And… Let there be light!
We’ve always known that natural light has a positive effect on our overall wellbeing. Sunlight lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and strengthens your immune system. It gives a subtle physical knowledge about the environment around us helping us know the time of the day. Exposure to limited sunlight is recommended for its healing properties even by select medical practitioners. Needless to say, lighting up your home has a lot of benefits.
But lighting need not be just from windows. Skylights or roof windows are a great source of natural light. Did you know that because of its positioning, a roof window can bring in three times more light than a vertical window of the same size? Even on a gloomy rainy day, roof windows can cheer you up with the view of the rain about you.
Reducing your dependency on artificial lighting during the day, in India, Skylight can be used primarily in stand-alone homes (bungalows) or houses with terraces. In some cases, tubular skylights or solar tubes can even be installed in the ground floor, basement, or pretty much any room in the house. The best part is that they can be created even in an existing house with minimum renovation. Before you go about installing a skylight, you need to factor in a few things. Skylights can be fitted, operable, vented, or non-vented, based on your preferences. A ventilated, operable skylight is generally recommended, as it reduces the heat built-up during hot summers. You will also need to take measures to improvise on your skylight to ensure it diffuses light efficiently with minimum heat gain or loss. Most skylights for homes are customized as per individual preferences, so do keep in mind long-term maintenance factors, which may vary depending on where you live.
Other than adding to your home’s aesthetic value, skylights may even add to your resale value. It can allow you to gaze up at a starry night sky or enjoy the fading orange glow of a sunset. Remote-operated skylights allow you to react quickly to shield yourself from environmental changes like rain, dust winds or simply an unpleasant smell. Advanced skylights even come equipped with rain sensors that automatically trigger a shutdown.
Pick up any style of home interior design and the first thing they recommend is creating a naturally well-lit home. It saves electricity and accentuates the design style by creating an aura of positive energy. In rooms where privacy may be an issue or there are limited sun-facing wall windows, skylights make a great option.
Determine the size and spacing of your skylight by calculating 3-4% of your floor space of the room and they should be spaced around 1.5 times the height between your floor and roof. Also factor in your local weather conditions, levels of air pollution, and trees nearby that may cast a shadow. In this picture, Cato Designs creates a living room which dazzles with natural light flowing in through the skylights.
This one is hard to pick, but we would consider the kitchen to be the best place to install a skylight. Most Indian homes have their breakfast and lunch cooked well before noon when the skylight provides ample light, but less heat. You can also consider installing a skylight in other rooms, depending on the ambience you wish to exude. Large, country-style inviting spaces are generally conducive to adding a skylight to their design, as it allows the walls to reflect light and also create room for house plants. A typical slanting roof, loft, or barn area also works well with roof windows as they give a great night sky view.
One room, we bet you may not have thought of, is the bathroom. Since you may partially get ready, shave, or even apply make up here, natural solar tube skylights can enhance your lighting without invading your privacy.
Even though hyped as a great interior lighting solution, you need to review some hidden truths before you fit one into your home. Skylights cannot typically control the amount of heat that enters (or leaves the house). This means, if the temperature goes to a sultry 40+ degrees in the summer, you may need additional air conditioning because of the skylight. Likewise, if the temperature takes a big dip in the winter, you may need additional insulation to compensate on the warm air that may result in condensation and water dripping. Also consider cleaning and maintenance of a skylight, which may add to your (extended) task list.
Fret not, as these problems can be resolved with some additional elements like remote-operated blinds or shutters, use of opal windows, and insulated glass. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages any day.
Skylight expenses in India comes in two parts – first, the skylight price and second, the cost of installation. The installation cost may be directly proportional to the height and pitch of the roof. Other factors to consider are the design chosen and the materials used. This can be best compared to the purchase of a car. A basic 18x12” model may cost anything between INR 1,200 to INR 1,500 (masonry charges generally vary from urban to rural), but with custom design, UV filters, remote ventilation, or rain sensors the cost can go up considerably.
Also, make sure you first check if residential ones are permissible in your area as some parts of India Skylight can’t be installed without prior municipal permissions.
Most commonly seen in rectangular or circular shapes, a skylight design can take the shape you visualise, including that of a dome, conical slant roofs, or a pyramid.
In India, skylights are not very common in urban areas as they are not regularly recommended by builders or designers. With a little bit of expert guidance, you can well be on your way to creating an enviable home design.
Unless you are a highly-skilled DIYer or have professional experience with skylight installation, we recommend that your leave this to the experts. There are many factors (and risks) in installing a skylight on the roof. Doing so (without falling) in the right angle and ensuring it is leak-proof requires a steady hand and keen eye for detail. Installing a solar tube can only be done by a professional roofing contractor.
You may also need professional services to repaint the ceiling around your skylight.
Most commonly seen in rectangular shapes, a skylight design can take the shape you visualize, including that of a dome, conical slant roofs, or a pyramid. Depending on the budget and design, you can choose to make your skylight from materials like toughened glass, fibre glass, sandwiched glass, or polycarbonate material. For Indian homes, we would recommend using high-strength polyfiber, as it is light weight, available in multiple finishes like clear and rock, which store and reflect sunlight, and can be customised for shape and size.
With the concept of eco homes spreading in India, architects and interior designers are increasingly using skylights to allow the natural light to flow in. Skylights can, therefore, be used as an important architectural and design tool to change the way a house finally looks.