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Please educate me about skylights.

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Deal Addict
May 16, 2013
1422 posts
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Toronto

Please educate me about skylights.

We have this area of about 9'x3' that is a hall where all the bedroom/bathroom doors connect and it's quite dark. It's dungeony and doesn't look inviting at all.

I would like to install a skylight to fix the issue but after doing some reading, it appears there would be a significant amount of heat loss in that area. I am wondering if this is the sort of thing that is typically exaggerated in these articles or if our Canadian winters really do contribute greatly to the heat loss experienced by newly-installed skylights in those areas.

Would a solar light tube be just as good? A glove skylight? A fixed one?

For the record, it's a bunglow and we plan on having our roof reshingled next week, hence why I think it'd be a good time to install one now.

Please enlighten me as to the options I should consider and their advantages. Thanks, guys!
15 replies
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Mar 8, 2005
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No expert in this area, but I do come across with some pretty ugly skylight from time to time.

You see, between the roof and ceiling has a space for insulation. If the skylight is install dead in the middle of the house where that part is the farthest, it will look like starring up from the bottom of a well. [see below]
Based on your estimate, do you know if the roof and ceiling is far apart?

ie

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Sep 8, 2007
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I've used solar tubes in order to daylight areas that didn't have windows. They worked very well and are a cheap alternative to the full blown skylight. Use an installer you knows how to do it properly...which means sealing the metal tube up tight so condensation issues can be avoided. The metal tube has joints that need to be sealed.

Since solar tubes install into the ceiling and don't require the box out of a skylight, heat loss is minimal. Obv there is some heat gain in the summer but still negligible given the 10-12" diameter.

I had a roofer install the outside portion - flashing and dome. While I did the stuff in the attic to the ceiling below. It made a huge difference to the feel of the room. Again a proper sealed install is key as with any skylight. My install...

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Sep 8, 2007
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tomtomtom wrote: No expert in this area, but I do come across with some pretty ugly skylight from time to time.

You see, between the roof and ceiling has a space for insulation. If the skylight is install dead in the middle of the house, it will look like starring up from the bottom of a well. [see below]
Based on your estimate, do you know if the roof and ceiling is far apart?

ie
Excellent point...a skylight in a tight 9" x 3" area with the required run up to the roof may not be appealing. The solar tube has a different effect...basically looks like a natural daylight light. You can choose different diffusers based on preference.

If I had a big area with ability to flare out the run from the skylight to the ceiling then I'd be looking the skylight route. But costs for reframing, re drywall plus the skylight install itself is likely too expensive for a smaller area like 9x3. Hence a solar tube might be something to consider.
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Oct 19, 2008
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Put a light in, they never leak.
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Jun 9, 2003
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We put in 2 skylights and a solar tube last summer when we had our roof done. We're very happy with everything, but the solar tube was the biggest surprise in terms of bang for buck. It has completely brightened up our stairwell which was previously only lit with artificial light. Remember that solar tubes can be bent (reflective material inside) so you don't necessarily need to have a straight-line path to the roof. For skylights, remember to think about blinds, which are a must in places like bedrooms. The blinds can be a lot more expensive than you think. Also think about whether the light needs the ability to vent. While the skylights do indeed represent heat loss during the winter, they can help you ventilate your house during hot weather (if you're like us and don't like to run the AC unless absolutely necessary).

Another tip is to call up Velux (one of the biggest makers) directly. I did this for us and found out they were clearing out a bunch of 1-year old (but still brand new) stock for about 75% off. Saved a ton of $.
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Feb 8, 2014
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The heat loss is exaggerated, it is much higher and will put your windows, walls and ceiling to shame and cost a disproportionate number of your heating dollars :(

Wire in a light and buy some bright bulbs. They will also add heat instead of taking away a lot of it

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blo ... -skylights
In fact in Rand McNally they wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people
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Oct 16, 2001
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Same problem in certain areas of our house, expecially our main bathroom that has no windows. Been looking into the solar tubes more than skylights. I think skylights were big because solar tubes didnt exist. Plus they are less visible than a big hole in the ceiling like many skylights.
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Apr 20, 2011
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ON
Skylights are good if you also want to look out and see sky.
If you just want natural light, get a solar tube.
Member
Nov 10, 2010
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Hamilton
I have both in my house, and I love them. Solar tube is in the kitchen, and no one knows it isn't a light. I've been asked where the switch is more than once.

The skylights are neat, and brighten up a room.

From what's described here, I'd probably go with a solar tube. If I was doing my roof, or had easy attic access, I'd probably install a few more,...bathrooms, kitchens, hallways are all great places for them
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Dec 12, 2009
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The new skylights are quite energy efficient compared to the old stuff that people benchmark comments on. I have a sun room that has half dozen skylights. The original ones were those plastic domes. In the winter that room was my big fridge on cold nights. It was the big oven in hot summer days. A couple of years ago, I replaced them with triple pane glass skylights. The temperature in that room is not much different than adjoining rooms now. To put perspective on how energy efficient the units are, after a snow fall, it take several days for the snow to slide off and light to shine through. The brand I have is Columbia.
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will888 wrote: The new skylights are quite energy efficient compared to the old stuff that people benchmark comments on. I have a sun room that has half dozen skylights. The original ones were those plastic domes. In the winter that room was my big fridge on cold nights. It was the big oven in hot summer days. A couple of years ago, I replaced them with triple pane glass skylights. The temperature in that room is not much different than adjoining rooms now. To put perspective on how energy efficient the units are, after a snow fall, it take several days for the snow to slide off and light to shine through. The brand I have is Columbia.
What is it made of thats energy efficient, glass and plexiglass are not great insulators.
This passivhaus skylight (which are among the most insulated on the market) which is triple pane has an R value of 6.75 (R value = 1/U)
http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blo ... ht-hits-us

So it makes sense your new one is doing better, but compared to an insulated wall or attic its still not good.
In fact in Rand McNally they wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people
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May 23, 2009
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I've have an hallway and a washroom that I've wanted to install solar tubes for a while. Risk of future leaks have put the plan on hold but I'm sure I'll look at it closely again when it comes time to replace my roof.
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Feb 21, 2004
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aqnd wrote: Skylights are good if you also want to look out and see sky.
If you just want natural light, get a solar tube.
That summarizes it very well- there is more to skylight than just light. Being able to see actual sky, clouds, sun, moon and stars is what makes it worth the extra installation and heating costs. Probably not worth in the area where you don't spend too much time though...
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Apr 4, 2009
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I would install a pair of small pot lights and use LED bulb ... leave it on 24x7, if necessary ... electricity use is very low.

The Solar Tube is a nice idea ... but no light at night.
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May 28, 2012
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Canada
I saw this thread and it reminded me that I would like to put a sun tunnel in the kids bathroom. I put it in yesterday and it looks awesome. Check out how much light it lets in!

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

Image

Image

On a side note I called a roofer to make the cut and put in the dome on the roof and they said $1500 for the job! I told them no thanks and did the work myself. Not that difficult to do.

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