Skylights can turn a dark, drab living room into a brightly lit area, ideal for hosting guests and spending time with family. They can make a compact bathroom feel larger and more open just by adding light from above. Wherever you choose to install them, skylights can improve energy efficiency, brighten low-light areas, and provide a much-needed dimension to a wide variety of rooms. Prior to purchasing a skylight, you will want to consider what type you need based upon where you live and how you plan to utilize it. Keep these questions in mind as you shop:
• What type of skylight best fits the room(s)?
• What size skylight should you install?
• Do you want an ENERGY STAR qualified model?
• Will a vented or fixed skylight work best?
• Which direction should the unit face?
• Do local regulations dictate which skylights can be installed in your municipality or area?
Energy Efficiency, Materials, Installation Tips and Types
There are three main types of skylights, ventilating (sometimes called "roof windows"), fixed, and tubular. They come in a range of different shapes, including flat, arched, domed, and pyramid. Each type has features specific for different situations. Choose a design that best fits the room where it will be installed. You should also consider what materials are required and the types of weather to which it will be subjected. In addition to providing extra light that can cut down on lighting costs, the amount of heat a skylight allows in (or out) can have a sizable impact on your energy bill.
Energy Efficiency: Your climate can help determine the best location for your skylight. Skylights that face north usually provide steady illumination without absorbing or releasing much heat. Those that face south will provide extra heat in the winter to reduce heating bills but may retain extra heat in the summer. East-facing skylights provide the most light and heat in the mornings while west-facing installations do the same later in the day. ENERGY STAR qualified skylights are available with ratings based on climate. These units maximize efficiency to lower energy costs.
• Installation orientation helps determine how much heat and light a skylight receives
• Add a blind or shade to your skylight to reduce undesirable heat during the summer
• Heat-absorbing tints, UV protection and low-emissivity coatings increase energy efficiency and reduce
fading in carpeting and furniture
• Some skylights have motorized blinds available to allow a room darkening effect as well as heat
protection during times of brightest sunlight
Materials: Skylight glazing is generally made from plastic or glass. Plastic glazing, often in the form of acrylics, is more economical and very sturdy. Unless it has a special coating, it can yellow over time and tends to allow more UV rays into the space. Glass glazing requires a slightly larger initial investment but provides greater durability. In either case, units with insulation tend to hold up longer than single-layer skylights.
• Plastic glazing is durable and economical
• Glass glazing ensures long-lasting effectiveness
• Solar-heat control glazing adds energy efficiency
• You may need to purchase skylights with special glass options for locations with heavy snow
loads and in hurricane prone areas
Installation Tips : Make sure your skylight is properly installed and fitted to the room to ensure maximum performance. When deciding the size of your skylight, estimate one square foot of skylight for every 20' of floor space. If the room has many windows, the skylight should not be more than 5% of the floor area and not more than 15% in rooms with few windows. Condensation can be a drawback however there are steps you can take to minimize or eliminate it. Since proper installation will reduce the likelihood of condensation, closely follow installation instructions and consider consulting a professional. Skylights with interior channels collect condensation, thereby preventing drips and allowing condensation to evaporate as temperatures rise.
• Match skylights to room size for greater light and energy efficiency
• Tightly sealed joints reduce the presence of moisture
• Consistent air circulation decreases the likelihood of condensation buildup
• Skylights may be curb- or flush-mounted, depending on slope and roofing materials
• Flashing may be required for some skylights or roof windows
• Ceiling or exhaust fans built into the wall will reduce condensation
Light Shafts: Different light shafts provide different looks. Flared shafts are longer than the skylight at the base of the opening to take greater advantage of the sun's path across the sky. Straight shafts are ideal for rooms with little ceiling space or if the roof presents installation obstacles, such as chimneys. Shaft-less skylights can be installed into cathedral or high-sloped ceilings to add visual space and create different architectural dynamics.
• Flared shafts provide a wider beam of light
• Straight shafts work best in flat ceilings
• Shaft-less skylights do not need light shafts if the ceiling is fastened directly to rafters
Types: Consider the types of skylights available and the rooms in which they will be most effective:
Motorized Venting Skylights: Motorized units eliminate the hassle of having to manually crank open hard-to-reach skylights and operate at the touch of a button.
Moisture Sensors: Vented skylights with moisture sensors close automatically when it starts to rain, ensuring that the room below stays dry even if you are not home to close the skylight.
Flashing Kits: These kits interweave with roofing materials to ensure proper drainage and reduce condensation, protecting furniture and living spaces below.