Now is a great time to be in the market for a skylight. Today’s skylights are capable of letting in lots of light to illuminate gloomy spaces, which lets you take advantage of free natural sunlight rather than adding to your electric bill to brighten up a space.
What’s more, skylights are a lot more energy efficient than they used to be. No longer are they something that will heat your home up too much in the summer while letting heat out in the winter. Moisture problems used to be an issue, too—and nobody wants a leaky skylight. Fortunately, the technology that goes into making sure skylights form a tight seal has advanced such that you won’t have to worry about seepage or drips causing structural damage.
If you’re ready to make the leap on skylight replacement or new installation, here is how to choose from among the many types of skylights to get the best fit for your home.
What is a Skylight?
If you haven’t kept up with recent trends, then you might be confused when you see that there are now skylights and solar lights. On the surface, they sound like they’re the same thing—but actually, they’re quite different. Solar lights are a lot like a traditional light fixture, only they use the power of the sun to illuminate a space. Rather than using a light bulb, solar lights (which are also sometimes called solar tubes) are equipped with a highly reflective inner tube that is designed to maximize sunlight and direct it into the room below, kind of like a spotlight.
Skylights are familiar to almost everyone, most of them resembling traditional windows, only placed on the roof instead of on walls. They can be operable or inoperable
Operable or Non-Operable Skylight
One of the key things to consider when assessing the best replacement skylight options is whether you want an operable or non-operable skylight. This choice needs to be based on your intended purpose for the skylight. Do you want only illumination, or would you like a skylight to vent excess heat? Perhaps a mixture of both?
When only illumination is desired, a non-operable skylight may be your best choice. Because they have fewer sophisticated moving parts, they’re less likely to develop leaks or malfunction such that you can’t open or close it.
For venting your home, you’ll want an operable skylight. These can either be opened manually, or some modern models feature remote controls that allow you to open and close them with the press of a button.
Glazing—in other words, the glass—can be either glass or plastics like acrylic and polycarbonate. Plastics are typically less expensive and more shatterproof than glass, but they do scratch easily, plus they can become brittle and discolored with time and exposure to UV rays.
While plastics are more shatterproof, with higher impact resistance, glass is overall more durable and not susceptible to weakening or discoloring with age—but it is more expensive. This is compounded by the fact that when you install a glass skylight, the glass must be rated as “safety glazing,” which means it needs to be tempered and laminated. When laminated glass does break, it’ll be into thousands of small shards held together by the laminate rather than large, jagged pieces that could fall into living spaces and pose a hazard.
There are lots of types of skylight shapes to choose from. This includes rectangular, triangular, oval, circular and diamond shapes, among others. Specialty shapes (those that are not square or rectangular) often use plastic glazing, but at the higher end of the price spectrum, you’ll find glass.
Speaking of the glazing, it can be flat, domed, arched, pyramid-shaped, or a “warped plane,” which is when the low side is flat, and the high side is concave. Pyramids, domes and arches give you greater flexibility because they let in more light from extreme angles, as opposed to flat or warped plane skylights, which let in a bit less light.
The best replacement skylights are those that are properly installed. You’ll need a professional for this job, and you’ll need to consider both the slope of the skylight and moisture control. With that, skylight repair or replacement, or new installations, should be properly insulated and air sealed to make it as energy-efficient as possible.
Where slope is concerned, this will affect solar heat gain. Low slopes let more heat in during the summer and less during the winter, which is the opposite of what you’ll want. To maximize heat gain in the winter and minimize it in the summer, your skylight’s slope should be equal to your geographical latitude plus five to 15 degrees.
To avoid water leaks, you’ll need to ensure that the skylight is mounted above the surface of the roof, and it should be installed with a curb, which is a raised watertight lip that moves water away from the skylight and surrounding flashing. All joints should be thoroughly sealed to prevent leaks and seepage. Sheet waterproofing applied over the skylight’s flashing or flanges is a wise move, too, because it protects against ice dams that can trap water around the skylight.
Ready to install new skylights? Energy Kingston Exteriors has you covered. Our expert skylight installation services will ensure that you get the perfect new skylights, installed with exacting precision. To learn more, feel free to contact us.