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Bringing in Daylight: Clerestories

 Whole home remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. This home features two sets of clerestories.

Whole home remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. This home features two sets of clerestories.

Windows are normally placed low on walls so that their views can be seen when you are standing and sitting. After all, windows are just for looking out of… right? While this is true, another primary function of windows is to allow light into rooms. Clerestory windows, used in conjunction with normal windows or by themselves in certain situations, are a good way of bringing in more daylight. Clerestories are windows above eye level, high on walls, which were originally used in ancient religious architecture like basilicas and cathedrals. Bringing them into your home is yet another instance of incorporating good, green ideas from the past! As these windows are easily shaded by roof overhangs or trees, clerestory windows can increase daylight without increasing heat gain and energy loads. These windows should be placed carefully—the north walls of your home are the best place for clerestories as there they allow in light without the chance of direct sun (and heat gain). If shaded properly during the summer, south walls are also a prime spot for clerestories.

Don’t forget that clerestories windows should be efficient windows too! Refer to our recent blogs about choosing windows and window characteristics for helpful information.

If operable, clerestories can help with natural ventilation. Cool breezes enter from windows lower down on the wall, move through a room, and push hot air out of the clerestories. This is a passive way of removing heat that would otherwise have to cycle through your air conditioning systems.

Overall, increased daylight brought in with clerestories can increase your happiness and physical health, while decreasing your energy use. More natural daylight means less electric light is needed during the day! Its a green building idea worth considering for your home.

Lighting Rooms More Effectively

 Kitchen remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. Windows along with well placed lights lead to efficient lighting. 

Kitchen remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. Windows along with well placed lights lead to efficient lighting. 

Do you know the difference between ambient light and task lighting? And what do they have to do with green home design?

Defining the Two Kinds of Lighting

Ambient light is a general, soft light that fills an entire room, commonly from an overhead fixture. Task lighting on the other hand is for specific locations to focus light near work surfaces (like countertops and desks) or seating and beds for things like reading.

How This Relates to Green Design

Remember, green design is as much about careful thinking and planning as it is using green products and materials. By incorporating and allowing for both ambient and task lighting in each room of your home, you can light more effectively and therefore more efficiently. And you can also improve your health by being kind your eyes through always having the appropriate amount of lighting any need.

By having separate fixtures with separate switches for ambient and task lighting, you can reduce your energy use while still receiving necessary light. If you have multiple lamps or under countertop lighting in an area for a variety of tasks, think about also separating these with different switches or power cords so you can selectively control what light is in use (and drawing power).

Keep in mind that the further away a light, the brighter it needs to be. An ambient light source is normally much brighter than a task lighting source. Thankfully, improved light bulbs choices such as CFLs and LEDs allow this brightness to come at less Watts (energy used) than traditional incandescent bulbs. So, you can save energy and money and still have a brightly lit space. Having overhead fixtures that bounce light of the ceiling also helps to diffuse the light more pleasantly and imitates the brightness of the sky above us (making your room feel more comfortable and natural). Daylight is also a great source of ambient light and is especially good for your well-being. There are building methods for bringing daylight into a space without increasing heat gain, preventing higher cooling loads and energy consumption from that area.

Whenever you are considering remodeling or making changes to your home, remember these two different types of lighting. Their combination will not only make the rooms in your home more useful but also more comfortable and more efficient.

More Efficient Lighting

 Home remodel in Bryan / College Station featuring plenty of natural lighting.

Home remodel in Bryan / College Station featuring plenty of natural lighting.

Lighting is a crucial part of our lives – we need it to complete the myriad of tasks that fill our days and evenings. As great as incandescent bulbs are for first bringing us electric light, more efficient bulbs are now needed to light our homes. You all, hopefully, know about Compact Fluorescents light bulbs and use them in the most trafficked light sources in your home. These bulbs use ¼ of the energy that incandescent bulbs use to produce the equivalent amount of light. CFLs can even last ten times longer! If you’re concerned about how to pick from the range of CFLs available for purchase, see our article about selecting the right CFLs to help you choose bulbs for varying fixtures and spaces.

The new kid on the block of household lighting is a bulb containing LEDs. These bulbs contain many small Light-Emitting Diodes (what LED stands for) that illuminate when electrons (what electricity is composed of) move through their semi-conductor material. What’s interesting about these bulbs is that they emit heat and light in single (and opposite) directions instead of all directions. This means you can have the light you need without unwanted and wasteful heat, made possible by a built-in self-managing heat sink. Phillips has the first Energy Star approved LED bulb that uses only 12.5 Watts to produce the same amount of light as a 60 Watt incandescent. That’s 80% less energy used! Think about what that means for your utility bill! This product is also supposed to last up to 17 years if used for 8 hrs a day! LED’s are being developed into different varieties of lighting for different fixture uses. It’ll be interesting to see these new lighting products (that can potentially bring us the brightness of light we need without the large waste of energy) continue to be developed, tested, and brought into the consumer market for our use.

Lighting

 Lighting has the potential to save a lot of money in Bryan / College Station.

Lighting has the potential to save a lot of money in Bryan / College Station.

Did you know that if every American household replaced just one light with an ENERGY STAR light, we would save more than $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year; equivalent to the emissions of about 800,000 cars. CFLs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but keep in mind that no all are rated by ENERGY STAR. Learn more about efficient lighting.

 

Choosing the Right Compact Florescent (CFL) Bulbs

 In a remodel, the accessories are just as important as the remodel it's self.

In a remodel, the accessories are just as important as the remodel it’s self.

Unfortunately, choosing the right CFL is more complex than choosing the right incandescent bulb.  With a CFL you can choose the color spectrum of light.  CFLs are more affected by things like vibration, moisture  and heat. (more…)