Skylights – those windows on the roof that add a touch of luxury to your home – can do more than just enhance the visual appeal of a property. Sure, they can display for you the full glory of the summer sky, the stars and the moon, the multi-colored sunset, but don’t be mistaken: skylights are important energy savers, too.
That’s because windows – of which, really, skylights are only one of many kinds – play an important role in determining the efficiency performance of our homes. They affect our heating and cooling bills, the insulation levels inside the house, and the quality of the indoor air that we breathe. They have an impact on our lighting systems and designs. These days, skylights are also being incorporated with new technologies to provide even more green benefits and further reduce homeowners’ energy consumption.
Here are only some of the ways skylights can improve the efficiency performance of your home:
- Skylights provide natural warmth and brightness to your house and reduce your use of electricity and artificial lights. It’s been said that these types of windows can provide up to five times more light into your home than traditional windows of the same dimension.
- Skylights with solar heat control glazing – those that are designed to provide passive heating from the sun – can cut down on your need for heating and cooling systems.
- Skylights add a unique aesthetic appeal to your home interiors and create a feeling of openness and space without compromising your privacy.
- Skylights improve ventilation and promote fresher, healthier air indoors.
Before you proceed with skylight installation in your home, however, it’s recommended that you first consult green, innovative contractors like Greenwerks and let the professionals help you find out which designs, selections, and positions fit your home best. That’s because skylights can also pose a number of risks – such as the potential to cause drafts, leaks, and uncontrolled indoor temperatures.
When choosing your skylight, look out for models that have been labeled by the federal Energy Star program. In maximizing your energy efficiency, it’s also important to make considerations about the design of your home as well as the climate in your area. Of course, proper professional installation is not just an option – it’s a necessity.
There are three basic kinds of skylights:
- A ventilating skylight – usually installed in kitchens and bathrooms – can be opened by a hand crank, and can provide better ventilation by letting heat out and delivering passive cooling to a room.
- A fixed skylight, meanwhile, does not open, but provides plenty of natural light and reduces the amount of electricity required for illumination.
- Last but not least is the tubular skylight, usually 10 to 14 inches in diameter, designed to help reduce heat loss while also controlling heat gain.
As far as design goes, there are skylights with plastic glazing and single panes, but these don’t perform as well as skylights with heat absorption tints, insulating glazing (two-paned skylights), and low-e coatings – all of which serve to minimize your dependence on electrical heating and cooling systems. Size also matters: never should your skylight be more than 5 percent of the floor area in rooms with many other windows, or more than 15 percent of the floor area of rooms with little or no windows.
Apart from design, size, and materials, the position of the skylight should also be taken into consideration. Here’s what you should know: if you’re installing a skylight on a roof that faces north, you’ll get constant illumination and fairly cool temperatures. On roofs facing east, meanwhile, you’ll get maximum light and solar heat – especially in mornings. Face west, and you’ll get plenty of sunlight and heat in the afternoons. Finally, if you install a skylight on a roof that faces south, you’re allowing yourself the optimum passive solar heat gain, perfect for winter conditions.
Remember to choose carefully the location of your skylight installation, so that you’ll be able to maximize its green benefits and energy efficiency capabilities.