What Is A Skylight?
A skylight is a light transmitting device which generally have an acrylic or polycarbonate dome and may be round, square or rectangular in shape, but can also be a roof window with a double glazed insulated glazing unit (IGU) on the roof. Each style of skylight is designed to bring more natural light into your home, however, are also able to provide fresh air if they are openable or vented. Skylights are very effective in brightening up internal dark areas particularly dark rooms with minimal natural light (rooms in the middle of a house) and are used to complement and reduce the use of artificial lighting. While openable and vented skylights provide practical benefits outside of providing natural light, skylights can also enhance the aesthetics and ambience of your home.
While many people choose to install a skylight in their home simply because they desire more natural light they also love the “wow” factor that they can provide post installation. Beside the practical, economical and well-being benefits that skylights provide including more natural light, natural ventilation, improved ambience and reduced use of artificial lighting, well installed skylights can also increase the value of your property.
More Natural Light
There’s no denying that natural light is cheaper and far better for you than artificial lighting. A skylight can let in as much as three times the amount of light as a vertical window of the same size. This makes skylights one of the most efficient and effective ways of letting light into dark internal areas of a building due to their positioning or shading from external structures (patios, neighbors etc). Skylights are also a great way to capitalise on the sun’s rays during the winter months when the daylight hours are shorter.
While fixed skylights don’t offer any ventilation, roof windows can be opened to allow stale air to leave the room and fresh air to enter. Roof windows can offer superior ventilation to regular windows as hot air leaves more efficiently through roof windows especially if a “wind tunnel” effect can be created from another free air source to the roof window. (an open door or vertical window) The ventilation offered by a roof window will not only cool down your house in the summer but will also reduce moisture levels and prevent the formation of mould and mildew.
Save On Energy Bills
A correctly installed skylight can replace or complement artificial lighting and air conditioning units, which can significantly lower your electricity bills. Rooms with a skylight will usually not require the use of much artificial lighting during the day. Depending upon their aspect to the sun the skylight may not only provide natural light but also a nice internal warmth during the winter months.
An effective skylight installation can help reduce the cost of your energy bill while reducing your home’s carbon footprint.
Adds Property Value
A skylight is a desirable asset in any home as it reduces energy bills and provides better ventilation. While these practical benefits can make skylights a strong selling point for potential buyers, they can also improve the value of your property. Skylights create an illusion of space, transforming what would otherwise be perceived as a cramped dark room into a bright open space. This makes it much more appealing to buyers by adding a modern feel to your room.
While skylights have a number of benefits, if not installed correctly they can come with potential disadvantages, including paying too much for a “cheap” poorly installed skylight, continual maintenance to overcome installation or skylight quality issues and potential water damage to the home. Make sure that you avoid the above disadvantages by ensuring that you choose a skylight certified to Australian Standard AS4285, choose an installer certified by the Skylight Industry Association of Australia and make sure that the company you are buying from has a solid reputation and years of experience in the skylight industry.
A skylight can cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars to many thousands of dollars depending on the type of skylight, the complexity of the installation and skylight features (e.g. glazing, opening, blinds and other automatic controls). Skylight installation can be very complex requiring carpentry skills to design and build light shafts and then line and finish the plaster work which requires multiple trade skills for correct completion. This may also include painting if required by the customer. Skylights generally require very little maintenance once installed but will need to be cleaned and inspected periodically to prevent potential leaking and check for damage to the dome.
Obviously if you live in an area which is affected by air borne matter (leaves etc) then your cleaning maintenance will need to be much more regular to prevent a build-up of debris around the skylight which could result in damming and leaking during heavy rain and strong winds.
A good skylight provider will assess your roof and home design so as to suggest the best fit for purpose skylight option with consideration and explanation of lighting issues, installation issues and maintenance requirements relative to your specific location and the skylight chosen.
Potential Structural Damage
While a well-installed skylight is a perfectly safe and valuable addition to your home, an incorrectly installed skylight can lead to roof leaks and damage to your home’s interior. There are a number of installation errors that can lead to damage including:
• Choosing someone other than a certified or very experienced skylight installer to install your skylight. Make sure that you choose a reputable industry specific skylight company with well trained experienced skylight installers.
• Incorrect Location: Skylights shouldn’t interfere with pipes or wiring in the roof space and these may need to be relocated prior to skylight installation. Skylights should not be installed too close to the roof ridge, hips and valleys in the roof especially on tile roofs.
• Damaged Roof: If a skylight is installed on a damaged roof, it can cause water leaks and further damage. An inexperienced installer may also create roof damage by not trafficking across the roof correctly causing damage and potential leaks in the future if not immediately.
• Improperly Sealed Joints: Proper sealing of joints is integral to preventing leaks. Over sealing can create issues just like under sealing.
• Improper Flashing – If a flashing system is installed poorly it will increase the risk of water leaks. Water may not be directed down and away from the skylight installation but instead create puddling or even worse allow water to directly flow beneath the flashing creating a leak down to the ceiling.
To avoid these installation pitfalls, it’s important to use a qualified and experienced skylight installer.
Overheating and Overlighting
The balance of providing sufficient light whilst not bringing too much heat into an area has been a long standing “catch 22” for the skylight industry. While skylights can provide beautiful natural light, a poorly designed and constructed skylight can allow too much heat to enter a room during the hot summer months especially if installed onto a north, north-west or westerly facing roof pitch. Skylight design has improved significantly over the years to incorporate double glazed glass for roof windows, double glazed domes and double glazed diffusers for tubular skylights as well as the inclusion of better glazing and “thermal collars” in Keylite roof windows to improve their thermal performance and reduce heat gain and heat loss.
It is important to ensure your skylight is installed in the right position and angle to the sun to ensure it provides the best possible lighting outcome and feature for your home, however, on occasion due to roof structure and services within the roof space a less than ideal position has to be used for installation. On these occasions good skylights offer the flexibility to opt for single glazing at the roof and ceiling as well as installing a rigid 98% reflective light shaft in order to maximise light transfer down into the room.
The Skylight Industry Association Incorporated (SIAI) has introduced an energy rating certification for skylights very similar to that used for windows. This rating/performance system is known as the Window Energy Rating Scheme for skylights (WERSfs) and all certified skylights will be listed on the SIAI web site tested product register along with the supplier name.
Please go to www.siai.com.au for WERSfs details to make sure that you choose a certified skylight which you can then request U-value and SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) values from the supplier which best suits your installation requirement.
Are Skylights Worth The Money?
There’s no doubt that skylights can save you money on your electricity bill and boost the value of your house while improving the ambience. Whether or not they are worth the money will depend on the type of skylight, the location, the design of your home and the benefits that it will provide for you. Some of the key factors that will affect the cost of the skylight include:
• Property Design & Location: Remote locations may attract a higher installation fee and complex house designs can make installation a challenge and increase installation cost.
• Type Of Skylight: The cost of your skylight will vary depending on the size, operation (fixed or openable), material (plastic or glass), shape (rectangular or circular) and other additional features (glazing, blinds, light shaft type etc)
• Labour Cost: If your roof is damaged or requires modifications in order to install the skylight, this will increase the installation cost significantly
Skylights are a great way to increase natural light in your home, decrease energy bills and improve the ambience within the home. If a skylight is improperly installed, it will likely leak and cause damage. If you’re thinking about installing a skylight, contact Calidad Industries today for expert advice and skylight installation you can trust.