Urban Natural Homes September 11, 2015

Daylighting: Bringing the Sunlight In


Using the sun to light indoor spaces—otherwise known as daylighting—seems like a no-brainer. Utilizing Mother Nature’s sun rays contributes to our over-all health and also decreases our dependence on electric lights, which consume energy and money. And yet is highly unlikely that the builder who constructed your home gave much, if any, thought to the sun patterns of the lot location or to the design features that would best utilize this free and vital resource. Rather than passively relying on electric lighting to make up for poor design however, consider a number of things you can do to recapture this natural resource.

First, take some time to observe and note how sun migration patterns affect the available light in your home throughout the day. For example, which rooms face east and get morning sun? And which face west and get evening sun? Remember that these patterns will shift significantly with the seasons—so getting a thorough understanding could take some time.

Once you have done your research, start to consider the smaller changes you could make to let more light into those areas in which you would like it and evaluate potential causes for the deficiency of sunlight. Are outside plants blocking light? If so, cut back foliage, hold curtains back from windows during the day and keep window glass clean to let in as much sunlight as possible. More easy fixes include:

–Painting interior window frames, walls and ceilings a light color to reflect incoming light. Avoid dark floor coverings and furnishings.

–Consider well-placed mirrors to bounce sunlight deeper into a room.

–Be sure to have light colored surfaces outside windows as well such as on the underside of eaves or on porches.

If these smaller fixes don’t do the trick, start evaluating your windows. Today’s window technology allows you to bring sunlight into your home while minimizing undesirable levels of heat, glare and ultraviolet rays. And because sunlight is so bright, you generally don’t need large expanses of glass to light a room—just proper placement. Here are some window facts to consider:

–The best daylighting is usually diffuse light shining on light-covered surfaces. As north-facing windows provide the most diffuse light and create the least glare, consider adding windows on the north side of your home.

–Placing windows on at least two walls of a room provides balanced light distribution and reduces glare.

–Higher windows throw light deeper into a space than lower windows, thereby providing more light throughout a room. It follows that the most effective way to enlarge a window is to increase its height.

In addition to traditional windows, consider the possibility of skylights or even bringing daylight into darker rooms from lighter adjacent rooms by inserting windows or openings in interior walls. You may just find that a few well-placed sunny entry points have the potential to dramatically change the entire look and feel of your home.