Tell me how you've reduced heat coming through your skylight.
October 22, 2015 10:26 PM   Subscribe

There's a big beautiful skylight in my house that lets in a ton of light (good!) and also a ton of heat (very bad!) Have you dealt with something like this?

So currently I'm planning to buy a cover like this, but I'd love to know if there's a better solution, or if anyone has experience with this company. The idea that heat ought to be blocked before it comes through the glass makes sense to me, but what do I know, and anyway, won't this thing rot in the sun and rain? Would love to hear other's solutions and how you found them - I can't quite figure out what kind of vendor I ought to be talking to, to figure out what the right answer is.

Bonus question: I find home ownership in general to be stressful and overwhelming. I don't know about any of this stuff or how I'm supposed to be maintaining it... Do you know of any resources that can teach me this and which are geared to hot climates? I don't need to know about shoveling snow. I need to know about California stuff like termites and fireproofing and AC units; and I especially need a comprehensive list of what kind of vendor to turn to about different problems that come up.
posted by fingersandtoes to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I see two problems with that cover - one is that it blocks most of the light as well as the heat which may be fine in the summer or not. the other is that if you open the window at night to vent, it may not close properly depending on the fit. Looks like it is pretty easy to install if you don't have any issues about getting up on the roof.

Another idea might be reflective window film. Definitely harder to install. (We did it on a regular window, wasn't too hard if you work carefully but it seems like you might want the film on the inside of the skylight (to avoid weather wear) so a little trickier. The benefit is that you get almost all of the sunlight with far, far less heat and you can just leave it place year round.
posted by metahawk at 11:34 PM on October 22, 2015

How old is the window? Modern window technology (I know that sounds hokey) has come a long way, and today's windows are able to deflect significantly more heat than those of 15+ years ago. If you want to maintain a balance of light and heat gain (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, or SHGC when you look at window specs) you may want to have a newer window installed.
posted by samthemander at 11:50 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

If a new window isn't in the cards (and it probably isn't worthwhile unless you plan to replace it soon anyways), then solar heat control window film is not a bad option to cut down on the heat coming in. You can buy a roll for $25 and do it yourself or hire a company that specializes in this.

I wouldn't bother with the cover. Installing things on the roof is a pain, it will need replacing, and it will block a lot of light (films and windows designed for this selectively block more heat than light, but that cover will just block everything more or less equally).
posted by ssg at 12:26 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

We installed a motorized Hunter Douglas window shade on our skylight, which blocked most of the sunlight and reduced the heat considerably. We can open it up during winter months with the wireless remote.

Works great, but not an inexpensive option. Still, it was much cheaper than redoing the roof to install a new window with a custom treatment — sadly, in our experience, window installers passed on installing a new skylight on our existing roof, because of $$$ liability from roof leaks and seal failures.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:31 AM on October 23, 2015

UV film will do it. Get the lightly mirrored kind. It'll block UV and some light so you get two birds with one stone and still let light in without just using a shade.

Seriously. Go to a plastic supply shop that sells it on a sunny day. Stand in the sun, then hold a sheet of that over your arm. Suddenly you'll barely feel any heat.

It wont eliminate the problem but it will make a huge difference.

Definitely do a sanity check and completely cover the skylight for a(sunny) day first and see how much heat you still gain. This might be a general insulation problem that's being misattributed to the light because it's an easy/obvious scapegoat. If it does make a noticeable difference, move on to the film.

It's cheap. Enough to do a whole skylight should only be like $30. Applying it is sort of tiresome on anything but a perfectly flat surface but it's not impossible.
posted by emptythought at 1:10 AM on October 23, 2015

Came in here to suggest UV film also. I got this off Amazon:

Reflective Silver 15% Window Film

and I am now able to stand underneath the skylights at noon in the middle of summer for more than 4 seconds.

I also ended up installing a set of these blinds (the double layer ones):

Cellular Light Filtering Skylight Blinds

This has reduced the heat coming in from the skylights probably by like 95%. Unfortunately for me that was only half the issue, the other half of the heat source is from bad or nonexistent insulation but that's a problem for another day.
posted by eatcake at 5:41 AM on October 23, 2015

I think the right answer depends on how the heat is getting in to the house. Is it poorly insulated, is the window framing/flashing/roof in bad shape, etc.

We had a 3M product put on our skylights for UV protection (after putting new wood floors in, wanted to prevent fading). You can get the product in darker tones to block light (or reflective tones) as well. It's a plastic sheet that will stick/bond to the glass. We're happy with the results - but depending on how much natural light from other sources you room gets, you may find it too dark.
posted by k5.user at 6:59 AM on October 23, 2015

Response by poster: followup clarification: the skylight has a domed shape, and I assumed that film could only be applied to straight surfaces? Is that wrong? Have those folks who put film on, been able to get it onto domed skylights?
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:19 AM on October 23, 2015

The issue you'll run into with the film is that there will be crinkles and creases since it's shaped to fit a flat surface and you're putting onto a curved one. I would make sure that the film I got was larger than the opening, apply as well as I could, and then trim off the excess.

It won't look great but it's not like you can see the actual window all that often, you'll still be getting a lot of light and a lot less heat, and will look a TON better than any kind of cover.

If cost weren't a concern, the better option would be to replace the window with one that has Low-E3 glass and is filled with argon (which is a better insulator than air). You can put a heat lamp on one side of that glass and it won't even feel warm on the other side.

Either of those assume that the glass itself is the weak point. If air is leaking through somewhere or it's well insulated around the frame of the window, you'd want to fix that first.
posted by VTX at 8:01 AM on October 23, 2015

You can try to put the film wherever you like but I think it will work best on flat glass. Depends on how desperate you are and how little you want to spend. If you have domed windows I would skip the film and get the blinds. Try it on one window and see how it goes. You might find that it's good enough for now.

Best solution is probably to replace the windows though. I would imagine that they are original to the house. Even the cheapo windows from Home Depot will have better insulating and heat reflecting/deflecting properties. Or you can eliminate them altogether.
posted by eatcake at 8:33 AM on October 23, 2015

When we moved into our house, the previous tenants had installed a fabric/mesh screen on the inside of the skylight for this purpose. We're in a cool, coastal part of the country, so it was only there to block light rather than heat, but let me tell you, we tore that thing out immediately because it was a dust/cobweb/dead bug/debris magnet. We opted against replacing it because it was so filthy, and we couldn't imagine a convenient way of cleaning it. I suspect an exterior mesh covering will also trap a fair amount of dust and debris, so keep that in mind (especially if the skylight can be opened). A film wouldn't have this problem.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:54 AM on October 23, 2015

More info about the 3M Film products:
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:45 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Could a thin sheet of plexi be fitted to slip onto the frame under the dome?
Something akin to what lateafternoondreaminghotel writes about but removable (to clean).
Then place UV film on the plexi.
posted by artdrectr at 11:42 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

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