can also provide a spectacular view of the starry sky at night. Proper placement on a piece of property is critical; the room should always be built in a south solar orientation to reap the most benefits from the sun. Contractors that specialize in this type of construction are available throughout the country, and homeowners should be sure to seek their advice.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon306872 — On Dec 02, 2012

My parents have a south facing sunroom in the home they've lived in for two years. It's over 15 years old walls are glass door sliders. Mold is a constant issue. The interior facing wall and ceiling have stained pine plank paneling, so it's hard to see behind it, but the surface area of the sliders -- particularly the corners -- get black mold easily. Any ideas how to combat this issue?

There are vinyl slat curtains on the outside wall, but they keep the mostly shut because the sunshine is strong.

By Mykol — On Aug 31, 2012

We are looking at the possibility of adding a sunroom to the south side of our house. We have the perfect spot for it, but need to decide how much we want to spend on it.

My husband is handy at building things, so we will probably go with a sunroom kit that he installs himself. There are some rooms in your house that you rarely use, but I think a sunroom is something both of us would use quite frequently, and we would get our moneys worth out of it.

By myharley — On Aug 31, 2012

I love to start plants from seed a few months before spring and use my sunroom as the place to do this. A separate greenhouse would be best for this purpose, but that isn't in my budget right now.

The sunroom in my house wasn't built to be used as a greenhouse, but that is the only place I have that gets a lot of continuous sun.

I have a couple chairs in there for reading and relaxing in, but most of the space has been devoted to pots and containers of seed. This is only for a few months of the year and the rest of the time the room functions as a normal sunroom.

By sunshined — On Aug 31, 2012

When were building our house we included a sunroom as an extension of the family room. This really makes a large, open area that utilizes solar energy. This is best described as a conservatory sunroom.

This is the space where the family hangs out most of the time and I can't think of a more pleasant place to be. I love rooms that are open, bright and have lots of windows and our sunroom is just that.

By andee — On Aug 30, 2012

We have a three season sunroom that was already built when we moved into our house. I was excited because this was the first time I lived in a house that had a sunroom.

This room is open to the south and west but has no heat or air conditioning. I am able to enjoy this room comfortably for 6-7 months of the year.

The worst part about this room in the summer is the sun on the west side in the afternoon makes it too hot for the room to be enjoyable. If I want to spend time out here in the summer, it is best during the early part of the day.

Just the opposite is true in the spring when the mornings are cool. The afternoon and evening are the best times to enjoy the warmth of the sun during this season of the year.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 29, 2012

I would imagine that putting solar panels in a sunroom would more than make up for the initial cost of installing it. That would be an excellent way to be efficient with the design of your home.

I've heard that solar panels are quite expensive when you first get them. Depending on how many you get, they might exceed the sunroom's cost of construction. However, they would pay for themselves over time.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 28, 2012

My neighbor turned his porch into a sunroom after he developed a love of plants. He wanted to grow various flowers and vegetables without exposing them to mold, flooding, drought, and cold air.

He starts in the spring with several seeds in pots. He keeps them moist, and he puts them close to the glass so that they can receive the most sunlight possible.

I have to say that his sunroom garden looks much better than my outdoor one. The plants are happy, because they are pampered and warm.

By Perdido — On Aug 27, 2012

@Kristee – I had to sleep in a glass sunroom once, and it wasn't very pleasant. I suppose it all depends on the location, but the room I stayed in was in New York during October, and it got very chilly out there.

Since the sunroom had been added onto the house years after it was built, and since my friend lived in a cool climate, the room was not air conditioned at all. We had to get a space heater and put it near the bed to keep from freezing.

If I had a sunroom, I would want it to be hooked to the central heat and air system. Sometimes, the sun alone just isn't enough to heat up the room.

By Kristee — On Aug 27, 2012

Sunroom enclosures can be built onto just about any kind of home. My aunt has a double wide mobile home, and she had a sunroom built onto one side of it.

She had it built up against a side door on the trailer, so she has easy access to it. She uses this room to house guests. She has a bed, a sofa, a television, and even a pool table out there!

She has a lot of relatives from out of town, so I think it's great that she decided to turn the sunroom into a guest room. It's a cheery place to stay, and it feels private.

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