Skylight, sky bright, first sky I see tonight
No amount of artificial lumens you add to a room can substitute for the sun and its transformative natural light. So here's a bright idea that can illuminate a key living space: Add a skylight instead of another lamp or light fixture.
A skylight serves as an overhead fixed window installed in a roof or ceiling that can lighten up a room and add visual flair. Often made of glass with a low-E thermal coating, skylights are ideal for areas where a conventional window isn't possible or doesn't let in enough outside light.
"The advantage with a skylight is that it can transform and invigorate any space, making it feel brighter, more open, and even a bit bigger," says Bailey Carson, home care expert at Angi, based in Richmond, Virginia. "Whether you are looking to bring in additional illumination or add a unique touch to your room, properly placed skylights can change the entire feel of a space while also improving energy efficiency. Natural light allows you to save money on utility bills, but also has health benefits, such as improving your mood and general well-being."
That can make a big difference for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, for example, or homeowners who are stuck inside for health or personal reasons (which describes most of us over this past year-and-a-half of pandemic living).
"Skylights are particularly ideal for upper-level rooms that are south-facing because they will naturally get the most sunlight exposure throughout the year," says Johnny Jones, general manager of Ridgeline Construction Roofing & Exteriors in Athens, Alabama.
Some of the best rooms for skylights include bathrooms, bedrooms, hallways or large gathering spaces like kitchens and family rooms -- particularly areas dependent on artificial lighting.
"Any room that is frequently occupied and amenable to a skylight is a great candidate for one because it can save money otherwise spent on electricity and it serves as a way to open up a space and make it appear livelier," says Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy, a Chicago-based nationwide provider of on-demand interior and exterior home improvement services.
Of course, skylights lend themselves best to the upper level of the home (which can mean virtually any room in a ranch design). But newer skylight materials and styles can open up possibilities throughout your abode.
"Traditional skylights are typically available in the older-style acrylic bubble and either bronze or white finishes. Alternatively, if your primary goal is to bring light into a room with limited space, you might consider a tubular skylight, which is the most cost- and energy-effective way to bring natural light into your home," Carson says.
Or, you may be able to mimic the look and performance of a traditional skylight with a solar tube, which uses a system of round mirrored tubes that can bring sunlight even to lower levels of a home.
"A solar tube can literally pipe in the sunshine to nearly any spot in your home," says Jones.
For best results with a traditional skylight, it should be placed in the highest point of the room so natural light can cover the most area.
"You also want to consider the angle of the sun. Make sure that the sun shining brightly through the skylight at a certain time of day won't be an irritant for you," Kazimierski recommends.
When it comes to choosing the right brand and model, look for one that offers at least a 10-year warranty and is appropriately sized for your space.
"Consider smaller skylights with 10-inch diameters for bathrooms, closets and hallways versus larger skylights 14 inches in diameter for kitchens and living rooms," Carson says. "A 10-inch model is the lumen equivalent of a 150- to 200-watt light bulb, while a 14-inch skylight can be up to two times brighter."
Skylights are best installed by an experienced professional. The process starts by cutting a space for the skylight window in your roof or ceiling using a circular saw, followed by installing header joists to frame the opening.
"Next, the roofing shingles are cut back from the opening, and screws are used to center and affix the skylight to the roof. Then, roofing paper is installed under the shingles … and solid flashing pieces are installed to secure the window in its desired location," Carson says.
Note that this project is typically handled by multiple experts.
"It's a multifaceted job that requires a framer, a roofer and a drywall person. In some cases, you can find a contractor who does it all, but more often the different parts get subcontracted out," Jones says.
Expect to pay between $958 and $2,391 for a typical skylight including installation, based on HomeAdvisor estimates. Solar tubes can often cost half that much.