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Taking advantage of opportunities to incorporate natural light into our homes has many benefits! Architect Chauncey Meyer of Tucson says, “my goal when designing a project is to assure that there is so much natural light in the home that the lights do not need to be turned on.” In Southern Arizona, where it is sunny on average of 299 days per year and Northern Arizona with 260 clear or partly cloudy days – this makes sense!

Chauncey says putting light in varying places and angles, especially when it comes from above, creates a pleasant sense of well-being and an uplifting of mood.

The best way to include natural light in our homes is through the windows. “When designing a home or replacing windows”, Meyer says, “orientation is important and east west exposure for windows should be kept to a minimum”.

Meyers says that his goal is to, “place windows in the wall where the top of the window is at least 8 feet above the floor as this allows the light to be deflected from the ceiling and to be cast on surfaces below. When there is room above the window, the addition of transom or clearstory windows can add more light. Having 8-foot doors will add to the experience of light as well.”

In addition, Meyer is a fan of using windows to improve your homes ventilation. For instance, an open window on the ground floor and another on the second story creates a very inviting cross breeze and a pleasant experience for homeowners. By opening windows from opposite ends of the house a gentle movement of air can be established as well.

Window choices that prevent heat gain:

Rosie on the House Pella WindowsOf course, adding lots of glass can pose a dilemma of heat gain in the home as 50% of the heat that comes into the home is through the windows. Rosie says there are solutions to this dilemma. First, choose the right window. Rosie recommends investing in windows that are Energy Star rated. Rosie likes the Impervia line from Rosie-Certified Pella Windows & Doors with the following options:

  • Glass should have a Low-E (low emissivity) glass coating that prevents heat loss. Low-E glass works to keep your home more comfortable by reflecting heat back into the room in the winter and reflecting heat away from you home in the summer. Low-E glass blocks most of the sun’s harmful UV rays as well.
  • Dual pane windows filled with argon are another way to slow conduction of heat to the inside during the summer months, and the cold to the inside in the winter.
  • Impervia’s fiberglass frame is a much better choice than aluminum frames as they are
  • energy efficient, hold a high R-value and are long lasting and low maintenance.

Shade is an important factor If you do have windows that are facing east and west and aren’t planning on replacing them. Shade can reduce surface temperatures from 20-30 degrees or more. Window glazing, sunscreens and roll down shades can be affordably added to existing windows. Structural overhangs, patio covers, trees, and shade sails can all add eye appeal as well as shade!

Other architecturally interesting ways to add light are:

  • Dormers are the windows that project vertically from a sloped roof and will keep the light coming into second story rooms.
  • Clearstory windows are a large window or a series of small windows along the top of a structure’s wall, usually at or near the roof line, creating a pleasant flood of light.

Skylights can be added as part of the original design or as an upgrade:

  • Sky lights can be put in every room of the house and even on patio ceilings. Chip Marvin, owner of Rosie-Certified Freelite, says that the Velux solar skylights are a hot item. They are a high performing option. Features include white or clear low E glass with argon. They have the ability to open and allow ventilation with automatic sensors that close in the event of rain. Automated, pleated blinds are available in ‘Room Darkening’ and ‘Light Filtering’ versions in 30 colors. If you choose the solar powered version there is a 51% state and federal credit available (solar rebates go down some each year). There are sizes available for easy replacement if you If your current skylights are curb mounted!
  • Tubular skylights-like the Velux Sun Tunnels by Velux are a good choice if you want a sky light installed in a difficult spot. They offer different types of decorative diffusers to enhance the quality of light.

Decorating considerations that bring more light into your home

  • Paint | choose colors that reflect rather than absorb light. Lighter colors and variations of white allow for a brighter room.
  • Window coverings | dark and heavy drapes are great for keeping the house cool but can create a dark and depressing room. If you like your drapes make sure they stack up on the sides without interfering with the windowpanes and restricting light. Adding sunscreens or cellular shades will decrease the need to have them closed as much.
  • Mirrors placed in the path of sunrays provide for playful interludes with lighting.
  • Reflective surfaces of hardware and light fixtures will provide another layer of light.

Good light improves the comfort and value of our home. In addition, light provided through natural sources like windows and sky lights can add a sense of well-being for those who live there as they help to bring light and air into the home connecting us with the outdoors.



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