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For those who live in a sunny or fair-weather climate, the sun can be a free and natural source of indoor lighting. This is called daylighting and should be considered an important part of any indoor lighting strategy. The basic principles are easy to understand and once you know them, they're even easier to follow.
Of course, the biggest issue with daylighting is the concern that sunlight can also bring in unwanted heat and increase the workload of your cooling system. However, just as there have been advances in artificial lighting, there have also been improvements in daylighting strategies - not the least of which is the invention of windows and skylights that can let in the light and resist the heat.
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Learn Basic Daylighting Strategies
According to the Department of Energy, if you allow the sun into your home through windows facing the south and north, you'll get better daylighting results than from windows facing east and west. The south-facing windows let in more sunlight in the winter and less during the summer. The north-facing windows let in relatively even light and almost no unwanted heat gain. Windows facing east and west, however, admit more heat in summer and less in winter - which is exactly the opposite of what you need.
Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Windows
When it comes to daylighting, the new energy-efficient windows and skylights are the key. They're designed to maximize illumination while minimizing the transmission of heat. In fact, some are more effective in certain areas than others, which can be seen by their VT rating (visual light transmittance), their SHGC rating (solar heat gain co-efficient) and other energy performance measurements
. Check the ENERGY STAR® label to discover the difference and to see which ones are right for you.
Make the Most of Solar Insulation
Remember, insulation is anything that can provide resistance to heat flow so solar insulation is anything that can keep the sun's heat out of your home. On the inside, you can use draperies
. On the outside, you can use awnings
, shutters or overhangs. Awnings, in particular, are effective in that they've been known to be able to reduce solar heat gain between 65% and 77%
in an average home.
Discover the Benefits of Strategic Landscaping
Another way to provide solar insulation is to plant, shape and prune your landscape
to maximize or minimize the daylight energy that enters your home. For example, leaf-shedding deciduous trees are a good option when you want shade in the summer and warm sunlight in the winter. On the other hand, lush evergreens can cool your home with year-round shade if you're in a hot and sunny climate. But whatever you choose, don't plant too close to your home or it might create moisture control problems.