Bringing in Daylight: Skylights

Another way to bring more natural light into a space is through skylights located in the roof of your home. If you have rooms with vaulted ceilings or no attic space, you can have skylights that light the rooms directly from the roof. If this is not the case, you can also have part of your ceiling recessed to allow for these skylights. When this recess is painted white or a light color, it aids the skylight by helping to reflect daylight into your space. Skylights can be fixed or operable -- they are normally only operable if they are within reach. Operable skylights can remove heat that rises towards the ceiling when other lower windows are opened for breezes, passively cooling your home.

Solar tubes or light tubes are an interesting developing version of a skylight. These are comprised of a glass dome that collects light and a rigid or flexible tube that reflects the light. Tubes are best for spaces with no direct roof access, as they are designed to fit through your attic. Solar tubes end up looking like large pocket lights in your ceiling, but instead of being electrically powered, they are sunlight powered. However, solar tubes are uninsulated and their metal tube is a thermal conductor of  hot or cold, potentially affecting the comfort and heating/cooling loads of interior spaces. As a result, the product needs a little more development before being an efficient day-lighting option!

Because skylights are directly inserted into the roof plane, there is a danger of leakage. Depending on placement they are also more likely than regular windows to receive direct sunlight (and thus heat gain). Skylights that are made with efficient material methods like double pane glass and low-e coatings can help combat this negative effect, but it is best if possible to restrict them to North facing areas. Remember that adding skylights to your existing home requires making holes in your roof. This can be a tricky process, but when done correctly and carefully can result in spaces with more beautiful daylight that you can enjoy.