Different Types of Skylights
Most skylights are fixed, meaning they are installed with a solid seal and do not open or move. It consists of a piece of glass, usually tempered or laminated glass. The skylight is sealed into the frame with either glass or plastic. If properly installed, a fixed skylight will not leak, but it will also not provide ventilation.
A vented skylight is one that opens. These can be manual or electronic and fixed with sensors and timers to help keep them closed when needed. Installed properly a vented skylight will not leak when it is closed: If left open, they will allow rain to enter. Water sensors can be installed to automatically close the skylight if water is detected, and timers can be programmed to open and close them at certain times of day. Vented skylights provide the same transparency as a fixed skylight with the added benefits of increased airflow and ventilation. They usually cost more than a fixed skylight. However, placed in a bathroom or kitchen they can reduce moisture build-up and help ventilate rooms that often need more ventilation than most.
Any type of skylight can be fitted with additional features such as blinds, UV coating, solar sensors and tubular construction to maximize light. They come in a variety of shapes, from the standard rectangle to circles, triangles and more. Skylights can be made to be domed or flat.
Where to Install a Skylight
first you must make sure you know where the best place to install a skylight will be. It’s not just about picking out a room- though that is important- but also where on the roof you place the skylight. You need to make sure you have the proper positioning and angle for your home’s location. It is a fairly simple process with clear guidelines to make this determination.
Positioning the skylight is as much an aesthetic choice as a practical one. For the most part, anywhere on the ceiling of the top floor will work: It comes down to where you feel is best for the needs of your home. It can be advantageous to use a vented skylight in kitchens and bathrooms for the added ventilation or in an attic room to help with ventilation there, but ultimately it is a choice best made by the homeowner.
No matter what type of skylight is decided on or what time of year it is, a skylight will always increase the light coming into a room. Placing a skylight in a room with less windows is often the best choice. By increasing the light in rooms that don’t get enough of it can help “balance” the flow of general lighting throughout a house. Vented skylights can do the same for air flow in a stuffy room as well as across the whole structure.
Too many windows in a room mean more heat loss and make it difficult to maintain temperature year-round. A skylight is a window and therefore adds to this effect in a room. Making sure to balance window space vs. wall space is important when deciding where to place a skylight.
It is important to remember that while skylights have many benefits, the space they are installed in is lost insulation. This should be kept in mind when deciding how large a skylight to install. With sizes ranging from 14″ to 72″, you don’t want to remove too much of your rooms insulation. Keep this factor in mind when deciding how large of a skylight to put in.
Since skylights are made of glass, it is important to make sure your skylight is away from any tree branches that could potentially fall and break the window. While most quality skylights will either shatter and stay in place or break apart into smooth pieces like a car windshield, this can still be a dangerous and expensive accident waiting to happen. Either install the skylight away from branches or trim existing branches back from where the skylight will go.
Ways to Install a Skylight
When placing the skylight you need to make sure that the seal is done properly and that the window slope is proper. A poorly done seal will often lead to leaks and even debris coming through the window. A skylight sealed with glass is more likely to last longer but costs more, whereas a plastic seal can discolor and become brittle. either way you go with the material you must be sure to get it done right: Hiring an experienced contractor can greatly increase the chances of a proper seal.
The slope is important as it has a direct affect on the heat and light transferred though the skylight. A general guideline is to slop the skylight 5-15 degrees plus the degree of your latitude. Being off from this range can result in too much or too little light and heat coming through the skylight at different times of year: It will let too much heat out in the winter and too much heat in during summer. This can result in increased use of A/C and heating inside, which is not desirable. Properly sloped a skylight will reduce the HVAC needs of a home.
Depending on your home needs, you may wish to add other optional features to your skylight. Some of these options make more sense in different climates, but all are available for an additional cost.
It is recommended to install the skylight with a raised curb on the roof. This additional height can prevent water from pooling on or around the skylight and wearing out the seal. It is best to consult with a local contractor to determine the size of this curb: In areas that get more rain it can need to be a higher curb than in dryer climates. Many different styles and shapes of curb can be installed to help maintain the look of the roof.
Though a skylight may be installed at any time, it is often cheaper to have them installed when roof work is being done. This can make it easier to install the light but also help ensure that the seal is done properly. While it may be tempting to get your skylight installed in the summer, this is often a busy- and therefore expensive- time of year for contractors. There is no set reason why a skylight cannot be installed in winter, when many contractors have less work and might be willing to install a skylight for a bit cheaper than in summer months.
If the skylight is being installed in a home with a higher intensity of sunlight, such as Florida or a desert state, then UV coating may be a good idea. The increased sunlight means increased heat during the summer and it can become too much to manage in some places. A UV coating prevents a percent of the sunlight from entering through the skylight.
You can also get interior shades for your skylight. These work on the same principle- and often are styled after- window blinds. They can made of standard materials or come with solar sensors that can trigger them to open and close when a certain amount of sunlight is hitting them. The blinds can be manual or electric, just as with a vented skylight.
Another common item used to prevent excess sunlight from getting through the skylight are exterior covers. These can be placed or removed from the outside and can come with their own form of UV coating. Covers are also beneficial in preventing leaks as they will siphon water away from hitting the skylight.
Cost of Skylights
A solid fixed skylight will cost around $300 for materials, plus installation. Vented skylights cost more, especially if they have electronic controls or ventilation installed. A high-quality vented skylight can run up to $1500-2000. Additions like UV coating and covers can add to this. This cost should be factored in when deciding what type and size of skylight to install: Make sure it fits your budget. Of course, prices vary from region to region and the only way to be certain what the cost will be is to consult with a local contractor. These contractors can also help in navigating which type of skylight and what additional features are right for each homes’ needs.
Adding Value to Your Home
Adding value to a home is not a clear-cut prospect: Many things factor in to this. A skylight is listed as adding value to a house by the Consumer Affairs Research Team, but this is not always the case for every home.
First off, the quality of installation is important. A poorly installed, leaky skylight is not a benefit to any house. Properly installed, sealed and kept clean a well-placed skylight can be a major selling point.
Depending on where the house is located geographically can determine how much value a skylight has. In hotter, sunnier parts of the country, such as Arizona or much of Texas, it won’t be as attractive a selling point: These places get enough sunlight as it is, and many people stay inside to avoid the brightness and heat that come from long, sunny days. While things like UV coating and covers can help alleviate this, some buyers simply don’t want a skylight in their home.
How recent the skylight was installed is another major factor. The older the skylight is the more likely it will need resealing or even a glass replacement, just like any window feature. Even if the skylight is in great shape, if the roof around it needs to be worked on then having a skylight can complicate the matter. If you are trying to increase the value of your house it is a good idea to have matters like this looked at and fixed, if necessary, before having the home inspected or placed on the market.
If the skylight has any electronic components it is important to keep these in proper working order. A vented skylight with an electric pane isn’t much of an advantage if it won’t open. As with any other feature like water heaters or garage door, making sure your skylight is in working order means any potential buyer doesn’t have an additional bill or repair to make when they move in: Fully functioning amenities equal increased value.
By contrast, if you have a skylight in the Pacific Northwest it can be a huge selling point. This region receives less sunlight than most and maximizing the amount coming in to the home can be more desirable. Consulting with a local realtor can help you figure out which type of housing market you are in.
The Final Word
While many of the mentioned factors to consider seem straightforward, some matters are best discussed with a professional. Installing a skylight can make any home brighter and breezier, but making sure to not sacrifice house integrity or install a skylight in the wrong place or in the wrong way are vital considerations. Consulting with a reliable, experienced contractor can quickly answer the questions you may have about installing a skylight in your own particular home. Getting an estimate and some advice is not an obligation, but armed with a professional assessment leaves you better prepared to plan out your skylight installation.