Let the Sun Shine in and Keep Rain out

Louisville Home InspectorToo much light? It doesn’t sound possible, because skylights are designed to be used to brighten dark areas where conventional windows don’t fit. Carefully considering the location of a new skylight is important, however, because skylights can actually allow too much light in a space if they are located in a room with a southern exposure. It is best to opt for skylight placement on the north or east isde of a room, allowing light to flow in, without being overwhelmed by heat in summer months.

Once the right spot is found, a skylight in one of a myriad of shapes can be installed. Recent advances in skylight design have resulted in a wide variety of shapes and sizes for skylights, including triangular, circular, pyramid, pentagon, hexagon, tandem unit, barrel vault (single curved arch) and just about any other shape imaginable.

When it comes to skylight glazing, the choices are usually either plastic or glass, although other glazing technologies can be used for solar heat control. Plastic glazing is usually inexpensive and less liable to break than most other glazing materials. Unfortunately, plastic surfaces scratch easily, and many plastics allow ultraviolet (UV) rays in (unless the glazing is coated with a special film). UV rays may contribute to fading of furnishings, art and wall coverings.

More expensive skylights are usually glazed with glass because of its durability. Glass used for skylights must be “safety glazing,” to resist impact. Tempered glass is the most impact resistant. Laminated glass is fabricated with a thin layer of plastic embedded near the center of the glass. Both keep the glass from breaking into large, sharp pieces. Skylight glazes include heat-absorbing tints, white laminated glass (which provides diffused daylight) and insulated glazing. Like energy efficient window, many skylights have multiple layers of glazing that can have inert gases like krypton or argon gas between the layers.

In the past, most skylights were equipped with a hand-crank to open and close them for ventilation purposes. Homeowners complained the task was too difficult, and most skylights remained closed at all times.

Recent innovations have lead to remote-controlled, solar-powered skylights which require not wiring. One such skylight, the Velux Solar Powered Fresh Air Skylight, has its own built-in rooftop solar panel that charges an integrated battery, even on clowdy days. The battery powers a motor that opens and closes the skylight vie a wireless remote control. the remote can also be used to program the window to open and close on a pre-determined schedule.

Louisville Kentucky home inspectorSome skylights also include a sensor next to the solar panel which detects raindrops and automatically closes the skylight in case of rain. If factory-installed skylight blinds are included in the skylight, they can also be controlled remotely.

In general, prices of skylights can vary widely depending on the size of the light and the options it contains. Typically, special glazing materials, venting, shading devices and remote-control access add to the cost. Solar, remote-controlled opening skylights with factory-installed blinds can be found at many home improvement stores with prices starting at around $800.

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