Sunrooms for Solar Gain in Iowa

Answered by Brendan ~ February 3, 2011 ~ Comments

Is Cedar Rapids, Iowa's climate amenable to having sunrooms create solar gain during the winter? We have an unobstructed south-facing dining room, kitchen, and master bedroom and bath which could all open onto it. Total available length is about 50 feet. I assume passive solar is cheapest but don't know if it would work compared to some simple active solar design.

Ulrich R. ~ Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brendan Fowler

I am not totally familiar with the year round climate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; however, I am familiar with basic solar design. When considering a passive solar design, especially on an area as big as the one you are describing, it is important to determine the year round solar gain. In the winter it may be a perfect amount of passive solar heating, but will it overheat you in the summer and require additional cooling?

As for the pricing of passive versus active solar heating solutions, active will generally cost a bit more. However, if you need to build a large sunroom to achieve the desirable passive heating results, a well planned and much smaller active system, tied into your existing HVAC unit, may be more cost effective. I can speculate all day about possible solutions for your home but you will get the most precise information from a local solar contractor in your area. A solar contractor should be able to provide multiple solar solutions for your situation and their associated costs. I have seen both active- and passive-retrofit-solutions produce little or no results, so be sure to select a solar contractor that has a high level of expertise in this field. Good Luck!

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