Facility Dude

What you should know about skylights

By Emma Finch
Jan 26, 2015

Facilities Management

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Skylights are a common architectural feature in many homes and commercial facilities across the country. They can literally brighten up a room, allowing some much-needed natural light into spaces that may otherwise not get much of it. Additionally, they can help cut down on energy costs, especially in the winter.

Skylight Like any other aspect of your building, skylights need to be chosen, installed and maintained properly if you want to reap maximum benefits and avoid potentially costly building maintenance down the road. If you're considering skylights for your facility, here are a few things to keep in mind during the selection and installation processes, as well as tips for proper maintenance.

Not all skylights are created equal

Though they may seem like fairly simple fixtures, there are many factors that can influence how energy efficient, cost effective and repair-prone they can be. It's understandable that when shopping for skylights for your building, you'll be tempted to try and keep initial purchasing costs down as much as possible. For this reason, plastic skylights are a popular choice in many homes and businesses. However, as ThisOldHouse.com noted, saving a bit now may end up costing you later. Plastic skylights not only tend to be less efficient than their glass counterparts, but are also generally more prone to leaking, which can lead to additional maintenance concerns such as roof repair and water damage.

Instead, the source recommended opting for a curbed skylight treated with an energy efficient glazing. These units tend to be more effective at regulating energy costs and lead to leak-proof installation more often than their cheaper counterparts.

Installation know-how

Installing your skylight may be the most important factor determining what sorts of energy efficiency benefits you reap down the road or, conversely, what kind of energy and maintenance costs you incur. The U.S. Department of Energy noted that slope is a key thing to consider during installation. Shallower slopes will trap more heat inside during the summer and less in the winter, which is exactly the opposite of what you want it to do. The department offered a helpful heuristic, suggesting that skylights be installed at a slope of your given latitudinal angle plus five to 15 degrees.

Leak avoidance is another important consideration when it comes time to install your skylight. According to the department, if you install your skylight above the surface of the roof and include a curb surrounding the base, it will be far less likely to result in costly leaks.

Shining light on maintenance concerns

Fortunately, once your skylight is installed, there's little you need to worry about in terms of ongoing maintenance, Bristolite Daylighting Systems noted. In fact, the majority of your planned maintenance will revolve around keeping the inside of the surface clean and free of dust. Thankfully, you can count on Mother Nature to take care of the exterior, but it's still important to keep on top of cleaning the underside. If you allow dust, dirt and cobwebs to accumulate, it can damage your skylight's finish and may ultimately affect its energy efficiency.

But that doesn't mean you need to give your skylight a daily or even weekly scrubbing. In fact, the source pointed out that it's actually easier to do more damage by cleaning your skylight too frequently than by not cleaning it often enough. Many common cleaning agents contain chemicals that can damage the skylight's finish, or even the surface of the glass. While you should inspect your skylight as frequently as other parts of your facility, make sure to only clean it sparingly, when it's greatly needed.

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