6 Unexpected Ways Traditional Commercial Skylights Actually Increase Energy Costs

By Jeff Brain | February 02, 2015

The idea of adding skylights to an office, school, warehouse or other commercial building can be enticing. After all, skylights increase illumination and give a building a more open and airy look, especially when the space for windows is limited. Because they illuminate your building with sunlight during daytime hours, it is commonly assumed that they will always reduce energy costs. However, the opposite may actually be true if you currently have an inefficient skylight system or if you choose to invest in the wrong option for your building.

Ways Traditional Skylights Increase Your Energy Costs

Traditional skylights are subjected to raw solar energy with no way to harvest or diffuse it. Oftentimes, they can offer too much of a good thing and actually increase energy consumption and operating costs for your company. Below are the most common ways that  inefficient traditional skylights drive-up costs:

1. Skylights increase solar heat gain during the summer: Because of their stationary, horizontal positioning, traditional skylights receive the sun’s rays when the sun is directly overhead, at it highest and hottest place in sky. Consequently, they are subject to even more heat than vertical windows. The U.S. Consumer Energy Center estimates that inefficient skylights absorb as much as four times the solar heat as vertical windows, making a building hot and humid in the summer and expensive to cool.

2. Increase heat loss during the winter: Because heat rises, a building will lose 35-45% more heat from a skylight than from a window installed in the side of a building, according to the U.S. Consumer Energy Center. As a result, your heating system will have to work harder and use more energy to compensate for the heat lost through traditional skylights.

3. Placement dictates energy consumption: Placement is essential when planning skylights for your building. South-facing skylights in North America result in the greatest solar heat gain--requiring more air-conditioning--and are best avoided in all but the coldest climates. On the other hand, east-facing skylights contribute the most heat gain in the morning with high quality light. Skylights facing the west will have higher heat gain due to the strength and position of afternoon sunlight, while north-facing skylights will provide cool but constant light. To avoid all of the potential heat gain and higher cooling costs, you can select a commercial skylight that utilizes glazing technology that minimizes solar heat gain.

4. Condensation forms in your building: Leaking can be a problem with traditional skylights if they are not installed properly or if they are not manufactured with the appropriate materials. Not only can this lead to expensive water damage, but it can also result in increased energy costs as your HVAC system works harder to remove the extra moisture from the air.

5. Skylights encourage ice dams: In cold climates, another problem with skylights is that they can form a ridge in the roof line where snow and ice gather. The additional ice on the roof wears down roofing material, and also makes it more expensive to heat the building.

6. Inefficient lighting: Another major problem with traditional skylights is that they do not provide consistent light. Instead, they provide light during peak midday hours and only so long as the sky is clear. The sunlight also pools in spots on the floor rather than diffuses throughout the roof, which creates glare on surfaces and screens. Traditional commercial skylights often require supplemental electric lighting to illuminate the spaces that are not lit by the sun, further increasing energy consumption.

Efficient Alternatives to Traditional Skylights

Traditional commercial skylights, if not carefully selected, may cause an unexpected increase in energy costs in commercial applications. To prevent this from occurring, select a skylight option that is fit for commercial applications and also has the testing and certifications that show the unit is designed to cut energy waste and withstand environmental elements.

Ciralight SunTrackers are an energy-efficient alternative to traditional commercial skylights. These off-the-grid, solar-tracking skylights offer superior lighting for commercial buildings, and they control solar heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. While traditional skylights only provide a glass barrier between your building and outside elements, SunTrackers use double-pane construction to minimize heat loss and gain, and they are rain and wind-proof. Plus, their active design brings abundant, diffuse, natural light into a building from sun-up to sundown.

To learn more about how Ciralight SunTrackers can reduce your energy bills while providing free sunlight indoors for up to 10 hours per day, contact our sales team today!

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