The Best Replacement Windows for a Sunroom in Sunny Northern California
Northern California is home to some of the sunniest cities in the country. Sacramento, Stockton, and Fresno are all regularly listed as having at least 275 sunny days a year, putting them up there with Las Vegas and Phoenix as the most sun-soaked spots in the U.S. The big difference, though, between sunny Northern California and other sunny locales is that we have a Mediterranean climate, which means we have rainy and cool winters, but dry, warm summers with weeks on end never seeing a single cloud.
I know a lot of folks who during those summer weeks like to relax and enjoy the rays, without being outside in the heat. As a window installation professional, a common project this time of year is replacing sunroom windows. There’s a natural question that homeowners ask when they undertake such projects: What are the best windows for a sunroom in sunny Northern California?
It’s a good one, too, because, simply put, windows are the most important aspect of a sunroom. I’ve never seen a sunroom that has less than 20 windows, so every last detail of the ones you pick out is going to matter. There are seemingly endless window combinations to choose from, but picking out the best new windows for your sunroom becomes so much easier if you know even a little bit about what you want—and why.
Choosing the Best Windows for a Sunroom in a Mediterranean Climate
Where should you start when choosing the best windows for a sunroom in a Mediterranean climate? The glass. I’ve talked quite a bit in the past about how double-pane windows increase energy efficiency in your home, among many other benefits. That’s because double pane windows are made from two layers of glass, which generally come with a low-emissivity (low-E) coating that provides insulation and keeps conditioned air in—whether it’s cold in the summer or warm in the winter.
… I’ve generally found that the slight increase in benefits triple-pane windows provide is not worth the roughly $100 per window extra in costs, minimum…
The question, though, is whether you should upgrade from double pane to triple pane windows for your sunroom. We’ve gone over whether triple pane windows are worth the extra cost or not. It’s a complicated question, one that varies based on the individual circumstances of your situation, but I’ve generally found that the slight increase in benefits triple pane windows provide is not worth the minimum $100 per window extra in costs, up to $500. Considering that a sunroom generally uses at least 20 windows, the cost increase for a sunroom could be quite substantial.
It’s not just about cost, though. In a sunroom, you want to let as much light in as you can, but as little heat as possible. Factors like the direction the sunroom faces and the seasons of the year you plan to use it will influence what type of glass is the best choice. South facing sunrooms will require glass with better insulation, especially if you plan for heavy use throughout Northern California’s summer months, when the sun is at its most intense. A window installation professional can help you make this call.
Installing Replacement Windows for Sunrooms in Northern California
Another question you need to answer before installing replacement windows for sunrooms in Northern California is how you want your windows to open. The hottest parts of our summer days are, well, hot. But Northern California’s Mediterranean climate means we don’t have much humidity. The mornings and evenings, even during the peak of summer, are generally pleasant; you’ll probably want to be able to open your windows and let the air flow. There are essentially five options when it comes to how your window will, or won’t open:
- Slider windows: These consist of two sashes, or framed panes, that can move side to side, just as their name implies. The cost of slider windows is moderate. Since these windows slide horizontally, they are a good choice for sunrooms where space is at a premium.
- Casement windows: This model is hinged on one side allowing you to open them entirely by turning a hand crank. But, you have to take into account that casements can obstruct the area just outside of your sunroom, protruding unwieldy into your yard. The cost for these windows is affordable.
- Awning windows: Turn those casement windows on their sides and you have awning windows, featuring hinges on top. Also similar to casement windows, the prices for these windows are affordable. Awning windows keep out the rain while still allowing hot air to escape. This isn’t a necessary feature for Northern California, though, since it almost never rains during the summers.
- Double-hung windows: Double-hung windows have two sashes that move up and down rather than sliding side to side. This is the most common type of opening for residential windows so they’ll likely fit right in with the existing aesthetic of your home. The costs for these windows are a bit higher than the other options already mentioned above.
- Fixed windows: Maybe you don’t want fresh air coming in your sunroom at all—it will keep the bugs out. Fixed windows are the way to go then. These are a great choice for solarium-style sunrooms which have walls made entirely of glass. This is also the model you’ll want for high spaces or ceiling windows in sunrooms. The prices for these windows are moderate.
Which Window Material Is Best for a Sunroom?
The last thing you need to decide is what material you want the windows to be constructed from. This is important because it determines what style your windows will have—and how much maintenance they’ll require. Your three basic options are:
- Wood windows: A sunroom is usually added to the back of the house which means, aesthetically, it’s best if it fits in with the yard. This traditional look is popular with many homeowners, especially those that have a fair number of gigantic Northern California pines in their yards because it gives a rustic appeal. They can also be painted, which gives you plenty of options for customization.
- Vinyl windows: Forget about painting these because you won’t have to, making them more cost effective than wood windows. The downside is you’ll have to pick a color and stick with it. These are great options for cost-conscious sunroom owners, but I generally find their style is less flexible than with wood windows.
- Clad windows: This option blends the other two, taking wooden windows and covering them in vinyl or aluminum on their exterior. That means you get the look of wood on the inside or your sunroom, but a low-maintenance veneer on the outside that doesn’t need to be painted. Clad windows do cost more than wood or vinyl, though.
With all our Northern California sun, researching and investing in the best windows for a sunroom is a worthwhile move; there are a good deal of complicated questions to answer before making your decision. I’d recommend picking a knowledgeable window installation professional, and having him or her coach you through every step of the installation process. It’s kind of like hiring an experienced interior designer or wedding planner: A great window pro brings their knowledge and experience, but you get the final say on design and style.
Windows make the sunroom. Let the experienced window installation experts at Bell Brothers help you find the best window options for your Northern California sunroom.
Image courtesy Arno Smit