Summary: Advice for increasing natural light in the home, discussing the benefits of natural light, increasing natural light, glazing, entrances, conservatories and interior glazing.
Living in a light, bright environment has a positive affect on mood, creating an uplifting ambiance that you will enjoy spending time in. Increasing the natural light in your home can even improve your health and energy levels, as well as keep fuel bills low. The lighter a room is, the more spacious it seems – so investing in additional windows or glazing can turn a poky room into a palatial one, which will certainly add to the value of your home! Of course we aren’t all lucky enough to have south facing houses and unlimited budgets so in this feature you will also discover ways to create an illusion of light and use electric lighting to best advantage.
The benefits of natural light
More than 1 in 50 people in the UK suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and as many as 1 in 8 experience ‘winter blues’. Natural light not only remedies this condition but can also help improve our general health. It is widely acknowledged that natural light can boost health by strengthening the immune system, effecting vitamin D production, and heightening energy levels. Employers have noted greater production and efficiency in their employees when natural light levels in the workplace are increased and the same applies to the home.
The other major advantage of increasing the natural light in your home is that you will save money on your heating and lighting bills, and help save the environment. We have all heard of the greenhouse effect and its devastating impact on the planet, but you can actually use the principle to protect the environment: installing insulated glazing will trap the sun’s energy in your home, as in a greenhouse, so you can turn down your heating. The most direct way of using the sun’s energy is through solar panels but even enlarging your windows will let more natural light in, reducing the amount of electric lighting required.
Increasing natural light
If you are designing your home from scratch, you can maximise the light by choosing the most advantageous places for windows etc. For most people, it will be a case of working around what you have already in the way of windows and doors.
The first thing you can do is replace your curtains with slatted or thin fabric blinds, and replace existing light bulbs with “natural” (full spectrum) bulbs or light tubes. The next stage is to enlarge or add windows and glazing panels or install a conservatory. You will need planning permission to change the appearance of your house from the outside but if you can prove an environmental benefit to your ideas, you may find planners more supportive.
Glass is an extremely fashionable building material, and blends well with classic or contemporary interiors. Now that glazing has become more energy efficient, you can use more glass in your home construction without sacrificing heat or suffering noise and glare. Replacing a window or entrance with sheet glass, or adding glazing between rafters in the roof can make a room much lighter and look stylish too.
If you have a modern décor, you could go as far as to replace walls, ceilings and floors with insulated glazing, and make your view more accessible. Popular rooms for glazed walls or French windows include bathrooms, creating a spa-like atmosphere, and dining areas, enabling you to eat under the stars all year round. If privacy is an issue, choose a textured, patterned or opaque glass that will let light in but keep prying eyes out.
A good place to start, not surprisingly, is the entrance. Swap an exterior door into the garden for a glass patio door or French windows. Build a glass porch or install sidelights and transoms around the door to add light and warmth. If you are thinking of replacing an entrance with glazing or enlarging a window, bear I mind the following points:
- North-facing windows will have constant light but the light tends to have a cold quality.
- East-facing windows get the morning light.
- South-facing windows receive the brightest sunlight, which can be quite intense in summer and are therefore often positioned under the eaves.
- West-facing windows get the evening sun, which tends to be quite glaring, making glare-resistant glazing a necessity.
You can improve ventilation and lighting problems in attic rooms and extensions easily by fitting a skylight. Remember to use energy-efficient glass, which is economical, durable, and reduces external noise. You can even buy electrochromic glass that can be lightened and darkened by remote control like self-tinting sunglasses. Other technological advances now give you control over insect screening and automatic rain sensors as well as awnings and blinds.
Building a conservatory is not only a cost effective means of extending your property; it is also a good way of making an adjoining room lighter. The range of conservatories is huge, from Victorian timber deigns to minimalist frameless glazing, so consult a conservatory specialist to help you choose the right one for you. Some suppliers also offer an installation service or you could get in a local builder to do the job. Remember it is worth spending the extra to get the best-insulated glazing as a conservatory can significantly add to the value of your home.
Glass block or panel partitions and windows break up solid walls for a more open feel and allow light to diffuse into neighbouring rooms. You can use glazing to illuminate dark stairwells, halls, corridors and walk-in closets, or add light wells to let light into basements and cellars. Glass floors and open tread staircases distribute light between floors.
- Installing a wall light
- Installing two-way switches
- Replacing a ceiling light
- Wiring low voltage spotlights