Though their modern counterparts have only been with us since the mid-20th century, ‘skylights’ have been around for a long time. The oldest examples of roofs with openings to the sky can be found in Ancient Roman Architecture.
Though it was completely uncovered and wasn’t known as a skylight, the oculus of the Pantheon is an example. Centred in the ceiling, it provides just the right amount of illumination to the building’s impressive interior.
While the first glass skylights appeared in France between the late 17th and 18th centuries – for example at the Halle aux blés in Paris – they didn’t become common until after the industrial revolution.
Today, skylights are commonplace and available from most major outlets, such as bunnings. They can be found in a range of commercial and residential applications. There are many types of skylight available; consumers and specifiers can choose between simple fixed skylights, square skylights, vented skylights, tubular skylights, dome skylights, and more.
Regardless of their design and regardless whether they are specified for a bedroom in Perth, a bathroom in Brisbane, a kitchen in Adelaide, a living room in Melbourne or a commercial space in Sydney, skylights all perform the same basic functions. They provide interior spaces which would otherwise be too dark or lacking in air with illumination and ventilation.
Pros and cons of skylights
Some say that, by illuminating dark or gloomy spaces, well-planned skylight ideas can bring them to life. This is true in more ways than one. Having the right amount of light is a cheap way to energise a room and expand design possibilities.
What’s more, if positioned optimally they can provide three times the natural light that a vertical window of the same size could. Good skylight ideas have aesthetic benefits, energy benefits and environmental benefits (in terms of lower electricity needed for lighting), and even mental health benefits.
Well-lit environments are known to improve the mood of occupants. They help the body produce more serotonin and less melatonin and therefore help reduce the severity of conditions like depression and anxiety.
All of this adds up to a better, more liveable home (or office), which in turn means a better property value.
There are downsides to skylights, however most are associated with poor skylight ideas, such as specifying an inappropriate product for the given application or not installing it correctly.
In winter, at the same time a skylight is saving energy thanks to reduced energy usage, it can be wasting energy because of lost heat. Conversely, in summer it could be allowing hot air in and again increasing energy use and costs. Therefore, care should be taken before choosing a skylight.
Similarly, poor choice or installation by inexperienced trades or DIYers can cause damage to roofs or simply fail to properly seal around the unit. Both issues can be costly to rectify.
What are skylights made of?
Skylights are typically made of acrylic, which is translucent but not transparent, however in some cases they are made of a polycarbonate material (which may be either translucent or transparent).
Insulated skylights usually feature a double-paned window with an inert gas (generally argon), which absorbs heat from light but does not affect the chemicals around it.
How to install Skylights
While choosing the right skylight (one that lets in the right amount of light, but no more) is important, so is installation. While, DIY projects aren’t completely out of the question, they are not recommended for those who do not have experience and the skills needed. Care must be taken, and high level of competence are necessary.
The size and spacing of the product are important. In terms of size, for regular skylights a 3-5% floor to skylight ratio is optimal and for high performance units a 1-2% ratio is recommended.
In applications involving multiple skylights, to optimise illumination the distance between skylights should be approximately 1.5 times the height between floor and roofing.
How much do skylights cost?
Considering the large range of skylights available, prices vary considerably. An inexpensive acrylic skylight may set you back $350, while a top-of-the-line tubular skylight may cost as much as $1,200. The list of types of skylight below indicates the price ranges for each style.
Skylight ideas - How to choose
With so many types of skylight available, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your application. It comes down to several factors including how much do skylights cost, and what you are trying to achieve. For example, is illumination the main goal or are ventilation and the aesthetic benefits also part of the decision.
To a large degree, the size of the space and placement will determine the decision. For example, tubular skylights cannot be installed on flat roofs. Then there is the question of operability and the choice between manual and electronic opening skylights, and of course the type of glazing. Here is a list of the various skylight ideas.
Types of skylight
1) Custom skylights
Sometimes roofs have an unusual shape or are in a condition that makes it difficult to install a standard skylight. In other cases, the owner or specifier may simply be seeking something special. For these and many other reasons, some choose custom skylights.
Price range of custom skylights: $2,500 +
2) Fixed Skylights
Among the most popular sklylights, fixed spotlights remained sealed and therefore are only suitable for illumination. They do not provide ventilation. Materials generally include glass or plastic, with a frame of steel, aluminium or timber. They are generally square lights.
Price range: $260+
3) Vented skylights
Vented skylights are simply skylights that can open either electrically or manually. Apart from improving ventilation, they are also particularly welcome in spaces that are prone to excess moisture, like bathrooms and kitchens.
Price: $1,000 - $4,000
4) Round skylights
The term round skylights (also known as circular skylight) simply refers to the product’s shape. They are suitable for most roofing profiles and roof flashings and can be fitted to a square or circular base if necessary.
5) Dome skylights
Dome skylights are generally made of durable, flexible plastics. Their main benefit is that they can be used to illuminate entire rooms. This is because of their shape which ensures an even distribution of light.
Price: $350 - $740
6) Solar skylights
Acknowledging that natural light isn’t always available, solar skylights feature their own solar panel which charges when the sun is around and then deliver the own artificial light when it disappears again.
7) Flat roof skylights
Flat roof skylights provide an extra opportunity to not only illuminate interiors but also to improve ventilation.
Price range: $250+
8) Blinds for skylights
Blinds for skylights are for those moments when you want no light at all. Perhaps even more than windows, these are must have items because without them it can be very difficult to block a skylight.
Price range: $200+
9) Opening skylights
Unlike ventilated skylights, which remain in a fixed open position, opening skylights may be opened and closed with a mechanical device. They offer the benefits of ventilation when needed and can be easily shut once the weather changes.
10) LED skylights
Sometimes solar powered, LED skylights are recommended for cases where standard skylights are not possible. They feature their own solar panel on the roof and high-quality LEDs for illumination.
11) Tubular skylight
A tubular skylight is recommended for applications where there is not enough roof space for fixed or ventilated skylights, they feature three components: a light collector on the roof, a reflective tube, and an interior fixture which delivers the light.
Price range: $200 - $500
12) Barrel vault skylight
Most often used in commercial buildings, educational institution, hospitals, and so forth, barrel vault skylights are recognisable by their distinctive shape and their large size compared to other skylights.
13) Ridge skylight
As the name implies, ridge skylights duplicate the shape of the roof’s ridge and are therefore able to sit on the same. Alternatively, they may be mounted on the curbs on flat roofs with a variety of skylight pitch options.