Q - We don't have cathedral ceilings in our house, but we want to put skylights in our kitchen and bedroom for more natural lighting and for live plants. Is it still possible to install a skylight? A.J.
A - It is quite common practice to install a skylight in a room with a flat ceiling and pitched roof above. You must construct a lightwell from the skylight on the roof down to the ceiling. The construction methods are fairly simple, but you must pay close attention to detail or the lightwell/
skylight can become a big energy waster.In the initial design phase, you should plan on a lightwell that tapers out from the skylight to a larger opening in the ceiling. Otherwise, the light tends to get trapped and absorbed in the lightwell, reducing its effectiveness.
It is extremely important to properly size the skylight for the room size. If it is too large, there will be excessive winter heat loss, summer heat gain, and possible glare through the skylight. If it is too small, it will not provide adequate lighting and you will still need electric lights.
You should select a super-high-efficiency skylight. Triple, Heat Mirror, or low-emisssivity (low-E) with argon gas glazing are the most energy efficient year-round. Low-E also helps block the sun's fading rays.
During the spring and fall, or if you don't air condition in the summer, a venting skylight in a lightwell can provide excellent natural ventilation in addition to light. Since the lightwell gets warm from the sun, it creates a natural upward draft to ventilate the room without fans.
You can easily build the lightwell frame, connecting the opening in the ceiling to the hole in the roof, with standard lumber. Build doubled roof rafters and ceiling joists for support. Attach short cripple studs on the sides to hold the finished wall and insulation. For maximum lighting, paint the inside of the lightwell white.
Insulate the sides of the lightwell very heavily, just as you would the ceiling. The lightwell is exposed to the cold winter and hot summer attic, too. Rigid foam insulation sheets are very effective..
You should install an inexpensive reflective type of roller shade under the skylight to reduce the summer heat and glare at midday. You can leave it open in morning and afternoon when the sun shines in at a lower angle.
You can write to me for UTILITY BILLS UPDATE No. 110 showing simple do-it-yourself instructions and a diagram for building a skylight lightwell, a chart showing recommended skylight sizes for various room sizes, and a list of manufacturers of new super-high-efficiency skylights. Write to James Dulley, The Deseret News, 6906 Royal Green Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244. Please include $1 and a self-addressed STAMPED BUSINESS-SIZE envelope.