If your home will be on the market this spring, you're probably looking for every possible edge that will make it stand out to potential buyers. But even if you're staying put, you still want to make your home as attractive and valuable as your budget will allow.
"Daylighting" improvements that boost your home's brightness and energy efficiency offer substantial return on investment for both home sellers and those who will be staying in their homes for the foreseeable future.
Bringing the daylighting concept home
Industrial and office designers have long used daylighting - the concept of illuminating interior spaces with natural light from above - to improve energy efficiency, healthfulness and functionality of rooms. The slower housing market and sluggish economy have raised homeowner interest in the concept.
"Daylighting improvements not only elevate a home's visual appeal for potential buyers, they can enhance homeowners' enjoyment of their living space, and reduce energy costs," says Ross Vandermark, national product manager with skylight manufacturer VELUX America.
Homeowners who want to apply the principles of daylighting to their home have many options: They can add windows or roof windows or install any number of types of traditional skylights or Sun Tunnel tubular skylights.
The easiest daylighting upgrade
While adding a window in the wall of your home may raise practical and design issues, adding a roof window or skylight can be much easier. Roofs are, for the most part, a blank slate, allowing you to install skylights wherever they are needed most. And daylighting from above doesn't just add functionality; it offers room-changing drama and decorating flair.
Roof windows are hinged, venting units designed to be installed in easily accessible areas, such as the angled walls in attic bonus rooms, and are operated by hand. A double-sash roof window is available that opens from both bottom and top to form a balcony on your roof. These units are often used in place of, or to replace, dormers.
Skylights are usually positioned higher on the ceiling, out of reach. Venting models can be opened or closed manually with a control rod or by remote control.
Skylights are popular with daylighting designers for several reasons. First, they easily fulfill the primary goal of daylighting by admitting more natural light into a room than similar sized vertical windows - thereby reducing the need for energy to power artificial lights. But they also work to enhance the healthfulness of a home.
If you opt to install a manual or electric venting skylight, it can be a natural, low-energy way to vent humidity, fumes and stale air from your home. Electric venting models open and close by remote control and have rain sensors to close them automatically.
Energy efficiency, high-tech and decorating in one package
Another important similarity among windows, roof windows and skylights is in the glazing, or how the glass is manufactured. Since the units are mounted facing directly at the sun, skylight glazing technology has to be among the best in the industry. Quality Energy Star-qualified units feature double-pane, gas-filled construction to control heat gain or loss, and filter the sun's fade-causing rays.
Independent research done in Denmark shows that skylights admit 30 percent more light than vertical windows in dormers, and provide the drama of a sky view that can't be achieved with vertical windows.
In addition to high-tech features such as remote control and automatic rain sensors, skylight blinds are available in a varied palette of colors and patterns. Homeowners can utilize blinds as another decorating option while achieving as much as a 37 percent increase in energy efficiency, according to VELUX America.
They recommend closing the blinds on high heat/sun days in the summer to reduce potential solar heat gain and, on cold winter nights, to provide an extra layer of thermal insulation to keep warm air indoors.
Skylights also address important health considerations. One in five Americans suffers varying degrees of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition in which the symptoms can include depression and fatigue due to lack of sufficient daylight. Skylights can help by admitting abundant daylight while visually expanding rooms in any style or size home.
Modern, low-profile skylights are unobtrusive and as dependable as vertical windows. Information about units with a 10-year, no-leak installation warranty, plus an installer locator, is available at veluxusa.com. There's also a free mobile phone app available to help homeowners see how skylights and blinds would look in rooms in their own homes. The Velux Skylight Planner App is available for iPhones, iPods, iPads and Android phones.
For government information on window and skylight energy efficiency, visit energystar.gov, and for independent agency information, visit nfrc.org or efficientwindows.org. For remodeling information visit nahb.org/remodel or greenhomeguide.org.