What are skylights?
A skylight (or roof window) is a window that’s built into the roof/ceiling of a house or other structure, helping to provide lighting, ventilation, views, and even emergency exits.
It sounds quite ironic in a country like South Africa to live in a house that lacks natural lighting, as harvesting light from the sun (instead of using artificial lighting sources) makes more sense. Natural lighting’s benefits far exceed artificial lighting’s, especially when it comes to anything living inside a home, like plants.
In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, a skylight can also warm up a cold room in winter while providing cool, fresh air for a stuffy space in summer.
Where to install a skylight
It’s important to determine exactly where a skylight must be placed, seeing as its location will alter the lighting, ambience and temperature of the rooms directly below it. It’s also crucial to keep the design of your house in mind.
How big must the skylight be?
The rule of thumb is that the size of the skylight must not exceed 5% of the floor space below it if the room already has several windows, and not more than 15% if the room has few or no windows. Remember that glass is a terrible insulator, and a too-large skylight could be detrimental to the ambient temperature of the room.
Glass or acrylic?
While skylights can be made with either glass or acrylic, the final decision is based on personal taste. Both materials can be customised with different glazing (a UV shield glaze is popular), and keep these pros and cons in mind:
· Glass is not a good insulator, yet it’s possible to install a skylight with multiple panes, where the area between the panes serves as an insulator.
· Glass allows more direct sunlight, while acrylics allow light to be scattered better, which makes for more diffuse light below.
· Glass is generally more durable, while acrylic tends to stain over time.
· Acrylics, however, do not shatter, which is a big safety hazard of glass. Even if it is shatterproof, there is still the possibility of glass injuring people below the skylight should it break. If your area is prone to extreme temperature variations, acrylics are probably the safer option.
The bottom line? Glass looks better, but acrylic is the more practical option.
What are the different kinds of skylights?
Venting skylights (also called operable- or retractable skylights) contribute to a structure’s proper moisture balance by allowing humid, stale air to be released. This effect releases hot air that accumulates at the ceiling, while simultaneously allowing in fresh, cooler air to circulate through the interiors.
Fixed skylights are perfect for capturing loads of natural lighting, making them ideal for visually expanding areas like stairwells, hallways and closed-in gloomy spaces that require lots of lighting.
Pyramid skylights work well in both modern- and older structures. They give a flat roof a unique look while the design itself allows for maximum light penetration.
Tubular skylights (also called sun tubes / sun tunnels / solar tubes) are modular and easily connected to ceiling systems. Any room where the size does not permit the addition of a window can benefit greatly from a tubular skylight to help usher in more natural light. A small, clear collector dome on the roof allows sunlight to enter into a reflective light pipe, extending from the roof level to the ceiling level.
What does the installation process of skylights involve?
Any skylight, regardless of size or location, should be properly installed by a windows professional to ensure optimum safety and maximum energy performance. In addition to following the manufacturer’s guidelines, it’s also vital to consider slope and moisture control during installation.
The following tips should be kept in mind with the installation of any skylight:
· Safety first; thus, place your ladder at the right angle and height.
· Wear footgear with proper traction.
· Watch the weather, as it can lead to slippery roofs and moisture can enter the installation area.
· Depending on your roof’s slope, you may be safer using roof jacks for the board to stand on while you continue your work. Secure the roof jacks with nails. Make sure the nails are driven into the roof joists and not only through the sheathing.
· Consider a self-ventilating skylight that allows hot air in your room to vent and doesn’t leave a room feeling stuffy.
How do I maintain my skylight(s)?
Like any other window, a skylight needs to undergo regular cleaning to keep it looking neat and stylish. But as skylights are usually directly positioned towards the sun, never clean them during the hottest time of the day, as the water will dry and leave streaks before you can squeegee them.
Check for leaks, especially if your area is prone to heavy rainfall.
Regularly inspect the glazing to ensure no chips, cracks or misting (condensation) show up between the glass panels, which may allow for a lot of heat escaping.
Got wooden frames around your skylight? They will need to be cleaned and maintained just like regular window frames to prevent rotting.
What window treatment goes with skylights?
Unlike windows, a skylight doesn’t require window treatment for privacy reasons. However, should you choose to cover them up at night or during certain parts of the day (to keep the hottest sun out), then curtains are not the practical reason. Shutters and blinds, however, can provide the right finishing touch for a skylight, depending on the style and design.
Both shutters and blinds help control the amount of light entering your home. And while both are available in standard sizes, you can also opt for custom-made ones to perfectly fit your bespoke skylight(s).