Winterizing your light sources: Window and skylight tips

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 17, 2012

(ARA) – Sunshine and summer go together like coconut and pineapple. Yet when winter arrives with shorter days and cooler temperatures, the amount of sun that enters your home can be more important than at any other time of year.

Inadequate sunlight can influence seasonal mood changes, vitamin D deficiency and even your utility bills. It’s important to prepare for winter by taking care of the portals that allow natural light into your home: windows and skylights.

Caulking and weather stripping are the two most common ways to prep windows, and the jobs are easily within the abilities of most do-it-yourselfers. Washing windows should also be part of your winter-preparedness measures; clean windows will allow the maximum amount of room-warming sunlight to enter your home.

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Winterizing skylights is also important. Skylight manufacturer Velux, offers these tips for preparing your skylights for cooler months, as well as for year-round care and maintenance:

* Have your fixed or venting skylights inspected by a qualified professional. While issues such as damaged claddings or flashings would be obvious, other problems might only be diagnosed through a professional inspection.

* Remove any debris that has accumulated around the exterior of the skylight. Take appropriate care when climbing on the roof and consider hiring a professional if you’re not confident of your safety skills.

* Thoroughly clean the glass part of your skylight, inside and out. You’ll likely need a ladder to reach it, so be sure to take steps to prevent a fall. Use a mild, non-abrasive glass cleaner and a soft brush or other non-abrasive applicator to clean the glass, and immediately remove the cleaner with a squeegee or lint-free cloth. Never use metal scrapers, knives or blades of any kind to clean large areas of glass.

* Clean interior frames – often pre-painted wood or plastic – with a damp cloth or mild, soapy water for tougher dirt. Remove insect screens in venting skylights, spray with a garden hose and allow them to dry completely before replacing them.

* If your skylight’s pre-finished wood frame needs refinishing, thoroughly remove the factory finish. Make sure the surface is clean, then apply a coat of water-based acrylic varnish or paint, following the manufacturer’s instructions for application. Be sure to keep all varnish and paint off the skylight gaskets and glass. Velux does not recommend painting over plastic frames and sashes.

* Care for the mechanics of your skylights. Open venting skylights (turn off the power if they’re electric) and wipe off the chain using a clean, dry towel and no cleaner or solvent of any kind. For manual skylights, inspect the loop or crank handle to ensure it’s secure. Don’t add lubrication to your skylight’s moving parts; the internal workings of manual and electric operators are considered maintenance-free, and are pre-lubed, so they should require no additional lubrication.

* Add blinds. A must-have aesthetic accessory available in more than 100 colors and patterns, blinds also provide extra insulation and allow you to control the amount of sunlight that enters through your skylights. They are also particularly effective at retaining heat during cool weather; studies show that adding a blind to make a complete skylight system can increase energy efficiency by 37 percent.  That gain in efficiency jumps to as much as 45 percent with a blackout blind used on a fixed skylight, according to Velux. Plus, you may be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit for solar blinds.

* Consider an inexpensive upgrade from fixed skylights to venting models. Venting skylights can help you enjoy fresh fall air by providing passive ventilation in addition to more natural light. If you happen to be replacing your roof, there is no better time to upgrade skylights, since most roofers will charge up to double to come back and replace units versus doing the job while replacing the roof. By upgrading, you can also gain the benefits of a “No-Leak” warranty, plus greater energy efficiency with advanced glass coatings. Finally, if you happen to be replacing a plastic bubble skylight with an Energy Star-qualified glass model, you can save up to $194 per year on your cooling costs.

Winterizing your windows and skylights can help ensure they provide you with the maximum amount of healthful, natural light during the dark, cold months of winter.