What is a Sunspace?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A sunspace is a room which is designed to collect sunlight and heat. Sunspaces are also known as solar rooms, solars, solariums, and sunrooms, and they are classically included in the designs of homes, although commercial structures can have sunspaces as well. Having a sunspace can cut down substantially on heating bills; it can also make a house more enjoyable to live in and increase the resale price of a home, for people who are concerned with property values.

A sunspace has many windows to let in as much light as possible.
A sunspace has many windows to let in as much light as possible.

People have been including sunspaces in architecture for centuries. Medieval solars, for example, were used to collect sunlight and warmth to keep structures warm, and to create a pleasant place for people to work. The sunspace is a natural outgrowth of the tradition of designing homes which face the sun to collect maximum warmth and light. In the northern hemisphere, sunspaces are typically located on the south side of a structure, so that they will collect lots of sunlight over the course of the day, while structures in the southern hemisphere have sunspaces on the north side.

Solar panels can be installed on the roof of a sunspace.
Solar panels can be installed on the roof of a sunspace.

A typical sunspace is glassed in, so that as much light as possible will flood the room. Some have ceramic tile or concrete to increase the thermal mass of the room. Over the course of the day, the flooring gathers warmth from the sun, and at night, it releases it, warming the sunspace and the attached house. Sunspaces also have doors and windows for ventilation, as they can become suffocatingly hot on warm days.

From an energy efficient design perspective, including a sunspace is a very good idea. The structure can bring warmth and light into a house, cutting down on energy use. Solar panels can be installed on the roofing over the sunspace to gather energy and cut down on heat loss through the roof. Sunspaces can also be used to grow ornamental and edible plants, with the structure acting as a greenhouse. The plants will scrub the air, making the house feel fresher, and in the case of edible plants, they can be used to supplement an outdoor garden and trips to the grocery store.

People and pets often enjoy sunspaces from a purely aesthetic perspective. The space can be pleasant to lounge in, and many people like to eat, read, play games, and engage in other activities in their sunspaces to take advantage of the light and warmth. Homes with sunspaces tend to fetch a higher price when they are sold, as such rooms are viewed as an advertising point.

Some sunspaces are encased entirely in transparent panels.
Some sunspaces are encased entirely in transparent panels.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I'm hoping that the idea of sunspaces catches on and becomes a common feature of all new homes. Not only are these kinds of room great to sit in, they have a lot to offer in the way of energy economy.

Hopefully the homes of the future will have innovative ways to trap and store the sun's energy in order to help run the home. Solar power is an exciting developing technology and it can go a long way towards reducing our carbon footprint and reducing your home energy bills.

If we are going to make this work it needs to be a common feature of every home. It is not enough for just one person on the block to try it. We all need to get behind this and then we can all see the benefits.


I once stayed in a villa in France that had an amazing sunspace built into the center of it. It was kind of like a courtyard in the middle of the house but during the day it got incredibly bright inside. It was designed to get the maximum amount of light and heat and at times during the summer when I was there it was almost too much to sit in. But on a cooler day it felt perfect in there and you almost couldn't help but lounge around. Why sit anywhere else?


One of my dreams is to eventually have a house, and attached to that house I would love a sunspace. A sunspace is not only a beautiful place to lounge, but it also seems like a nice place to have a garden and to save energy too.

If I had a sunspace I can imagine using it as much as possible, as I love the sun and I love to have a nice, cozy spot to lounge and read when I have extra time.

Putting in a garden seems like a great idea because this would save money and trips to the grocery store. Also, the fresh vegetables and herbs would probably taste a lot better than grocery store vegetables and herbs.

If there was still room to put a flower garden next to the vegetables and herbs in the sunspot then I would probably plant flowers as well. Nothing cheers me up more in the warm month than enjoying the sun's warmth and shine and flower's beauty. The smell of some flowers and vegetables are really inviting as well.

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