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If you had an awesome solarium...on the wrong side of the house...

 
T Holden
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We just bought a property and the house has this amazing solarium. Only, it's completely shaded 100% of the time and it cannot be moved to any other side. Before we tear it down (and donate it to a friend who has a great little farm), dream up some ideas for me. If it were yours, how would you use it?



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T Holden
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outside
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alex Keenan
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I see shade loving plants in your future

You would either have to install grow lights or setup reflected sunlight.


"It would take the average hobby grower years to recoup the cost of a fiber optic lighting system. However, there is a lot of potential for fiber optic lighting in indoor gardening applications. Since you would have to purchase a collector relative to the size of the intended growing space, the initial cost of a fiber optic lighting system could be astronomical. However, several companies have demonstrated that plant growth is possible with the exclusive use of a fiber optic natural lighting system. As fiber optic costs continue to decline and the cost of electricity continues to increase, this technology will almost certainly become a practical solution for growing plants indoors one day".

"Beside the aquaponics greenhouse there is a small shed with a solar tube penetrating the southernmost wall. This solar tube has a dome on the end of the tube outside of the shed. This dome takes in light from all directions and pushes it down the tube. Right below the dome, the inside of the tube is coated with panda film and below the panda film is a six inch aluminum tube. We are collecting data on the light intensity that it being reflected out of the end of the solar tube using a Hobo Pendant that captures light intensity in footcandles. We are also collecting light intensity data outside of the shed just above the solar tube’s dome. Our aim for this solar tube is to find the best way to direct sunlight, so we can give the bottom bed of plants in the aquaponics greenhouse access to more solar radiation. The alternative to this method is buying grow lights and setting them up above the plants. The solar tube method ultimately saves energy as the solar tube requires no energy and just redirects sunlight, but the grow lights require energy to run".
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Oops, fixed your initial images at the same time you were fixing them

Given the extreme integration of the solarium with the house space, you can't just remove it and pretend it never happened. I can't see it being viable as is unless you have an unlimited heat source. If it faced south, it would be an oven in the summer and bake the whole house.

It would be a waste of materials to just encase the glass in insulation and sheathing, so I would be in favor of removing the glass, framing and doors if you have a worthy destination for them, and rebuild on the base with well-insulated structure. I might keep a few bays of the windows to reinsert into the new construction, depending on the details and your skill.
 
Glenn Herbert
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The solar tube could be a good way to get light to the space, except that here the trees combined with two-story house to the south would make it difficult to get a high-intensity capture spot.
 
alex Keenan
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Glenn Herbert wrote:The solar tube could be a good way to get light to the space, except that here the trees combined with two-story house to the south would make it difficult to get a high-intensity capture spot.


looks like your trees are not evergreens, so you could do solar tubes late fall, winter, early spring.
Not perfect but you in theory could get enough light to over winter and start seedlings.
 
Dillon Nichols
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What about converting it to a screened summer/canning kitchen? Looks like it's ideally placed relative to the house for that...
 
Thekla McDaniels
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That's a beautiful space. What would be gained by removing it? Could you just leave it as it is for about a year, through the one cycle of the changing of the seasons?

I did not see where you are located. Your climate will dictate what that space is like. When it is comfortable in there, you might enjoy the space. Do you have children? It could be a nice play space in the winter or on a rainy day. You could hang a clothesline in there if there is adequate circulation and you are not in a very humid climate.

If it is really cold where you are, could you put a rocket stove in there, with mass and or the ability to cook on it? What is under the floor?

If you don't "have" to heat it or cool it, then aren't there plenty of plants that could use that level of lights, as someone suggested above?

I also think the addition of light tubes might be worth considering, if you want to grow something that needs more light.

When people first move into new homes, they can be eager to change things. I think if you live in it for awhile with a curious attitude about this space that has got your full attention, it's very likely you'll discover how it fits into your living group's life.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I would support the idea of waiting to make big changes.

The way the solarium encompasses a room inside the house, I suspect it would be impractical to let it be a three-season space unless you tend to live compactly and can shut that corner off for the winter. A RMH along with insulating curtains of some sort might make it a usable year-round space without costing an arm and a leg to heat.

Light tubes would only be useful in winter if the solarium were mostly roofed over, and given the sun angles, would only be able to get direct solar access in early morning and late afternoon, or all afternoon only, depending on location, and still screened by bare tree limbs.
 
Greta Beach
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With a little imagination you can have a wonderful greenhouse there. They are making fiber optic systems cheaper and cheaper. This experiment was done in the 1980's. I remember when this was article published. http://www.genesispark.com/exhibits/early-earth/experiments/

Particularly interesting experiments were conducted by the late Dr. Kei Mori of Kao University in Tokyo. Dr. Mori raised plants under special light that filtered out IR and UV radiation. His unique process of fiberoptic sunlight collection and transmission, called "Himawari Sunlighting", is now marketed worldwide.

At first Mori feared the filtered light would be detrimental. But after extensive experiments he claimed it could promote healing and "because the ultraviolet is blocked, this sunlight does not fade fabrics or damage skin.

" (Gilmore, Elaine, "Sunflower over Tokyo," Popular Science, May 1988, p. 75.)

One long-lived tomato plant was grown in a special nutrient-rich solution to be exhibited at the Japan Expo '85. Under piped sunlight and controlled atmosphere, this tomato tree grew over 30 ft high and yielded more than 13,000 ripe tomatoes during the six months of the Expo! (Hiroshi, Koichibara, "Tomatomation," UNESCO Courier, March 1987.)
 
Greta Beach
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This Swedish company looks like it may have the same technology but cheaper. http://www.parans.com/eng/sp3/
 
Mike Turner
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If you have a sunny spot in line of sight of your solarium, you could do on a smaller scale what the Norwegian town of Rjukan did to get sunlight into its permanently shadowed main square. They built mirrors on a sunny mountain slope to reflect sunlight into the square.
 
T Holden
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I've enjoyed reading these ideas. There really is no way to reflect light or bring it in via solar tubes- it is on the north side of the house, the house is two stories and the west is a bluff wall canopied by tall woods. It never ever sees any sunlight and that side of the yard sees maybe 1 hour in the morning. There are moss, ferns, wild ginger, all over that side of the yard because it stays so wet...as does the solarium.

Luckily, it will not be a big project to remove as the structure it is attached to was the back porch and is still sound. A door will have to be framed into the kitchen. The carpet and tile will need to come off the concrete slab it's on. Aside from that, it's not too much of an issue to take it down. It will go to a friend's sustainable farm and they will use it. That makes me happy.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Looks like it would be ideal for a south east corner to gather morning warmth without getting overheated on summer evenings. The corner design creates a lot more space than a flat run.
As it is it is just a shady porch protected from rain and snow. If that is not useful for you then repurposing is the logical plan.
 
C. Letellier
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Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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If you need the space take it down but as is I would leave it as a mildly insulating area/buffer from the outside. It was probably originally built for an artist who wanted north light to work by. But you need to be able to mostly abandon it for the worst of the winter. If you heat the space at all hold it just above freezing.
 
Dave Colglazier
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T Holden wrote:We just bought a property and the house has this amazing solarium. Only, it's completely shaded 100% of the time and it cannot be moved to any other side. Before we tear it down (and donate it to a friend who has a great little farm), dream up some ideas for me. If it were yours, how would you use it?



Any covered space is a premium especially for that hot tub I see in one picture. Also, it works as firewood storage and the light probably was welcomed instead of a covered porch as you stated that had been there. You can grow fish and some plants possibly in this space too. Beer/wine/cheese production? I would wait for awhile as others have suggested before making the decision to remove it because it could become one of your most favorite spots that is almost outdoors and relatively bug free and the atmosphere can be a moderating influence on your whole house. I have a full 2 storey garage on the back of my 1889 home and it helps considerably in the winter to protect us from the north winds that howl here in Minnesota.
 
leila hamaya
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i think i would look into taking it off the house and then setting it up in another location on that land, if possible. then once i figured out where, design the rest of it, basically make a new northern section, and place it somewhere facing south, or potentially also slightly east or west depending on your location.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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It always amuses me that people think that the north sides of buildings don't get sunlight... Observe, observe, observe: What's really going on, not just what we expect to see. Two of the photos clearly show sunlight hitting the floor of the solarium.

At my place, during the summer, the sun comes up in the North/East, and sets in the North/West. Every side of a building gets sunlight during a summer day.

 
Cristo Balete
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I agree with Joseph, there's plenty of light for plants in that location. Bright shade has a lot of candidates, and there's little risk of sunburn.

We have friends who put a solarium on the sunny side and they suffered, really suffered with too much heat including the rest of the house later spring through fall. Their cooling bill went sky high. They were miserable. Early morning sun had it up too high to even sit for morning coffee. They spent thousands trying to put covers on it, but those always seemed vulnerable to the weather and didn't look good.

Don't you suppose the people who put it there did it to get light into that side of the house because it was too dark? It probably improves light levels inside as well.

I think yours is in a great location.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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