Having a Sunroom as an Alternative to a Living Room: Pros and Cons

Having a Sunroom as an Alternative to a Living Room: Pros and Cons

Sunrooms
Interior Design
By Dikran Seferian May 28, 2022

Serving as a visual portal between the interior and the natural world, a sunroom can feel a lot like a getaway in your own home. The abundance of large windows and glass walls of the sunroom invites plenty of natural light while providing a generous view of the surrounding vista. The resulting atmosphere makes for an ideal place to relax, host guests, and spend time with family.

Whether you’re building a new house and entertaining the idea of including a sunroom, considering one as an addition to your existing home or converting an available sunroom into a living room, there are several factors you may need to account for in your decision. Major home improvement projects normally warrant a great deal of deliberation; incorporating a sunroom into your living spaces is no exception.

What Is a Sunroom?

A sunroom is essentially an interior room that features plenty of windows to allow for natural light and fresh air to fill up the space while providing an open view of the outdoors. Also referred to as Florida rooms, lanais, or solariums, sunrooms are often adorned with plants and furniture. They can be constructed on top of existing patios, serving as an extension to the main living spaces. The term itself is typically defined as a recreational area that bridges the gap between the interior and exterior of a house, with a significant portion of its walls consisting of large windows. 

Sunrooms invite natural light while offering a generous view of the outdoor landscape.

Sunrooms invite natural light while offering a generous view of the outdoor landscape.

Types of Sunrooms

There are two main types of sunrooms you can have in your home. These types determine when you can actually enjoy them throughout the year. 

Three-Season Sunroom

You can use a three-season Florida room throughout most of spring, summer, and fall. This type of sunroom doesn’t make use of heating in the winter and so may not be much of a livable space during those colder months. However, the absence of a heating system makes three-season sunrooms more affordable.

A solarium of this type may feature sliding patio doors that prevent the outdoor air from affecting indoor temperatures. As an alternative to air conditioning, three-season sunrooms will also make use of ceiling fans to maintain air circulation during the summer. When it comes to using a sunroom as a permanent living room, the three-season type might not be the best idea — especially if you live in a region where winters get really cold. 

Four-Season Sunroom

Four-season sunrooms are usually equipped with an HVAC system so that they can serve as a year-round livable space. Unlike many of their three-season counterparts, these sunrooms don’t normally feature sliding doors, making them fit into a home more organically. Four-season Florida rooms may also have insulation to maximize comfort throughout the year. This makes them more suitable to use as living rooms.

Four-season solariums make better living rooms.

Four-season solariums make better living rooms.

Pros of Using a Sunroom as a Living Room

There are a number of reasons why a sunroom can be a brilliant idea for a living room. Taking these advantages into consideration can convince you to go ahead with the project. 

Transparency

The large windows or glass walls that characterize a sunroom tend to welcome an ample amount of natural light into the space. This creates a bright and airy atmosphere not only in the sunroom but also in the rooms that are adjacent to it. And if you live in a house that’s surrounded by beautiful scenery or a lush backyard, a sunroom will offer a clear view from most sides. It can also allow you to keep an eye on kids playing in the backyard while relaxing on a comfy sofa — in other words, from the comfort of your sunroom living room.

Besides adding to the ambiance of the living spaces, that natural light can also allow you to save up on energy costs. You won’t really need to turn on the lights until the sun sets considering how bright your solarium living room can be. Additionally, the amount of sunlight that shines through the large windows and glass screens creates a haven for a large variety of houseplants — ideal for a biophilic living space that accents the outdoor landscape. You may, however, want to make sure that the furniture in that area is UV-resistant since direct sunlight can sometimes be problematic.

A panoramic view of the surrounding landscape serves as a backdrop to a charming sunroom.

A panoramic view of the surrounding landscape serves as a backdrop to a charming sunroom.

Versatility

Solariums are relatively versatile with the spaces they provide, unlike other rooms such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, which have a specific purpose. This versatility allows you to use a sunroom whichever way you wish — one example being a living room. Should you want to redesign it in the future, other viable options include transforming the space into an indoor garden or a quiet nook for reading

Resale Value

Having a solarium as a living room certainly reflects on the resale value of your house, should you decide on selling it. The exact amount, however, essentially depends on the size, quality, type, and design of the sunroom addition. A spacious four-season sunroom with a fancy design, for instance, can add several thousand to your home’s resale value while a small three-seasoner that’s basically a patio with glass screens may likely have an insignificant impact; although it could act as a bargaining chip in certain cases.

Cons of Using a Sunroom as a Living Room

The disadvantages of converting a sunroom to a living space mainly have to do with cost and logistics. In any case, it can be a good idea to account for these cons in your decision.

Energy Inefficiency

The primary setback to transforming a Florida room into a living space is having to deal with the loss of energy efficiency. With windows having more surface area than walls, keeping indoor temperatures at a moderate level can be quite difficult.

Glass surfaces absorb heat from the sun throughout the day. At night, however, this heat can easily flow back out. Although a sunroom that faces the south can enjoy the sun’s heat during the winter, cooling it down in the summer might be tough — and vice versa for a north-facing sunroom. Unless your sunroom is a fully-insulated four-seasoner with a heating and cooling system, be ready to face inconsistent levels of temperature.

A handful of other workarounds can, fortunately, allow you to limit the loss of energy efficiency. For south-facing sunrooms, one solution involves sticking with vertical windows instead of angular ones. This helps in maximizing much-needed heat during the winter when the sun is low.

Other measures you can take include using thermal glass and installing cellular blinds to help with insulation. These steps apply to both north and south-facing sunrooms.

Vertical windows maximize heat gain in the winter.

Vertical windows maximize heat gain in the winter.

Cost

A basic three-season sunroom will normally cost between $500 to $1,500. If you’re planning on using that space as a year-round living room, however, you will want to incorporate weather-proofing materials, a heating system, and structural foundations. This is where you can expect the costs to skyrocket. A four-season sunroom complete with all the comforts of a living space can cost up to $70,000.

Privacy

Sunrooms may not be ideal if you value privacy in your living spaces. While the transparent design is excellent at drawing in natural light and offering a peripheral view of the outdoor landscape, it’s not the best option for preventing neighbors and passersby from taking a peek inside — if that’s a possible issue where you live. Although you can install curtains or blinds as a solution, keeping them closed at all times beats the whole purpose of a sunroom.

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian