When builder Chuck Beale and his wife, Abby, designed their dream home in Benzie County several years ago, they crowned it with a sunroom that triples as a greenhouse, a three-season porch and a bonus solar-heat source for their home. Chuck tells us about it:

Q: What gave you the idea?

A: I always liked the idea of a rooftop sunroom. It’s a little bit of urban—in the city they make use of their exposed rooftops.

Q: Your home is two stories. There must be a great view from up there?

A: Yes, we can see Lake Michigan and Upper Herring Lake.

Q: So, how do you use your extra room up top?

A: My wife uses the greenhouse to start her plants in the spring. And we also use it as a sort of veranda.

Q: And it also helps heat the home?

A: Yes on a sunny winter day it heats the entire second floor.

Q: How?

A: There’s a damper-fan system in the ductwork controlled by a thermostat. When the house calls for heat it diverts the heat from the greenhouse into the house. When it’s not calling for heat, the dampers close, and the fan exits the heat out of the house.

A: What kind of glass is the sunroom made of?

The sunroom itself is about 12-by-12 feet, then there’s a deck beyond it. The glass came from Twin Bay Glass in Traverse City—we used argon-filled glass for insulation with a low-E filter—without the filter the plants would get scorched.

Chuck Beale owns Durango Homes. Contact him at 231-352-7463 or durangorustichomes.com.