In winter, one of a home’s most valuable assets is natural light. A dark home will not only affect your mood, but will also harbour mould and dampness.
For this reason the more light you allow in the better. Keep in mind, though, that come summer your needs will change and openings may need to be shaded to avoid overheating.
The most costly way to increase solar access to your home is to install new windows or glazed doors. There are so many options, but before you spend a lot of money there may be other ways to coax the winter sun inside.
Think about the orientation of your home. Are your windows overshadowed by overgrown trees or shrubs? Pruning alone may solve your light problem and it’s worth trying this before you even think about more expensive solutions.
If you’re re-landscaping, think carefully about the type of trees and plants you use around your home. In areas near windows and doors, especially those facing north and west, consider planting deciduous species that will lose their leaves in winter to allow the sun to penetrate, whilst still providing a shady canopy in summer.
If you’ve exhausted these possibilities, then you’ll need to think about punching some more holes into the envelope of your home in the form of windows, glazed doors or skylights.
Older homes can be a particular challenge. Glass used to be one of the most expensive elements in construction. For this reason windows in homes built before the 1950s were generally small and few.
Providing new or larger windows in an older home is tricky if you want to preserve the integrity of your home. Horizontally proportioned windows, for example, were virtually unheard of before the 50s and look clumsy if used in the fa?e of a turn-of-the-century terrace.
It is more common to leave the front sections of older homes intact and provide a contemporary, open and airy extension at the rear that allows light to filter back into the older part of the home.
The easiest, cheapest and lowest-impact means of getting natural light into an older home is through the use of skylights.
Skylights can be installed to be virtually flush with the roof sheet and will bring natural light right into the room. In the case of two-storey houses, this will easily solve the light problem in upstairs rooms, but with careful planning can also bring light downstairs if installed over the stairwell.
There are also products available, such as solar-tubes, which can deliver light over longer distances. Internally these look like glowing light fittings and are a remarkable solution to providing natural light in hard-to-access spaces.
Skylights are available in many shapes and sizes. You can choose a model that appears to be a glowing square in your ceiling, or one that is simply a window at the top of a shaft to give a stronger connection with the sky.
Remember that heat is lost quickly through glass in the ceiling so it’s important your skylight is well-sealed. It may be worth purchasing a double-glazed model if you live in a very cold area. Skylights that feature a sealed shaft with ceiling panel will provide better insulation than those with an open shaft.
Ventilated or openable skylights are a good idea for summer months as they can be opened to allow heat that has accumulated near the ceiling to escape.
Whatever the solution, allowing more natural light into your home will make it a far more pleasant and healthier place to be over the winter months.