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Be it Ever So Humble…. Our Sunroom

DSC04267Our sunroom is not fancy.  I knew it wouldn’t be when I first decided to enclose this narrow open front porch.

A contractor wanted to expand it, which would have been a nice idea if I’d have had more money and was willing to transplant two of the only four plants alive on the property, very old roses – which I wasn’t.

So, even though the porch was only 4 feet wide, I decided to enclose it for the passive solar function it would provide.

(I have a friend who created a functioning passive solar “trombe wall” with only 4 inches of space on the south side of his house, so I’ll have to write about that next!)

I hired some guys to remove windows (with permission) from a local building being demolished, and we removed the exterior siding from the house and replaced it on the front of the porch.

There are still a few things to complete before this sunroom functions as it should:

  • A tile floor of medium color would hold some of the heat far better than the existing wood floor.
  • Air vents from the sunroom to the house (high and low) would circulate the heat better than our current practice of simply opening the windows and doors between them – though this works.
  • And we need to bite the bullet for yet another messy project:  removing the drywall and vertical 2×4’s against the house that I thought were holding up the roof but I’m told are not; with them gone, we’ll not only have a little wider space but, more important, we’ll expose the concrete block wall between the house and sunroom, which we can then paint a medium or dark color to absorb the sunlight and both hold it and transfer it into the home interior.

Lots to do!  Always!  Life in today’s world can get very busy, especially when you want to change the world and take on too much.  So, this project remains half-done.

But I’m posting this photo because this humble room is so dang functional, even half-finished!

summer solsticeHere’s the sunroom in the summer – with the sun overhead and the windows shaded.

In the winter, the sun shines in beautifully!winter solstice

Every mid-morning, we open the door and windows between the house and sunroom, and toasty-warm air flows in like a luscious free gift from Mother Nature.  If the house doesn’t warm up fast enough, there’s a narrow bench in the other direction where we can sit and warm up fast!  

Of course, the cat has her favorite place to lie for hours every day – and then it gets too warm for her by mid-afternoon.  But, when we finish the air vents and/or expose that brick wall – “thermal mass” – the heat will absorb into it and the room won’t get overly warm, as the heat will be moving more certainly into the house instead!  Perfect.

But meantime, the room functions well enough to

  • save a great deal of money on heating every winter month, we estimate $50-100
  • serves as sitting space various times during the year
  • serves as a winter greenhouse for a few plants
  • serves as convenient storage space
  • will serve to start seedlings in a month or so
  • will be fitted out with food drying shelves by next harvest season

Credit: National AtlasI love passive solar design!  The ancients practiced it, and we should too.

Now that we understand and can add the benefits of insulation and thermal mass, we don’t need to cause so much environmental damage (and pay so much money) to heat our homes with fuels other than the sun.

There’s no huge financial investment to use passive solar design.  Friends can help each other with this sort of project in a few weekends, often using salvage materials.

This month I’m teaching a free class and a more extended class to share the basic principles of passive solar design.

We have about 4,000 homes in Silver City, and nearly all of them can use a passive solar retrofit.  That’s my contribution to a collective vision for a better world.  ;}