JAMES DULLEY Cutting your utility bills Shining some light on sunroom options

Q. I would like to add a bright, efficient sunroom to my house for an "outdoors" feeling during the winter. What reasonably priced sunroom options do I have and is it possible to use one to help heat my house?
A. There is a vast array of sunroom options, depending on your budget. These designs range from low-cost aluminum-acrylic kits to elaborate decorative wood-efficient glass models. Some are do-it-yourself kits, and others are delivered to your home completely assembled.
It is possible to use your new sunroom to capture solar heat and reduce your overall heating bills, but this will affect the basic design and interior space. For most sunrooms used primarily as living space, a reasonable efficiency goal is to just make it energy self-sufficient in the winter.
The newer do-it-yourself sunroom kits have a professionally built look when completed. Although a few manufacturers sell only through contractors who build it for you, they often will let you help build it to lower the overall costs.
Two types: Sunrooms are classified as three-season or year-round models. You probably want a year-round model with double-pane thermal windows and a wood or thermally broken aluminum frame for efficiency and to control condensation. Three-season sunrooms typically have just single-pane windows and screens.
The simplest design to build yourself uses an aluminum frame with double-pane clear acrylic windows. To create a screened porch in the summer, the windows can be removed and are self-storing beneath the screens. The clear roof is made of tough double-pane polycarbonate (bulletproof glass).
Most sunroom kits bolt together like an erector set. All of the color-coded components, hardware and fasteners are included.
Models using frames with a curved transition from the front to top are the most attractive, but more difficult to build. These often use wood frames instead of no-maintenance aluminum. If you want curved eaves and no maintenance, choose a kit with wood interior and aluminum exterior framing.
Shading essential: During the summer, sunrooms often overheat in the afternoon sun. Adding some type of shading device and ventilation is imperative. Exterior shading systems, such as solar screening, are most effective and attractive from the indoors.
XWrite for Update Bulletin No. 640 which includes a buyer's guide of 12 efficient sunroom/kit manufacturers listing styles, frame/glazing materials, ventilation/shading options, features and passive solar heat producing tips. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.

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