Solar-Powered Skylights Add Daylighting And Ventilation

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veluxAdding appropriate daylighting to a building has a number of benefits to the both the owners and the occupants, whether it’s a home or a business. Daylighting can reduce lighting energy costs, as well as other lighting equipment costs (replacement bulbs, ballasts, drivers, hardware, etc.) and can be a key component of a more sustainable dwelling or office, whether it’s a new build or a retrofit.

In addition to the direct financial benefits of daylighting, it also has a secondary beneficial impact, as a positive influence on the health and productivity of the people who work and play under it.  The ‘clean’ full-spectrum illumination we get from sunlight is not only easier on our eyes, literally, but is also associated with improved mental health and performance, as well as better learning skills and increased focus, along with a number of other effects.

Skylights can be an effective method of daylighting a room or building, and if those skylights are able to be opened and closed at will, then in addition to adding light, they can also be used to ventilate, potentially saving additional costs through reduced air conditioning demand. However, as most skylights are positioned well out of reach, and manually opening and closing them isn’t really very practical, a remote-controlled skylight, such as the Velux solar-powered “Fresh Air” line of skylights, is what’s needed.

The Velux models have a battery-powered control system for operating the skylights, with an integrated solar panel for keeping the battery charged, and is controlled and programmed by an “Intelligent” touchscreen remote. The skylights can be opened manually, or at scheduled times, in order to ventilate the room by drawing air out through them through the chimney effect. For additional control over the skylights, 10 different colors of solar-powered blinds can also be installed in the units, allowing for further energy savings and reduced heating/cooling costs.

Here’s video promo from Velux:

These Velux skylights, available in a number of different sizes, also happen to qualify for the 30% federal tax credit, as they are considered to fall under the Solar Electric Property category, so in addition to adding light and fresh air to a room, they will also reduce the owner’s tax burden. Find out more at Velux.

Image: Velux USA

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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

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8 thoughts on “Solar-Powered Skylights Add Daylighting And Ventilation

  • I don’t want to be a grinch but energy losses from skylights far exceed lighting demands. Yes, it is nice to have daylight and perhaps ventilation but there are other more effective ways of doing that. However if you really appreciate skylights on grounds of beauty, then it may be worth it.

    • It’s hard to generalise.

      Let us take the following case study: a typical home in a cool, mild climate (think Western Europe or western Oregon/Washington) installs south-facing skylights.

      Winters are cool and heating is obviously needed. However, the temperature delta between the inside of the house and the environment is not massive (often under 20 degrees celcius).

      In those circumstances, heat loss through a properly designed and installed skylight is minor, but the passive solar heating can be enough to heat an entire bedroom (as is the case in my home). In summer, rollling shutters or blinds keep out heat effectively.

      Passive houses make extensive use of well-orientated windows and skylights not just for lighting but also for passive heating. That extra bit of solar energy is one of the two main sources of heating in passive homes, alongside the waste heat coming from appliances and residents.

      As for ventiliation: you obviously don’t want ventilation without heat recovery in winter, but it’s lovely in summer. Where I live, outside temperatures are rarely above room temperature for long.

      tl;dr: what constitutes efficient architecture really depends on your local climate. If you have very high temperature deltas (extremely cold winters or extremely hot summers), large windows are not the best idea. In a temperate climate, they can actually be a net positive.

      And all that is without even mentioning the positive impact of daylight on everything from mood to sleep, all of which are worth at least a few kWh of energy in my book.

      • I really like that last sentence, these things are severely overlooked by many. Thank you for mentioning that!

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  • Like Vensonata, I too don’t want to be a grinch. But I have to ask: how is this new? My parent’s home has had Velux skylights with solar powered roller shutters for over a decade. The automated opening also has been around for quite a while now.

    Or maybe the US is simply a decade behind Europe in construction.

    • Yes, the US is several decades behind. Average house size is 220 sq meters…much too large. Insulation is laughable. Appliances and window quality are crappy, design is a hodge podge or a series of apple boxes.

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