Skylights are an appealing option for many homes due to the constant source of free light and an improved aesthetic, but there are many different types of skylights that use many different materials. Choosing the right skylight involves more than just choosing which one looks best; it involves selecting the right materials, the right size and a good location that can provide you with plenty of light without increasing your energy bill.
What Purpose Will My Skylight Serve?
Skylights serve a variety of purposes, so you should first decide what you want. For example, you should decide whether you want more light in the morning or evening, and if you want any passive heat gain or whether you want to focus on looks alone. Finally, you should decide whether you want a skylight you can use for ventilation or one that doesn't open at all.
Where Is My Skylight Going?
Where your light is going may affect what type you can get. There are three types of skylights: fixed, tubular, and ventilated. Fixed skylights don't move and are meant only for letting light in. Tubular skylights are small and direct light into your home by using tubes of reflective materials. Ventilated skylights are any lights that can be opened, whether manually or with a motor.
If you want light in a large room, such as your entryway, a kitchen or dining room, a non-tubular light is a good option. With plenty of roof space and more room on the inside to work with, you can choose from a variety of shapes and glazes.
If you want to light a hallway or a small room, a tubular light is a good choice. It works well even with very limited space, and you can use the lens at the end of the tube to direct light evenly into the room, and even turn it off and on whenever you want.
How Will It Affect My Energy Use?
If you're worried about the potential for your light to bring in a lot of unwanted heat, there are a few things you can do about it.
- Place your skylight on a side of your roof that doesn't get much sun during the summer. The best places to put these lights are on the east side (which tends to get mostly morning sun) or on the north side, which gets constant but often indirect exposure to the sun.
- Put the skylight under deciduous plants which will provide year-round shade but won't block sunlight completely.
This may limit your options a little, so if this is a dealbreaker, you can look at different shapes and glazes.
What Shapes and Glazes Do I Want?
Skylights can be flat, round and polygonal, and these shapes can influence the type of light you get and the heat they retain. For example, skylights that rise above your roof can capture more light due to the various angles they face, and also catch more heat by reflecting it inward.
When looking at glazes, don't avoid the more expensive materials if you can help it. Short term they may provide savings, but long term it's worth it to buy the more expensive materials like glass; it doesn't discolor and won't let the sunlight fade your furniture and carpets.
You can look for specific heat-blocking glazes here to help keep out the heat by looking at glazes that are insulated or absorb heat, or low-emissivity coats.
Are There Benefits to Ventilated Skylights?
If you're weighing the pros and cons of both kinds of skylights, you should note that ventilated skylights are more expensive than fixed skylights because they have moving parts, and sometimes motors if you opt for a remote-controlled light. However, they come with the benefit of being extremely effective at providing air flow and heat reduction. Since heat rises, an open skylight can cool your house quickly.
If you want a ventilated light, however, make sure you go with a reputable contractor like Screen Masters. A properly installed ventilated light shouldn't leak, but going cheap on an installation can make it a risk.