How to take advantage of skylights
Skylights have a wide range of appeal. They provide natural light for poorly lit rooms, they can help heat a home and they also provide an opportunity for a singular decorative element in a home. Plenty of craftsman house plans make use of skylights. With the right planning you can find the perfect skylight design for any room in your house.
The advantages, in-depth
Skylights are mainly used to introduce natural sunlight into a home. This is especially useful for rooms that don't get enough light from windows, either because there aren't enough or they face a direction that doesn't get a lot of light. Skylights are especially useful because they don't even need direct sunlight in order to brighten a room. Diffused light from the sky will keep a room softly lit all day, according to HGTV.
Depending on the direction of the window, the skylight can also accept solar gain, thereby warming a space. If the skylight is operable – meaning that you can open and close it – it can also help cool a space. Because heat rises, the skylight will provide the most direct route for heat to escape.
The shape, size and setting of the window also make for interesting decoration. They can be flush with the roof, inset, square, round, frosted or even gridded like colonial windows. These designs can be used to echo other decorative features in the room and the house overall.
The importance of planning
The many potential uses for a skylight mean that careful planning is required in order to make sure they function properly according to your needs. An improperly placed skylight could overheat a room, or let in too much light when it's not wanted. If the skylight is too small, it may not let in enough light or even stand out as the decorative element you intended it to be.
The biggest concern when placing a skylight is its location in relation to the sun's path. Southern-facing skylights on a slanted roof will accept more sun than any other skylight. During the summer, the sun will only get higher and make a room hotter. This placement can be beneficial in colder climates, but in warmer weather it can make a room unlivable, especially if the skylight is large. Eastern-facing skylights will let in the morning sun, which is fine unless sunrise is earlier than you care to wake up. Western-facing skylights will accept light from sunset. Northern skylights provide diffuse light, but will not receive much solar gain.
The slant of the roof, the size of the window and the seasons further define the effects of the skylight. In the northern hemisphere, slanted roofs on the southern side of the house will accept more light than on a flat roof. The northern side will get more light from a flat roof than a slanted one, especially in the summertime.
Some general considerations
You should consult with your architect or contractor in order to determine the best locations for skylights. Often one or the other will have a chart that maps the angle of the sun throughout the year. They can help you determine whether a skylight is necessary or advisable, based on the kind of room and its location in the house. For example, the placement of the skylight in HHF-2599 is workable because the foyer would otherwise not receive much natural light. It could also face south without much problem because the skylight is a reasonable size and, because the foyer is a transitional space, the heat from the direct sunlight won't bother anyone.
It is also possible to control the effects of the skylight daily and seasonally. Foliage from strategically placed trees can mitigate overheating in the summertime, while allowing light in during winter. Frosted windows and special blinds can also help diffuse light.
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