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Efficient skylights look great and save energy

Dear Jim: I want more natural lighting with fewer lamps to save electricity, so I want to install skylights in several rooms. What are the most efficient skylight designs and materials to save the most energy? — Jon B.

Dear Jon: Most often, people install skylights for aesthetic reasons, but skylights do reduce the need for lamps. Lighting is a significant consumer of electricity in most homes, so adding skylights can reduce your electric bills.

As you noted, though, they must be efficient or they lose or gain more heat energy than they save in electricity.

Another advantage of natural lighting is our sight is still better under natural sunlight than under artificial light at the same intensity (lux level).

If you have problems reading my newspaper column in the morning under a kitchen ceiling light fixture, you may find it easier to read under natural light from a skylight.

Skylight design, from efficiency, style and convenience standpoints, has come a long way in the past decade or so.

Today, nearly all the super-efficient glazing and frame options that are available in high-quality new windows are also available in skylights.

When selecting a skylight, first decide whether you want a venting or a fixed style. The new weatherstripping seals make the venting ones virtually as energy efficient as fixed ones.

Nearly all the designs are available as either venting or fixed.

If you ever use natural ventilation, even if for only a few weeks during spring and fall, select a venting model.

With the skylight located in the ceiling, opening it creates a natural breeze throughout your home.

Most venting models are hinged on one end and the entire skylight opens. Another design, perhaps better for more continuous venting, has just a small venting flap at one end.

For the most convenience, a remote control electric operator can be installed, but this uses a small amount of electricity and requires electrical wiring. It also makes the installation more complex. For most installations, I recommend a removable long hand crank.

The heart of a skylight is the glazing (glass or plastic) and this has the most impact upon its energy efficiency.

If you want efficiency with a good view of the sky, a multipane flat glass skylight is best. I even added a magnetic clear acrylic storm window under my low-e, argon glass skylight for greater efficiency.

If you just need additional natural lighting, a double- or triple-pane domed plastic skylight is adequate and less expensive than glass. Also, the domed top is somewhat self-cleaning when it rains.

Some types of plastic naturally block most of the sun's fading ultraviolet rays. In hot climates, consider a tinted skylight to block some summer heat and glare.

The following companies offer efficient skylights: Bristolite, (800) 854-8618, www.bristolite.com; Foxlite, (800) 233-3699, www.foxlite.com; Royalite, (800) 875-9548, www.royalite.com; Velux, (800) 888-3589, www.veluxusa.com; and Wasco, (800) 388-0293, www.wasco1.com.

Dear Jim: I have a humidifier in my crawl space and it has stopped working. I think it is at least 20 years old and it will cost $200 to repair it. A new open will cost $400. Should I repair it or get a new one? — Steve W.

Dear Steve: Crawl spaces are typically more damp and dirty than a utility room or basement, so equipment will deteriorate faster. Ask a serviceman about the overall condition of the unit other than the defective part.

If it is in reasonably good condition, I would just repair it and save $200. The technology of humidifiers is relatively simple and a new one will not operate much more effectively than your existing one.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Decatur Daily, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.

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