9 ways to use sunlight in a home
1. A window is like a piece of art
Think of a window like a picture frame or piece of art (it may cost as much). The view should be beautiful, and requires thoughtful placement. Does it make sense to have a large window facing your neighbor's bedroom? Or should that window be higher up to provide privacy and light only. Consider plants in a garden (floor level window), a tree silhouette against the sky, or an island across a lake. Your unique environment is what can dictate window placement.
2. Passive solar
Use sunlight to help heat the home, shade glass when heat is not wanted. The best strategy to shade the sunlight from your windows is from the exterior, not interior. Stop the heat before it hits the glass. Low E and Argon filled windows help minimize heat gain without shade, but they are never as effective as a properly sized roof or awning overhang. Trellis or pergola structures that have summer vegetation and are leafless during the winter are great ways to stop summer heat gain and allow winter heat gain when it's desired.
3. Corner windows bring the outdoors inside
Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered the concept of breaking open the box. Think of a square room with windows in the center of each wall. Then envision moving all the windows to the corners. Moving them to the corners eliminates the enclosed feeling of the box and the box begins to share a connection with the outdoor space. Same goes for interior space layout.
4. Clerestory windows can exhaust hot air
Hot air rises and when it does, it draws cooler air up from below. Provide high operable windows to naturally exhaust hot air out of your home. Ceiling fans can help this on still days. Special designed cooling towers are another way to create air flow and convection. Inexpensive pole operators or moderately priced electric window operators can be integrated onto any window.
5. Skylights add dimension
Skylights always add character to a space. They connect you to the sky and weather like no other window can do. They are also prone to leaking and heat loss/gain; therefore, careful consideration must be given to their placement.
Solatubes are likely the most energy efficient type of skylight. They provide daylight to areas in the home that may Not be under a roof, but located beneath a second or third floor. They do not offer the unique quality or view of the sky as typical skylights, but they will help offset light usage and heating and cooling loads.
6. Fixed windows will save big
Homes are being constructed more air-tight than ever before, and it is most economical and energy efficient to never open your windows or doors. A closed home allows your mechanical equipment to do the least work. Codes require some operable windows; but, many can likely be changed. Fixed windows are more energy efficient (no air leaks), and they cost about half that of an operable window.
7. Consider glass doors rather than windows
Why not consider glass doors instead of windows? Sometimes they cost less than a similarly sized window, and they are often more energy efficient.
8. Glass block in the box sill
A box sill is where the floor structure meets the wall. It's often insulated and never seen. In basements, you can introduce a lot of light by placing glass block between the floor joists and providing a ceiling opening to let the light rain down on a dark basement.
9. Reflected light is better than direct light
Reflected light is indirect light. There is no heat gain from reflected light. There is also very little glare from reflected light. Here are a couple of reflected light options: a light colored patio surface that can reflect light thru a glass door OR a light shelf reflects sunlight further into a home, or up onto the ceiling to let it bounce in.
Chad Cornette Chad Cornette began his education with hands-on construction while attaining bachelors and masters degrees in architecture from UW Milwaukee and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Chad opened the Cantilever Studio in DePere, Wis. in 2003. A cabinet maker, glass cutter, welder, framer, world traveler and architectural intellect, Chad offers a unique and creative perspective on timeless building and interior design.