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New Trends in Skylights

In this article, we'll review some skylight basics. We'll show you the two basic types of skylights and their advantages, as well as highlight the energy-saving properties of these beautiful additions. Hiring the right professional will be covered, as will ideas for incorporating skylights into unexpected places in your home.

Whether you're seeking energy efficiency or visual appeal, skylights are a wonderful way to add both elements to your home. Today more than ever, homeowners are following the green trend in every possible way. Skylights are part of this trend, making them one of the most popular current home improvement projects.

Curb or Frame?

Traditional skylights fall into one of two categories: curb-mounted or frame-in-place. Framed skylights sit directly in line with the roof, just as a regular window sits flush with the wall. Curb-mounted skylights sit atop the roof on a curb, or elevated frame. Curb-mounted skylights are capped with acrylic or glass domes, while framed skylights are usually simply glazed with glass.

Other, more ornate types of skylights are available as well. These skylights feature shapes such as polygons or pyramids, adding visual interest from both the exterior and interior of your home. There is generally no different in energy efficiency, however, the more ornate a skylight is, the more it costs.

Consult a contractor with experience in skylights to determine the best alternative for your individual project. Some experts maintain that there is really no difference except for aesthetics, while others believe that one model is more prone to leaking than the other. Many of these opinions are based on local climate, which makes consulting a local contractor essential.

What is a Tubular Skylight?

If you've been researching skylights lately, you've most likely run across the term “tubular skylight.” While you may not have heard this term before, you've probably seen these small skylights in action. A tubular skylight is simply a small, circular skylight, ideal for use in areas that just aren't large enough for a traditional skylight.

Tubular skylights have many advantages, and these advantages are making them increasingly popular with today's homeowners. A tubular skylight is the least likely to leak of any skylight model, due to the smaller surface area which is exposed to the elements. Tubular skylights also allow you to bring natural light into areas that would otherwise be dependent on artificial lighting, such as small baths and bedrooms. Lastly, a tubular skylight is extremely energy efficient, since the length of the tube acts as a natural and effortless form of insulation.

Since they don't allow as much light to penetrate as traditional skylights, simply because of their size, variety is key. Most homeowners who are integrating skylights into their homes usually end up using a mixture of traditional and tubular skylights to maximize natural light in all areas.

Why are Skylights Green?

Energy efficiency is a huge concern these days, in every area of our lives. Naturally, home improvement trends are heavily influenced by this concern. Skylights are one of the best ways to add energy efficiency to your home, saving you money as you help the environment.

A skylight allows natural light to enter a room during daylight hours. While traditional vertical windows do the same thing, they do it to a much lesser degree. Vertical windows are subject to the angle of the sun. A window that receives bright sunlight during morning hours will be dark as soon as the sun moves out of range in the afternoon. Skylights avoid this frustrating issue by pointing up at the sky. This allows them to bring natural light into a room as long as the sun is in the sky.

Skylights not only save on electricity bills, but they can save on energy bills as well. A room flooded with natural sunlight, even in the winter, will stay much warmer than a room with artificial lighting. Sunlight carries warmth, even on the coldest days. As long as your skylights are properly insulated, you'll see energy savings and find yourself keeping the thermostat at a lower temperature during cooler months.

As if saving energy and money weren't enough, the latest research has shown that skylights are actually healthy! Natural sunlight is believed to help improve a broad range of medical conditions, including depression. Children have been shown to learn more and retain knowledge better while studying under natural light. Retail stores which use skylights report happier and more satisfied customers as well as more contented employees. While the reasons for natural light's benefits are still somewhat unclear, all research points to one thing...natural light is good for you!

Where to Put Skylights

Since skylights can be installed virtually anywhere on your home's roof, this question is really a matter of budget. Following are some common and trendy placement ideas.

  • Bathrooms - Not only is a bathroom skylight visually stunning and unexpected, but it can turn an ordinary bathroom into a spa-like oasis. Natural light optimizes relaxation, and so your everyday shower or bath will be enhanced. Applying makeup is also more accurate under natural light. Due to their small size, most bathrooms are ideal candidates for tubular skylights.
  • Entryways - An entry skylight instantly gives your home a feel of luxury, regardless of its style or size. A naturally lighted entry is cozy and airy at the same time.
  • Bedrooms - Just as with baths, a naturally lighted bedroom is instantly relaxing. In addition, studies have shown that waking to natural light is easier on the body than waking to a loud buzzing clock in pitch-black.
  • Dining Rooms - Natural light in a dining room produces an instantly elegant look. Regardless of your dining area's dècor, a skylight will enhance it. From ultra-modern to rustic, any style benefits from natural lighting.
  • Kitchens - One of the most popular places for skylights, kitchens of any dècor are immediately upgraded with the addition of natural lighting.

It's important to take structure into account when planning your skylight installation. Obviously, rooms with no direct connection to the roof can't benefit from a skylight. However, don't make the mistake of thinking that simply because your home has an attic, you can't enjoy skylights. Light tubes are simple structures which deflect light at an angle. This allows you to install a skylight in any area of the attic and have the light reflected down into your home.

Another important point to remember is the potential length of tubular skylights. Consult an experienced professional to learn about the customized potential of these versatile ceiling windows.

DIY or Professional?

Unless you have significant experience, installing skylights is best left to professionals. Skylight installation involves cutting out sections of roof and ceiling, bypassing electrical lines where applicable, and intricate weatherproofing work. Due to the level of expertise required and the potential risks involved, this job is best handled by those with experience in the field.

Finding the right professional to help you can seem like an intimidating task. One look in the phone book will show you rows and rows of contractors and handymen, but how can you tell which are the best?

Thankfully, home-improvement websites have taken this task and made it extremely simple. These websites have two options, both of which are quick and effective for finding qualified home-improvement help. You can look through lists of local contractors and handymen, viewing things like licensing, insurance, certifications and areas of expertise. In many cases, you can even read consumer reviews written by former clients. These reviews can be invaluable when making your hiring decision, since they give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how a contractor truly operates.

Your other option is to post your project online and let the contractors come to you! This option still allows you to research each contractor, since you can look them up once they've bid on your project.

Once you've narrowed your list of choices down, begin making phone calls. It's always a good idea to talk through your project with prospective workers before making a hiring decision. This ensures that you're envisioning the same final outcome, and it also lets you communicate your primary concerns (such as energy efficiency). Talking through your project is a great step toward avoiding costly delays once work has begun. Getting estimates is also important, but it's essential to remember that outdoor work is at the mercy of the elements. Even the best contractors can't control the weather, and working on a roof during slick or wet conditions is hazardous. Keep this in mind when planning your project and during the project itself.

Cost is greatly affected by the quality of the skylights themselves. This is an important last point to remember, since many homeowners make the mistake of purchasing inexpensive skylight materials to save on overall costs. However, this decision is likely to cost you more money than it saves initially. A cheaply constructed skylight is not going to have the same energy efficiency of a high-quality skylight. In addition, it's much harder for even experienced workers to properly weatherproof a poorly constructed skylight. This puts you at a disadvantage once the work is complete, since you won't be experiencing optimal energy savings. You'll also be at a much higher risk of leaks, which lead to costly repairs. The best skylights can literally pay for themselves in saved energy costs within just a few years of installation, so don't cut corners when it comes to quality.

Posted by: Diane
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