Reach for the sky

Installing a skylight is an environmentally friendly method of bringing light into your home

 

By Aarifah Nosarka

 

Did you know that a skylight will give one and a half times more light than a window of the same size? Reza Noor, owner of Cape Skylights, says, “Skylights are the most efficient way of introducing natural light to your home. People think that having a skylight installed is pricey. This is not true; skylights range from R6 000 upwards.”

If there is limited natural light in a room, it will feel enclosed, gloomy and uninviting. Furthermore, when properly selected and installed, skylights can help minimise your heating, cooling and lighting costs. “The size of the skylight affects the level of illumination and the temperature below the skylight. The unit should not be larger than 5% of the floor area in rooms with many windows and no more than 15% of the room’s total floor area for spaces with few windows,” explains Reza.

 

Skylights can also provide ventilation. An operable skylight (venting skylight) releases hot air that accumulates near the ceiling. Venting skylights usually open outwards, while some units vent through a small hinged panel. They can be opened manually or you could opt for an automated unit that has an electric motor or pneumatic device. “Top of the range skylights can be supplied with an electrical motor or remote control. Some models incorporate moisture sensors to automatically close the skylight when it rains,” says Reza.

 

Types of skylights

 

Venting skylights – are also known as operable or retractable skylights. They contribute to a home’s proper moisture balance by allowing humid, stale air to be released. This effect releases hot air that accumulates at the ceiling, while at the same time letting in fresh, cooler air to circulate through the home.

 

Fixed skylights – capture plentiful daylight for rooms that require maximum light. They are perfect for visually expanding areas such as stairwells, hallways and closed-in dark spaces that can be brightened or transformed with skylights.

Pyramid skylights – work well in both modern and older structures. They give flat roofs a unique look, while the design itself allows maximum light penetration.

 

Tubular skylights – sometimes called sun tubes, sun tunnels and solar tubes, are modular and easily connected to ceiling systems. If you have a room where the size does not permit the addition of a window, installing a tubular skylight is an ideal way to bring in natural light. A small, clear collector dome on the roof allows sunlight to enter into a reflective light pipe, which extends from the roof level to the
ceiling level.

 

Most glass skylights are composed of tempered safety glass or laminated safety glass or a combination of the two. Below are the differences between tempered and laminated glass:

 

•   Tempered glass – is usually used for shower and patio doors, as well as car windows. This heat-strengthened glass is strong and when it breaks, it shatters into tiny pieces.

 

•   Laminated glass – contains a plastic inter-layer that is designed to stay in place if it breaks. An extra advantage of this type of glass is that it effectively blocks UV light, which is the main contributor to glass fading.

 

Skylight leaks

A leaky skylight may be an indication of more serious hidden damage. Not only will it cause damage to your roof, but it could lead to further damage of what is below it. One reason skylights leak is improper installation. They can also leak if flashing is corroded or damaged.

If you notice leaks around your skylight, it is a good idea to diagnose it and have it repaired as soon as possible.

 

Repair tips

•   If the skylight leak is at the roof flashing, you can temporarily repair it using a roof flashing cement that should be applied around the unit perimeter. In order to permanently repair the skylight flashing, you will need to remove shingles that are situated near the skylight and install appropriate flashing; also reinstall other shingles in that area.

 

•   If there is a leak around the insulated glass frame, it could allow water to enter the window structure, which could damage the insulated seal of the glass. Once you have determined this is the case, you may be able to re-seal the skylight against any further leakage. If you notice condensation on the skylight glass, the unit is failing and will need to be replaced.

 

Installation

All skylights need to be properly installed to ensure that they achieve maximum energy performance and do not leak. Professionals have in-depth knowledge about skylights. “In addition to following the manufacturer’sguidelines, it’s also important to consider slope and moisture control during installation,” says Reza.

 

Tips to consider pre-skylight installation

•          Safety is pertinent, so be sure your ladder is the right type and at the correct height. Wear footgear with proper traction.

•          Bad weather makes roofs slippery and moisture can enter the installation area.

•          Depending on the slope of your roof, you may be safer using roof jacks for the board to stand on while you continue your work. Secure the roof jacks with nails. Make sure the nails are driven into the roof joists and not through the sheathing only.

•          Determine the slope of your rooftop before purchasing the flashing. It is important to have the correct information so that you can make an educated decision.

•          It may be better to buy waterproof flashing as this serves as a great method of diverting water away from the opening.

•   Consider a self-ventilating skylight that allows hot air in your room to vent and doesn’t leave you feeling smothered.