Energy | Sustainability

Brighten Up Your Home with Natural Daylight

When Gary Pawelko and his partner Diana Figueroa built their home in Wentzville, they carefully considered the many options available, doing their best to imagine this new space and how things would fit together.  Unfortunately, they didn’t realize until the home was finished that the kitchen, where they spent a large portion of their time, was always dark and required artificial lighting.  They spent a year and a half regretting the missed opportunity to include skylights in the original design, and finally concluded that this add-on project would be necessary to open up the space to provide the natural light they were yearning for.  

While windows are the primary source of daylight in most homes, skylights provide more light than windows and distribute it more evenly across an interior space.  A room with a skylight feels more open and inviting.  Operable models enable the skylight to serve a double purpose, providing natural ventilation to reduce cooling costs, letting warm air out and clean, fresh air in.  They also provide abundant light without compromising privacy.  

Skylights were originally designed to make attic space more functional.  There was a short time in history in the ‘50s and ‘60’s where the trend was to replace natural light and ventilation with artificial light and air-conditioning.  This trend was short-lived, as we learned that natural light plays a key role in the body’s biological rhythms, immune system and brain chemistry.  Numerous studies have shown that daylight has a positive effect on health, productivity, learning, and general well-being in schools, offices and retail spaces.  So it’s only logical that these same benefits would be experienced at home, too.  

Gary and Diana visited several Velux skylight installers at the St. Louis Home & Garden show, and invited both of them to come out and submit a proposal.  While the pricing from each vendor was in the same ballpark, Gary decided to go with Premier Skylights.  “They just seemed to be tuned in to what we were looking for, and their approach was professional but friendly.”  

Gary’s original concept was to install traditional translucent skylights.  But after his meeting with Frank Chandler, co-owner of Premier, he decided that the clear glass would be more attractive and functional.  “I was initially afraid that the size of the skylights that Frank recommended would be too big for the room.  As it turns out, we’re thrilled with what he recommended and are glad he didn’t just give us what we asked for.”  

The most affordable option is a fixed skylight, which serves the single purpose of letting light in.  Upgraded models contain operable windows with a manual crank or a motorized unit that can be operated remotely, either with a wall switch or wireless remote control.  Skylights can be further dressed with venetian blinds, or you can use translucent roller blinds to dim incoming light or opaque blinds to provide a total blackout.  

Skylights have a slightly tarnished reputation for leaking, and given their direct exposure to the elements, they must be built to withstand the weather.  Velux, the most widely known name in skylights, created a leak-proof guarantee in response to concerns about the reliability of skylights.   

“With the introduction of the Velux No Leak Skylight Guarantee, our customers can purchase skylights with complete confidence,” said Tom Rissmann of Premier Skylights.  “Their deck mounted skylights now have three layers of water protection, and carry a 10-year installation and product warranty that Velux will stand behind, provided the skylight is installed in accordance with their installation instructions.”   

The company has always engineered high-quality products, balancing durability and strength with affordability, and their skylights are Energy Star certified.  New skylights use Low-E3 dual-pane glass with argon gas insulation, so they minimize heat transfer while letting the light in.  

While natural daylight provides benefits related to health and well-being, it is also an effective strategy for reducing energy use.  Offices and schools can save a large amount of their lighting costs since the buildings are primarily used during the day.  Areas in the home that are frequently used during the day, like the kitchen, are ideal for skylights.  Using natural daylight will also earn points for green building certifications.  

Passive light from tubular skylights is a cost-effective way to save energy

Tubular skylights are a simpler and more affordable alternative to full-size skylights.  These units draw in light from a roof-mounted dome.  The light is transmitted down a highly-reflective rigid tube though the attic, and dispersed into the room through a ceiling-mounted diffuser.  These units are great for bathrooms, walk-in closets, hallways and other windowless rooms with roof access.  They are also a good way to supplement light in other rooms, like kitchens or other frequently used spaces.    

The Velux Sun Tunnel comes in a variety of sizes to fit different spaces and lighting needs, including 10”, 14” & 22” diameters.  Passive light is one of the best lighting methods available because the units are low cost and provide free light during the day.  As a result, these units qualify for the 30% federal tax credit up to $1,500 until the end of this year.  

In addition to the interior benefits and energy savings, an attractive skylight can provide additional curb-appeal for your home.  Skylights are common additions to new homes, and are considered very desirable by homebuyers.  Given the tight real estate market, adding a skylight is a great way to make a distinction in your home, and add to the property value.  If you’re like Gary and Diana, you’ll love the light they bring to your home, and enjoy the energy savings, too!  

Published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat’s “The Green Life” on June 7, 2010

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