By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
A skylight is pretty simply defined: a hole in the roof that lets in light. The “light” part is great; the “hole in the roof” part is not so great. You might have heard (or experienced) horror stories of leaking, dripping, cracked skylights that add nothing but trouble to a home.
But there are quality units available, and when combined with proper installation by qualified installers, the addition of natural light can benefit your home and your health.
While there are several options for skylights, today we are going to focus on one popular choice: tubular skylights. These provide no view of the sky and no direct sunlight, but they cost less than a traditional skylight and are much easier to install. A dome on the roof admits the light into an ultra-reflective tube that transports light into the home. A diffuser that looks like a recessed can light fixture, is installed at the ceiling level and spreads the light into the room.
You might ask the logical question: “Why not just install an electric can light if that is the effect of a tubular skylight?” To save electricity, of course. But there are more benefits to be had.
A skylight can dramatically brighten a space as it draws natural light into a room. Tubular skylights are subtle and look much like electric can lighting on the interior of a home.
The increase of the natural light in your home has both physical and mental benefits. Not only will your plants be happier, but you will be happier too. Studies show that exposure to natural light improves our moods as well as increases our short-term memory and mental performance. Natural light can also help regulate our internal body clock and counter the effects of seasonal affective disorder.
And as an added bonus, there is no question that natural light makes things look better — from our home decor to our complexion.
There are many manufacturers of tubular skylights. A 10-year warranty and complete installation kits are common to all brands, but there are differences in dome material, the reflectivity of the tubes, the flashing on the roof, and the length of the extension tubes. You can find options such as a vent fan, a night light, or a dimmer.
Tubular skylights also come in flexible tubing models, which reflects a little less light than a rigid tube but allows for configurations other than just a straight line from roof to interior ceiling. Prices range from about $150 to $500.
The coating of the tube affects the reflectivity. The industry standard is a silver coating that reflects 97 percent of the light source, but reflectivity can range from 95 to 99.7 percent depending on the skylight and its design. The difference may not sound like much, but that percentage comes into play each time the light is bounced off the tube. If the light is deflected four times on its journey down the tube, a 4 percent reduction in light becomes 16 percent by the time the light reaches the interior of your home.
For more information, visit our Web site at www.renovationdesigngroup.com, where we have included a list of evaluated and approved products complied by the National Fenestration Rating Council. You can see actual installations of tubular skylights at Utah State University Extension’s Utah House, 920 S. 50 West, Kaysville. The Green Building Center, 1952 E. 2700 South, Salt Lake City, or Bright Concepts, 7127 S. 400 W. Suite 2, Salt Lake City. Take a look and consider adding a tubular skylight to your lighting system. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.