Natural light can cut your energy bills and brighten your days.
Recently, Caroline Ottinger decided to seek the light. “We live in a semi-detached house in Ascot Vale,” she says. “It’s over 100 years old and was quite dark inside. I really wanted to brighten it up.”
After thorough research, she chose two narrow tubular skylights to fit her corridor. The cost – $1200 installed – has paled in comparison to the effect on her home.
“They’ve transformed our hall,” she says. “People can’t believe it when they come over – they think we’ve got lights on. When it’s sunny they’re magnificent, and even when it’s overcast we never need to use lights during the day.”
Ms Ottinger has found the soft, diffuse daylighting to be more relaxing. “It makes me feel so much happier,” she says. “Because I’ve got a young baby I spend a lot of time in the house. I think light makes a real difference to your mood. It’s been an amazing transformation.”
If you’re considering skylights for your house, she suggests searching for a business that offers a free, no-obligation quote. “But it’s worth doing research yourself first, so you know the prices and the products – that way you’re not going to get ripped off.”
The Skylight Industry Association is a good place to start your investigation. President Robert Cussigh says that broadly, there are three kinds of skylights.
Dome skylights are the most common. They have a plastic, opaque dome in the roof and a square shaft that leads to a diffuser panel in the ceiling. Tubular skylights are similar, but use a round shaft with reflective silver lining that directs the sunlight downwards and into the room. Both kinds cost from around $200 to $900, plus installation.
Roof windows are glass units set directly into the roof, with open plaster shafts so you can see the sky. They usually have timber frames and double-glazing, but can come with all sorts of features, including blinds, rain sensors and remotes for opening and closing. They range in price from $400 to $2000, plus installation.
DIYers will find the smaller, tubular lights the most straightforward to put in, but Mr Cussigh maintains that any kind of skylight can be retrofitted. “They’re easier to install while you’re building the house, but most people tend to put them in after the fact. They realise they’ve got a dark room and skylights solve the problem.”
With an elegant design, they can even be a feature. “Many people are putting in roof windows for the wow-factor,” Mr Cussigh says. “You can really open a room up and make it look spectacular by drawing in natural light.”
Skylights can let in more than three times the light of a same-sized vertical window, according to online sustainable design guide, Your Home. Daylighting is also cooler than artificial sources, which means less added heat inside. Although some warmth can be gained and lost through the skylights themselves (depending on the weather outside), it’s minor in comparison to the effect of standard windows or inadequate insulation.
All things considered, says Mr Cussigh, skylights can significantly improve the energy efficiency of your house. “There’s a huge cost saving in CO2 emissions by not having to flick a switch every time you want light,” he says.