Nichole’s Report V The Solarium

Sunroom/solarium with cat furniture and litter box
Othello in the iMac

We call this room the sunroom, the mudroom and the laundry room. Nichole dubbed it the solarium which is also a good name. It was once a back porch but, like many, it was walled in years ago. The cats spend a lot of time here; their litter boxes, food, water, scratching pads, and furniture are all in here. So is the iMac cat bed. Actually, we have the water in the kitchen now because the sunroom got too cold and the water froze.

When we were refurbishing the house from 2007-2009 this room filled up with junk.



After the first retrofit and the house was painted, we cleaned it up, painted, replaced the old carpet with vinyl flooring and moved the washer/dryer from the basement in here.

The new washer from craigslist on the new flooring, 2009
The old washer from craigslist on the new flooring, 2009. Who needs cable TV?

The floor is sloped like the porch it once was and the washing machine bounces on it energetically during its spin cycle. We replaced the one pictured with a high efficiency model I got on craigslist in 2013. I had bought the first one on craigslist, too. (I get everything on craigslist.) I think the old one’s motor went kaput which is the risk you run buying used appliances. Still, I save about $1000 each time, so it’s worth fixing or replacing them every so often.

Have you noticed that appliance stores will give a lower price on buying a washer/dryer set? That means that one machine will die first and people will often buy a new pair instead of repairing it. The machine that is still good is usually pretty new with no problems. That’s what happened with the new HE washer. I bought it in April 2013 for $280. It was 4 years old then. So far, so good!

Little HOBO hiding on a shelf
Little HOBO hiding on a shelf

Anyway, how does this old walled-in porch measure up? Here is what Nichole found. For the complete story on Nichole’s project on our house with BCIT, click on the BCIT category on the right hand column.

I love Nichole’s graphs which show temperature and relative humidity (RH%) on the same graph (no CO2 sensor this time). What does this information tell us about how we should renovate?


Temperature and relative humidity data for the solarium is plotted in Figure 6 below.


The door between the solarium and the remainder of the house is often kept closed, and there is a cat door from the solarium to the exterior, so the environmental conditions within the solarium are highly influenced by the exterior conditions. This room is not generally occupied by the house occupants, but rather the cats reside in this room a lot of the time. This room is in effect acting as vestibule to buffer air leakage that may result from the cat door to the exterior.

To elaborate on Nichole’s commentary, the windows are single-paned and the wall cavities below them are hollow–no insulation. When we blew foam into the exterior walls, we did, however, fill the walls between the sunroom and the rest of the house, which is why we keep the door closed.

The sunroom can become a source for passive solar heat, but in winter the heat leaks out as soon as the sun disappears.

Catdoor leading into the panty
Catdoor leading into the panty

Nichole was mistaken about the cat door. It would probably make more sense to have it in the sunroom door as she describes, but I had the clever idea of converting a cold-cupboard hole in the pantry/office into a catdoor. Then I had to make another hole from the pantry to the sunroom. That way the cats can come and go to and fro (I can’t imagine opening the door every time one of three cats wants in or out!) The heat sneaks out those holes, too, however.

It seemed like a nice idea at the time. Fortunately, this part of the house will be rebuilt and we can get it right. But where does one put a catdoor in a super-insulated and sealed house?

It must be the lack of heat or insulation/sealing that results in those wild temperature and humidity variations. Not a very comfy room to hang out in, but the cats seem to like it.

Let’s compare Nichole’s results to the BC Hydro elelctricity consumption and, more relevantly, the average outside temperature. Shall we?
I think it is remarkable that the temperature can spike to 25 degrees celsius on March 1st when the outside temperature seems to have dipped to close to freezing. The only explanation I have is solar heat. Now, if the room were insulated, we could keep more of that heat.

People say poo-poo to solar power around here because we get a lot of cloud. These results suggest it’s poo-poo to those people, especially since the cost of solar panels continues to drop. Excuse my language.

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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