Interior designers, architects, decorators and homeowners have been relying on skylights to add beauty, warmth, natural light and passive ventilation to interior designs for decades. Fortunately, advances in skylight design make them a cost-effective, green design element as well.
"Skylights ... enliven a house dramatically while cutting down the need for artificial light," notes the website ConsumerEnergyCenter.org. "They brighten up dark corners and let in lots of warmth. They can also provide much-needed ventilation."
Less dependence on artificial light sources or powered ventilation can mean lower electric bills in summer. Plus, warm sun entering the home through a skylight in winter can reduce your heating bills, as well. In fact, EnergyStar.gov says that installing Energy Star-qualified skylights, windows and doors can shrink your home's energy bill - and carbon footprint - by 7 to 15 percent over non-qualified products.
"Skylights convey drama, yet they're a surprisingly cost-effective home improvement," says Ross Vandermark, national product manager of Velux, manufacturers of the "No-Leak Skylight." "Installing skylights can be less costly than buying new designer furniture or putting in new carpet. Plus, if your interior design cries out for natural light, it's more practical and cost-effective to place skylights overhead than to add windows to a wall."
By opening a room to the sky, skylights add a touch of drama to the interior design. They're also an appealing solution for rooms where a traditional window might be problematic.
For example, in a bath, a venting skylight makes it possible to enjoy natural light and fresh air without sacrificing privacy or living with frosted glass. Venting models are also popular in kitchens and laundry rooms to remove cooking odors and excess heat while brightening much-used work spaces.
In other areas of the home, affordable tubular skylights like Velux's Sun Tunnel products make it possible to introduce natural light to hallways, closets, and other smaller or confined spaces. With the addition of a light kit, 24-hour illumination is available.
Overall, skylights are less limiting to a room's design than a traditional window - all while admitting much more natural light. Many people completely overlook or under utilize the design potential of a ceiling. Skylights can turn that blank slate into a design statement that is both functional and beautiful.
Venting skylights can also offer a low-cost way to address indoor air quality by removing humidity, fumes and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your home through their natural chimney effect. In addition to helping improve indoor air quality, skylights allow you to turn off electric lights and save money on power bills.
Accessorizing with manual or solar-powered, remote-operated blinds that qualify for tax breaks, allows you to further incorporate skylights into a design theme. Plus, the blinds - which are available in a range of colors and patterns - enhance the efficiency of skylights by allowing you to control the amount of light or heat that enters or leaves a room.
"Few home improvements marry the dramatic design impact and energy saving boost that you get from adding skylights," says Vandermark. "When it comes to redesigning a room, they're truly the touch that elevates the look and feel of your decor."
You can learn more about window and skylight energy efficiency at www.energystar.gov, and for independent agency information visit www.nfrc.org or www.efficientwindows.org.