Sunroom open to house - A/C hell

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Old 07-07-12, 03:45 PM
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Sunroom open to house - A/C hell

I just bought my first house and it has an aluminum sunroom attached to the kitchen, with no barrier between the kitchen and sunroom. It's hot here in Baltimore this summer (like most everywhere else) and the sunroom seems to suck in the heat. The sunroom and kitchen are 85 degrees, with the a/c on, at the heat of the day. In fact, the A/C can't keep up with the thermostat setting - the thermostat (set at 73 degrees right now, not that it matters much) is in the dining room just outside the kitchen, where it's currently 77 degrees and rising steady since this morning (it's 5pm now).

The A/C is blowing out cold air (high 50s), but it just can't keep up with the sunroom adding a tremendous amount of heat to the house. In fact, I'm terrified to get my electric bill this month - the A/C is on more than 75% of the 24 hour day on days like these (i.e., the past week and a half).

Just spent all my dough on the house itself, so I have no real resources, and limited know-how when it comes to helping to address this issue.

The one step I've taken is to put blackout, thermal curtains up in the room, but they didn't help nearly as much as I'd hoped.

Any suggestions?

A few more tidbits:

There is only one A/C vent in the kitchen and sunroom combined, right where the two rooms meet.

The opening from the kitchen to the sunroom is about as wide as a double door, but I can't put up a door at this time. Might heavy curtains in that opening prevent the flow of the super hot sunroom air into the rest of the house?

Not only are my resources when it comes to insulating the sunroom to make it more efficient limited, but I hardly see a way to do it. I could definitely add insulation below the floor of the sunroom, but I don't see any options for insulating the sides or the roof - the roof/ceiling are essentially one piece, with no open space between, and the sides are 90% windows and 10% aluminum.

Any ideas appreciated!
 
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Old 07-07-12, 04:22 PM
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Welcome to the forums. I removed your duplicate post. I would go with a curtain across the doorway. If your wife is good at sewing maybe use a fiber fill and quilt it. Also you might consider accordion doors if the opening is not too high. They are cheap and easy to install. Given the width you might want to install two that meet in the middle.
 

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Old 07-07-12, 04:37 PM
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I agree with Ray. The aluminum is a conductor of heat, and you don't stand a chance. The window panes may or may not be filled with inert gas, like argon to help prevent heat/cool loss. Insulating under the floor is a start. Insulating overhead is turn one. Since the sunroom will heat up naturally, you must stop the heat transfer into the remainder of the house, and the curtain/accordion doors will help. As you go along, be planning on a restructure of the room to possibly include an in-wall heat pump to help restore the comfort zone you need now, and will definitely need this winter.
 
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Old 07-07-12, 04:48 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

I just bought my first house and it has an aluminum sunroom attached to the kitchen, with no barrier between the kitchen and sunroom. It's hot here in Baltimore this summer (like most everywhere else) and the sunroom seems to suck in the heat. The sunroom and kitchen are 85 degrees, with the a/c on, at the heat of the day. In fact, the A/C can't keep up with the thermostat setting -

The one step I've taken is to put blackout, thermal curtains up in the room, but they didn't help nearly as much as I'd hoped.
Installing those curtains, or light-blocking window shades, over the windows exposed to direct sunlight was one of my first thoughts. You can buy those locally, at big orange or blue, or from and window treatment company (the ones that sell blinds).

Can the windows be opened? Can you open the ones away from the sun at the bottom, and the ones facing the sun at the top? Then you could also install blinds - instead of the shades - to let the air flow through while blocking the solar gain.

Short-term,
Might heavy curtains in [the opening from the kitchen to the sunroom] prevent the flow of the super hot sunroom air into the rest of the house?
Yes. Particularly if you can do that so that the air supply grille winds up on the kitchen side. Stretching 10 mil. polyethylene might be even more effective, but it would also block your access.

Longer-term, you can have the windows tinted, the way car windows are. The same companies often do both. You could also install awnings on the outside. Retractable awnings would allow you to let the sun in when you wanted it.

Even longer term, you can plant some deciduous shrubs or trees to block the sun in summer and let it through in winter.
 
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Old 07-07-12, 05:27 PM
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Blocking the sun from the porch windows would help.
A curtain across the doorway may also help a bit but if humidity is a problem in your area the curtain will not be too effective.
Removing humidity from your house could in some cases use more than half of your cooling capacity.
Humidity transfer can only be reduced through a fully sealed doorway.

I can appreciate the financial issue of installing a door between the kitchen and sun room but this would be your long term solution.
What would this opening do to your heating bill???
It really doesn't make sense for there not to be a door there........was the house possibly renovated for selling?

There is a good chance you could find a used door unit that would fit the space and I'm sure it would not be that expensive.
We can also help with installing it!
 
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Old 07-08-12, 11:32 AM
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Thanks so much for all of your input!

I do think blocking off the room from the rest of the house is the most logical solution. I just don't see how the aluminum sunroom was ever intended for 12 month use. And, I have NO clue whose idea the construction specs were - seems crazy to us. We knew this would be an issue when we purchased the house, but had no idea how bad.

I've attached a couple pictures of the opening (taken from the sunroom looking into the kitchen). I couldn't fit the whole height of the opening into one picture, but if you look at the picture of the bottom of the opening, it might illuminate why I think putting in a door would be a major issue. As you, hopefully, can see in the area inside the yellow box, it's not just a rectangular opening - there's a ledge built in, so I suppose that ledge would have to be removed to make room for a standard door frame. That in itself seems to make it a bigger project than it would be otherwise, but then add to that what you see in the red circle - the vent that goes into the sunroom (which has a "vent booster" on it) and kitchen is in the wall right where the ledge is (the vent opens onto both sides of the ledge - the kitchen and sunroom side).

I hope my description of what's in the picture makes some sense. Any ideas for a door given the unique nature of this opening?

One more issue: That handsome beagle in the picture has a doggy door into the backyard out of the sunroom. So, we want him to be able to get himself from the kitchen to the sunroom. Therefore, if we were to somehow put in a door, I suppose it would also need a doggy door.

Never any easy solutions, right?

Hence, that's why we thought curtains might be our best bet, since the other options seem they'd require somewhat major construction. And, we'd probably look to buy good thick ones (maybe made out of upholstery fabric), since I (the wifey) have no sewing skills

Thanks again!
Rebecca
 
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Old 07-08-12, 12:09 PM
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That appears to be an electric insert heater, not a booster fan.

A curtain will not work.

You need to fully isolate the screen room from the rest of the house.
Can't tell how the opening is exactly constructed but a simple explanation would be to affix a 2x6 to the open side and take it to the ceiling to square off the opening.
Install an inside frame in the rectangle opening by the counter to allow filler pieces, a vapor barrier and insulation to be installed.
Lastly locate a door and frame that would fit in the passage.
If a 2x6 were placed against what is the LH side in the pics, what would be the opening size?

This opening is unfortunate but not a major problem to correct.
The opening would not cost a lot of money to diy and would allow you to maybe find a second hand door and frame for cheep!

More pics of the space could be helpful.
Another way to show images is to post them on a free site like Photo Bucket and use the "from url" button.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 12:31 PM
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GregH:

The "vent booster" is one of these Amazon.com: Heating & Air Conditioning Booster: Home Improvement. I'm not familiar with an electric insert heater.

I should have addressed your concern in my last post: Humidity, at this point, doesn't seem to be a problem. It gets hot in there (80+) but the humidity stays below 50%.

I understand that a door is a better option than a curtain, but do you think a curtain would be completely useless?

Oh, and by "fit" the whole opening in the picture, I was referring to my camera's zoom out limitations, not the website.

In the pic below, the blue line, which I think is the opening you were asking about, is 49". The height in that portion of the opening is 83". The open rectangle above the ledge is 19" wide by 46.5" tall.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 12:45 PM
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I'd definitely make that half wall a whole wall all the way to the top and move the vent to the top and face it toward the kitchen. I'd tear out the old half wall and build a new one that would make it easy to access and reroute the vent. I would make the new wall narrower so I had a 50" opening when through. That shouldn't cost more then ~$50 in materials. If that straps your budget for now you could go with curtains or accordion doors. Later you could use a 48" pre-hung interior french door set.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 12:47 PM
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We could certainly afford $50 and add the permanent door later, but even with the wall reconstruction, you sound much more talented than we are. My husband is very handy, but that sounds like it would be pushing our capabilities.

And, why move the vent to the top, may I ask?
 
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Old 07-08-12, 12:56 PM
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And, why move the vent to the top, may I ask?
Primarily because when you turn it around wouldn't the cabinet block the vent and also because cold air is heavier then warm air the higher the vent the better.

And before you ask 50" because that is the approximate rough opening for an interior 48" door. (Exterior 48" door rough opening would be more. )
 
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Old 07-08-12, 12:58 PM
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There's actually more space between the cabinet and the vent (which already opens onto both sides of the ledge - into kitchen and into sunroom) than you can tell in the picture.

Would that change your course of action at all?
 
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Old 07-08-12, 01:06 PM
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I would want it near the ceiling so the cod air would better displace the hot air. It probably isn't going to help much with the sun room so I would keep that vent closed. You might consider a window AC for the sun room at a later date. Also see edition to my previous post.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 01:07 PM
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Thanks so much for your advice, Ray.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 01:12 PM
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OK.
Your booster would then be over a vent connected to your heating system.
You would need to block off that vent because it would cause air to be returned through the doorway adding more heat load to the air conditioner.

You say humidity is not a problem but if you have any moisture coming off your cooling coil that takes cooling power to do so.
IOW, if you have a 24,000 BTU central system in a humid climate, it could take 12, 000 BTU of your capacity to lower the humidity.
The reason your temperature is not coming down could be because the cooling power is being used for de-humidification.......this is a very basic a/c property.

As long as the a/c is removing humidity you do not have that cooling power to lower the temperature.
Maybe this is too much info but could go a long way in making your a/c work better.

There is a good chance the a/c unit may have worked properly before the doorway opening was installed.
Seal the opening with something other than a curtain and your problem may go away.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 02:32 PM
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And, why move the vent to the top, may I ask?
I would leave the vent low. Ray's reason for raising it only works well when the A/C is running. While that could easily be 90% of the time where he lives, it is likely to be no more than 50% of the time in Baltimore.

The "vent booster" is one of these Amazon.com: Heating & Air Conditioning Booster: Home Improvement.
Interesting. Haven't seen one of those before. Where is it plugged in? Regardless, I would seriously consider removing it and closing that vent. It won't do any good after you close off the sunroom anyway, unless you also extend a return air duct into that space.

[The width of the full-height opening] is 49". The height in that portion of the opening is 83". The open rectangle above the ledge is 19" wide by 46.5" tall.
Some thoughts:

A single door (with a doggy door!) would be relatively easy to frame into the full-height opening, without expanding it. It may also be relatively easy to expand that opening to the 50" rough-in needed for a pair of interior doors, or the somewhat larger opening needed to install a pair or exterior doors, but you won't know until and unless you uncover the side of the ledge bump-out. The area above the duct - either as-is or reconfigured to work better with the door - could take a window or a piece of fixed glass.

Short-term, blinds, shades and/or awnings will help.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 03:27 PM
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As an update:

For today, I've put up a couple extra thermal curtain panels we had left over after putting them over the sunroom windows. We'll use this as a test to see if it can get us through for now.

I have also closed the vent into the sunroom and have that duct blowing only into the kitchen. The vent booster has a cord coming out of it and it simply plugs into the nearest outlet - it is now turned off. We hoped the booster would help when we got it, but I can't say it did much.

Naskat, can you elaborate on what extending a return air duct into the sunroom might do to help? I couldn't be more naive on these issues!

The idea of a single door is appealing, since it would allow for a doggy door better than a I think french doors would. Also, I should have mentioned, we have another way into the sunroom. There are already french doors from our dining room into the sunroom. So, I guess we could always just put up a fixed wall (with a doggy door through it, of course ) to cover this whole opening. This isn't ideal from an aesthetic/lifestyle p.o.v., but I suspect that would be the least expensive option, wouldn't it (just some 2x6s, insulation, and sheet rock, really)?

Thanks again for everyone's ongoing support as we determine how to deal with this issue!
Rebecca
 
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Old 07-08-12, 04:00 PM
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Actually 2X4s for framing the walls unless the current knee wall is 2X6 but ff the rack pre-hung door units are made for 2X4 walls. Yes, a single door would be easiest. I would still extend the half wall up. Leave the duct where it is and put in a stationary window to give light from the sun room into the house. The window could be as simple as a pane of glass held in place by molding or an insulated double pain glass unit held by trim. Maybe a stationary window on both sides of the door to balance the look.

I would suggest a solid core interior door since you want to put in a dogie door.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 04:08 PM
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Great ideas. Thanks again.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 05:41 PM
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Naskat, can you elaborate on what extending a return air duct into the sunroom might do to help?
Yes. Central heat or air - a forced-air heating and/or cooling system - operates by forcing the heated or cooled through the supply ducts and out of the supply registers or grilles. Air from that conditioned space then returns to the blower (and the air exchange unit or the heating chamber) through the return air ducts. If you close off a portion of the space that has a supply but no return, the conditioned air will not be supplied because no air can return.

As an example, many people notice that their bedrooms are less comfortable after they install carpeting. And the reason turns out to be that the carpeting closed the gap under the bedroom door where the air used to be able to flow out to get to the return.

Trimming a bit off the bottom of the door usually solves that problem.
 
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Old 07-08-12, 06:17 PM
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There are many ways to accomplish something and unfortunately you have to sort all this information to come up with a workable solution.

One thing that is certain is that your central air conditioner can not handle the added load of this sun room.
What is also certain is that you have to totally cut off the air duct that supplies this room.......a piece of cardboard taped over it would work.
By allowing air to flow from your furnace you will be returning air that has to be cooled with capacity you do not have.

You would do well to consider adding a window or wall mount a/c unit to this room which you could also purchase for a fairly low cost and add an electric baseboard heater for heating in the winter.
 
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Old 07-09-12, 11:33 AM
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Had no idea how important return air flow was in an HVAC system.

We will close off the vent to the sunroom even tighter, and decide the best way to close off that space from the rest of the house.
 
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Old 07-09-12, 11:56 AM
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If you plan to use the sun room in the summer I'd suggest the window AC both Gregh and I have suggested.
 
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Old 07-09-12, 11:58 AM
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I think that will be our plan at some point. Because of the nature of our windows (tall slider) and the lack of wall space, because the majority of the room is windows, I suspect we'll need a floor model (Amazon.com: Whynter ARC-12S Eco-Friendly 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner, Platinum: Home & Kitchen).
 
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Old 07-09-12, 01:53 PM
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It needs to be two hose for best efficiency. I didn't see it mentioned in the description if it was one hose or two hose. Depending on the windows I'd either remove one pain of glass or all or part of a window to mount a window AC but that's just me and you may live in a part of the country where they remove window ACs in the winter.
 
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Old 07-09-12, 03:56 PM
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That unit is a single hose model and you would do well to find one that is two hose.
With single hose portable a/c units they use room air to cool the condenser which is exhausted outside.
A two hose model draws air from outside and blows it back out.
A two hose model is much more efficient by not wasting air that is being cooled.
 
 

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