Outdoor rooms are a great way to expand your living space without spending a lot of money. Better still, they’re heated by the sun and cooled by the shade and breezes, so they don’t consume energy. Well-designed outdoor rooms allow you to enjoy cooking, eating, working, playing, and entertaining outside while providing some protection from the weather. Before the advent of air conditioning, households all over the country had screened porches, summer kitchens, and sleeping porches. Now we can save energy and enjoy the outdoors by reviving these traditions, updated for today’s lifestyles.

Porches can be wonderful places to sit, swing, share a meal, do paperwork, or play during mild weather. A roofed, screened porch provides shade and protection from mosquitoes while letting you enjoy sunlight, shade, breezes, and birds. Adding a porch on the south or west side of a house can shade the house from the hot afternoon sun, reducing cooling costs.

Patios or decks are great for entertaining or playing in good weather; their usefulness can be extended with some minor additions. Trellises over the outdoor space can support a shade-producing vine in warm weather while letting in winter sunshine. An operable awning is another way to provide seasonal shade or protection from rain. Adding a windbreak can give you privacy while taming the breeze.

Sunrooms allow you to bask in the sun, even when it’s cool or breezy outside. You can create a dedicated sunroom, or you can make one by adding storm windows to a screened porch. A sunroom can even provide winter solar heat gain to adjacent rooms via connecting doors or windows.

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It's hard to design energy efficient sunrooms, but considering things like the window glass and location of the sunroom can help. Read tips to minimize heat loss through sunroom windows


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