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The Skylight Place

What Skylights Are Right For You?

Written by Paul Eastman of The Skylight Place


           So you are looking into getting new skylights. Whether it will be new construction or you are replacing existing skylights you do have some choices. Do you want the skylight to open? If so, do you want manual venting, electric venting, or solar venting? Do you want a dome or flat glass skylight? Do you want any tinting on the skylight? Do you want blinds installed on the skylight? By the end of this article I hope to have answered these questions.
            The most important choice you face when buying a new skylight is whether it is a flat glass skylight or a dome skylight. To be honest it isn’t even much of a choice. Dome skylights are not energy efficient at all. They also don’t have any UV protection included in the dome.  A misconception about double dome skylight is that they are dual pane and therefore provide insulation. This is not true. A double dome skylight is just two plexi glass lenses taped together.  Since the dome is made from plexi glass is also becomes brittle and will turn yellow over time.
            Flat glass skylights are energy efficient. In fact, if you use Velux skylights they are ENERGY STAR labeled.  Most flat glass skylights come standard with Low-E glass. Low-E glass is an energy efficient glass coating that has a UV protectant built into it. When heating your house in the winter and the heat hits the skylight it will bounce back into your house. During the summer when the heat from outside hits the glass it will bounce back out into the earth.  Switching from a dome skylight to a flat glass skylight will create a 65% reduction on heat. You can also save up to $194.00 on this season’s cooling cost.
The next question is whether you want the skylight to open.  In my professional opinion, most people aren’t going to open and close a manual venting skylight as often as a electric. I have both in my house and the electric skylight gets opened about 80% more often than the manual venting one. It is just too much of a hassle going to the closet, locating the pole, and then turning the pole till the skylight is open. If you have enough ventilation in the room your skylight will be going in, I recommend ordering a fixed skylight. Fixed skylights are about half the price of a manual venting skylight. You also want to be careful about putting electric skylights in the bathroom. Most electric skylights come with a rain sensor and the steam from the bathroom can cause the skylight to close.
            Depending on the manufacture of the skylight you have different options on the kinds of tinted glass available. One thing to keep in mind is that if you do decide to tint the glass you can’t have Low-E glass. A tinted glass with Low-E will cause the glass to get so hot that it will break down the glue that holds the dual pane glass sealed together. This results in moisture in between the two panes.  You also have many blind or shade options. Most skylight manufacturers have blinds you can order with the skylight. If you would like to add blinds to an existing skylight there are a couple after-market manufacturers out there.  There is also a product called sun screen which can block out 80% of the sun and are very easy to install. My opinion of shades is: why install a skylight if you are just going to install a shade?
            No matter what decision you make I strongly suggest buying a flat glass skylight. They are about the same price as the domes and much more energy efficient. I hope I was able to answer some of your questions.