Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Daylighting for the winter

For a house to feel like a home and to enhance the quality of life, natural light is a fundamental aspect of daily living. It alters the way we perceive the indoor environment around us and creates a positive atmosphere that affects our moods and variations to make homes comfortable and welcoming. 

Human beings need daylight to undertake everyday tasks. It alters the body’s biological clock which makes us feel rested and refreshed at the start of a new day. Natural light affects the way we function as it plays a huge role in our mood, health and performance. In recent studies, daylight has proven to have a positive healthy effect on people who were adequately exposed to it on a regular basis. It improves health in patients with illnesses/disorders, enhances productivity in working people and improves concentration in students. 
Daylighting for the winter months is not sufficient in certain regions. We have all experienced a need for more sunlight when the weather is cold, dark and dreary. Our organism needs more light, so when it is not sufficient, then the production of hormone serotonin decreases and then the sleep hormone melatonin takes over in the brain. That is why; we tend to feel sleepy and lethargic when the weather is cold and dark outside. In some people, lack of exposure to sunlight causes depression and mood swings. This is where daylighting products come to the rescue for homes situated in cold regions. Daylighting products capture the rays of the sun even at an angle and transmit them indoors to all areas of the house. They provide better lighting for hard to reach dark areas and prevent the use of artificial lighting. This in turn saves a lot of money on electricity bills for homeowners. 
To get some extra natural light into your home, you can install windows on the north or south side. South facing windows let in more sunlight during winter and less sunlight during summer. North facing windows let in even distribution of sunlight so there is no unnecessary heat gain when the weather is hot. However, east and west facing windows let in less sunlight during winter and more sunlight during summer which causes discomfort for the occupants as it is exactly the opposite of what they need. 
Types of light that we get indoors include a combination of natural light from the sun, daylighting systems like solar lights and reflected daylight. Sunlight is the part of light that filters in naturally through windows. It is powerful, and gives any room in the house character, with light and shadow effects. Daylighting systems provide exceptional light output when compared to windows and traditional skylights. This is because they are compact and flexible and can be installed in any room indoors. This includes rooms with small spaces and no direct roof access. Its revolutionary technology captures sunlight through a dome on the roof and channels it indoors through an internal reflective system. The best part is, it is an eco-friendly product that prevents the use of electric lighting thus reducing utility bills and environment pollution. Reflected daylight is nothing but daylight that is reflected by external surfaces. This includes trees, the lawn, terrace, neighbourhood buildings, etc. But the daylight is relatively weakened because of the reflection.
Compared to these three sources of natural light, daylighting systems are the right solutions for lighting up indoor spaces all through the year and especially for the winter months.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A New Skylight Design from LRC Accounting for Seasonal Fluctuations

Skylights are the modern take on daylighting solutions, which provide your home with ample lighting and ventilation indoors. When optimized correctly, they provide energy-efficiency and play a huge role in heating and lighting costs.  However certain skylight models do not capture and reflect sunlight when the sun’s angle is low. Certain types of skylights also generate a lot of heat and create hot spots of light which can get really unpleasant and harsh for the people inside. 

A new skylight design created by the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute can capture and strategically redirect sunlight into buildings. The innovative light scoop technology provides optimal levels of daylight during any season and also when the weather conditions fluctuate. Funded by the York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the light scoop has a strategic angled glass which balances seasonal and light-level fluctuations which reduces the need for electric lights and providing optimal levels of daylight.

The designers of the light scoop technology say that this skylight can work very well in locations that experience overcast weather conditions. This is because the scoop is cleverly and innovatively designed to receive light from the zenith which is actually the brightest part of the sky. 

According to the institute, some models of horizontal conventional skylights provide too little sun on cold days and too much sun on warm and sunny days. While accounting for the natural pattern of the sun’s movement across the sky during the course of the day, the light scoop design balances out these seasonal and daily fluctuations in temperature and light level, thereby providing less light in summer more light in winter. Light scoops are the best fit for spaces where daylight is desirable like hallways, cafeterias and lobbies. There is also another added advantage where electric lights can be dimmed or turned off when daylight is available. This saves a lot of energy and money on operating costs. Light scoops can also save a significant amount of energy used for heating and cooling. Occupants are provided with a more pleasant environment and enjoy the health benefits of natural light indoors. 

To demonstrate the benefit of this light scoop technology, 14 of them were installed on an expansion of the Welch Allyn corporate headquarters in Skaneateles, New York in the year 2012. Then a survey was conducted to test its efficiency and satisfaction rate among the occupants. Also 90% of them liked or strongly liked the patches of sun received in the atrium. 

This proved that natural light is the most sought after attribute in residential and commercial buildings. The presence of pure, clean, daylight in abundance can make any interior space appear larger, while enhancing its visual appeal, without taking away its health benefits for an airy, brighter and more vibrant living environment.