Enlightenment isn't just a state of mind - it can also be an important energy-saving state of being for your home's roof. By "enlightening" your roof, you can use less energy, save money, and dress up the interior of your home at the same time.
All roofs protect us, and the interiors of our homes, but they can do so much more. They can be the collection and distribution point for an inexhaustible supply of free natural light and energy.
A roof that uses Energy Star qualified venting skylights, for instance, admits healthful natural light while providing passive ventilation through the natural "chimney effect" of rising air. This is not an insignificant consideration especially in kitchens and baths that have higher moisture and humidity levels than other areas of the home.
Another kitchen- and bath-specific issue that skylights help address is the need for privacy. Many modern homes are built on small lots, in very close proximity to neighboring houses. "Light from windows is rarely enough, especially in places where lot sizes are small," says Jennifer Powers of design firm Scott-Ulmann.
Areas of the home where traditional skylights with blinds might not work - such as hallways, closets and small, interior baths - can still admit natural light through less expensive Sun Tunnel tubular skylights. And optional light kits turn these units into 24-hour sources of light. Low-profile flat glass models that blend unobtrusively with the roof, and domed models, all offer a fast, easy, less expensive way to transform a home with natural light.
In addition to light and ventilation from above, if you add an Energy Star-qualified solar water heating system your roof will work even harder for you. And, in addition to monthly power bill savings, these solar thermal systems qualify for tax credits and other savings that significantly reduce the payback time it takes to recover the initial cost.
Solar power attic fans are also a cost-effective roof addition that helps to reduce mechanical cooling costs while removing damaging moisture from the home.
In addition to the functional qualities these and other roof improvements offer, there are also aesthetic considerations.
Skylights offer room-changing drama and decorating flair while adding natural light from above. And skylight blinds are now available in colors and pattern choices to mix and match with room decor giving homeowners another interior design tool. Blinds not only dress up a room but also provide light control while increasing the energy efficiency and usefulness of skylights.
According to skylight manufacturer, Velux America, the addition of blinds can increase the overall energy efficiency of the units by 37 percent. They recommend closing the blinds on high heat/sun days in the summer to reduce potential solar heat gain and, on cold winter nights, closing them to provide an extra layer of thermal insulation to keep warm air indoors. Skylight blinds, as well as the units themselves, can be controlled manually or with a remote.
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 there 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.