A sunroom offers the best of both worlds: More time enjoying the warm weather and sunshine while having more room in your home. Without heating, however, it’s only beneficial a few months out of the year.
Many people opt to add climate control to an area like this. That way, they truly have another room in the house all year long.
But, that can be easier said than done. There are a few challenges to warming up a room such as this properly. Some options may be cheap but not do the job properly. Others are costly. And, there’s a chance they still won’t give you what you’re looking for.
We’ll look at the pros and cons of a few popular options.
Heating A Sunroom With Ductless Heat
Ductless heat is becoming more and more popular for entire homes. And, a system like this is well-suited to a sunroom. It’s as powerful as central heating. But it’s much more flexible, and also less expensive over time.
A ductless heat system, also called a mini-split, uses an outdoor heat pump to generate the warm air. From there, it travels through thin, plastic tubing into the house.
On the other is the unit or air handler. This is the component that circulates the air. It has a built-in thermostat you can set to whatever temperature you want.
This creates what’s called “zoned” HVAC. Instead of one thermostat controlling an entire house, each air handler has its own controls. You can create zones all over the home if you wanted to replace your current central heater. In this case, however, a mini-split with just one unit in this room is all you need.
This is the best of both worlds: It provides the same heat you’re getting inside. It’s much better than any portable option. But, you don’t need to build out ductwork to get it. That tubing runs easily in between rafter of the walls. It doesn’t require any construction.
It’s also the most cost-efficient option. The initial installation cost for a mini-split may be high, but it provides savings over time. That’s because it has a minimal impact on your electric bill.
The outdoor unit uses a heat transfer process to generate heat. This is much different than electricity warming coils or burning fossil fuels. Instead, it attracts outside heat, amplifies it and sends it inside. It’s a cyclical process that just needs a little bit of power to gets started.
Meanwhile, the units themselves warm a room quickly. And, they maintain a constant temperature thanks to inverter technology and variable speed motors.
With this, it can run at low speed to maintain the warmth, and kick up to a higher gear only when needed. This uses less energy by continually having to catch up to heat up the room.
In fact, these systems are so efficient that you may even get money off the installation costs. Many utility companies around the country now offer cash rebates as incentives for people to install energy efficient appliances. A mini-split fits that bill.
Portable Space Heaters In An Enclosed Patio
A simple, easy way to heat an enclosed patio or small addition is using portable space heaters. They’re a low-cost, low-hassle way to add warmth But, with that price, you get what you pay for -- and sometimes even less than that.
Space heaters are easily the least expensive way to heat the room. Most are under $100. Running them is as simple as plugging it in and turning in on.
But, they use a lot of energy to produce a relatively little amount of heat. At best, they can heat just one room. Any more, and they will use more power than other sources.
Even then, however, they’re best at just adding a little more warmth when a stronger system isn’t doing the trick. That’s not ideal for what’s essentially an enclosed patio.
The problem is that rooms such as these are not well insulated at all. They’re on the outside of the house. Heat will escape much more quickly than rooms within the structure. And, since the heat isn’t running out there, the portable unit has to shoulder all the work.
And, sometimes that can backfire. According to the United States Consumer Protection Safety Commission, space heaters are associated with thousands of fires and hundreds of deaths every year.
In a pinch, a space heater may do the trick. But, you probably won’t get the room as warm as you’d like. You’ll also have a much higher electric bill, and the potential to start a fire.
Adding Ductwork And Vents For Heating An Addition
It would seem that the best way to get the power of a central heating system out to a new addition is to add it to that part of the house. It’s doable but is very expensive. And, it may not work as well in practice as in theory.
Houses with forced air heat rely on ducts and vents to circulate the air to and from a furnace. Therefore, one option is adding onto that system. An HVAC tech can build new ducts leading to the new room. The air can then circulate through a new vent in that room as well.
It makes a lot of sense to go this route. But, doing so can be challenging and costly.
First, ductwork usually takes up a lot of space. It's often a foot or wider. A tech has to run it from the existing system outside. That all needs a place to go. That could mean using closet space our building out passageways along walls and ceilings inside.
That can significantly affect the look and feel of the home. And, the cost to do so can easily run over $1,000.
And, even then the setup may not work adequately. That’s because the forced air system still works from one thermostat. And, that device is inside the home. The reading will be different than in the addition, which has much less insulation.
As a result, the patio room will start off colder than the rest of the house. But, the heat turns off when the inside - where the thermostat is - is warmed up. That leaves the outside room still too cold.