It’s here already; that means shorter days, less sunlight, gloomy shadows.

Most homes lack adequate sunlight, and most provide very little natural light. This can lead to light deprivation in the winter months, and in some cases, leads to SAD (see side bar). Daylight is essential to how we feel. Our sense of time and direction relies on the availability of direct sunlight. Daylight has proved to be an essential element to our well-being by relieving stress levels and helping the body produce vitamin D and absorb calcium-both essential elements to healthy bones.

Everyone from scientists and teachers to optometrists and dermatologists are now touting the benefits of natural light.

Following are some of the positive effects sunlight is credited with providing:

• Improves moods and combats depression

• Boosts energy and increases production levels

• Makes interior spaces appear larger

• Renders colors true

• Reduces eyestrain

• Conserves energy

• Brings the outdoors in

Homeowners crave light-filled rooms, and adding windows is one of the top remodeling projects in the nation today.

What is the difference?

Stuart McConnell, Mill Work Department Manager for Hammond Lumber in Belgrade, explained the difference.

“Skylights are stationary frames that maximize the glass area. Roof windows are similar, and come in stationary and venting styles,” he noted. “Consider how the room is to be used; operating roof windows can provide venting ability as well as light.”

The installation cost is usually equal, but the roof window will cost more in materials because it needs to be able to open. The roof window, according to McConnell, also will give more in terms of preventing heat loss. Skylights are not quite as air tight, so some heat escapes. The skylight has an added benefit, keeping the snow melted most of the time.

According to the experts at Andersen Corporation, the nation’s brand-leading window and patio door manufacturer, windows and skylights brighten and enhance living spaces, especially in homes with high ceilings and light-colored interiors. Interesting shapes such as arches, triangles and ovals are popular ways to bring in light.

According to McConnell, the location of a skylight or roof window depends on the use. Closets, bathrooms, kitchens, playrooms, garages and even porches are some places that can be lightened up.

Choose carefully

When you cut a hole in your roof and install a skylight, you have a right to be concerned about condensation and leakage.

“We deal with Anderson because they provide quality product,” said McConnell. “The best defense a homeowner can have is a professional installer, and a quality window using insulated, high performance, low-e glass for the best heating and cooling performance.” Anderson skylights may be ordered in any size from 16-44 inches wide and from 27 to 72 inches long. These widths eliminate the need to alter and reinforce the area prior to installation, he added, noting there are several things to consider:

• Choose high-quality windows.

• How long does the warranty last?

• What does it cover?

• Is it fully transferable should you sell your home?

• Is it pro-rated?

• Low-emissitivy (low E) glass (it’s an average of 41 percent more energy efficient in summer and 35 percent more energy efficient in winter than standard dual-pane glass).

•What type of maintenance will the window require?

McConnell stressed the importance of working with trained window experts and with quality contractors to install, or carefully follow the directions if you plan to do it your self.

SOLATUBE alternative

Phil Pacquin, owner of American Modernizing Inc. in Auburn, has been improving homes for 35 years. As part of his vision to stay current with modern ways to improve homes with a minimum of time and investment, Pacquin became a “Solatube, the Miracle Skylight” distributor.

“For many people, time is too precious to invest in a time consuming remodeling job to bring more light into low light areas, such as the kitchen, shower stall, a hallway, the home office and attic to mention a few areas. The beauty of Solatube skylight is that it provides a tremendous amount of natural light from a remarkably small light source,” said Pacquin.

The Solatube uses space-age materials that ensure maximum light transfer in direct sunlight as well as ambient lighting conditions. The reflector inside the collector dome increases the amount of daylight captured, transferring it to the desired location down through the tube.

The compact design fits between between roof rafters without structural modifications, and the standard angle adapters allow for easy installation around attic obstructions. Since it requires no framing, dry walling or painting, it’s cost effective.

The Solatube Brighten up Series, comes in 10- and 14-inch sizes. The 10″ tube is ideal for small bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, walk-in closets and small windowless interior offices. The 14 “adds bathrooms, living areas, entryways, walk-in closets and home offices, and has commercial applications. The 16″ and 21” are often used for large areas or areas with high ceilings.

According to Pacquin, the easy installation is maintenance free, has a weatherproof, sealed system that locks out dust, moisture and insects. The pre-assembled kits make installation easier and faster.

“I can add the beauty of natural light to areas that might not otherwise be able to have natural light for $650-$750 installed, with a 10 year product warranty. The only thing a home owner sees on the roof is just the roof done assembly and flashing.’ said Pacquin

If your home needs more natural light, there is an affordable solution. Calculate your needs, your budget (time and money) and then go ahead, lighten up. For more information, you can contact:

• Hammond Lumber (800-439-2354) Stuart McConnell-Anderson Windows and Skylights

• American Modernizing Inc. Auburn (783-3303, 800-228-8990) Phil Pacquin, Solatube the Miracle Skylight

How SAD are you?

Some people suffer from depression during the winter months, with symptoms subsiding during the spring and summer. This may be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a mood disorder associated with depression episodes and related to seasonal variations of light. SAD was first noted before 1845, but was not officially named until the early 1980’s.

As sunlight has affected the seasonal activities of animals (i.e., reproductive cycles and hibernation), SAD may be an effect of this seasonal light variation in humans.

As seasons change, there is a shift in our “biological internal clocks” or circadian rhythm, due partly to these changes in sunlight patterns. This can cause our biological clocks to be out of “step” with our daily schedules. The most difficult months for SAD sufferers are January and February, and younger persons and women are at higher risk.

Symptoms include:

• Regularly occurring symptoms of depression (excessive eating and sleeping, weight gain) during the fall or winter months.

• Full remission from depression occurs in the spring and summer months.

• Symptoms have occurred in the past two years, with no non-seasonal depression episodes.

• Seasonal episodes substantially outnumber non-seasonal depression episodes.

• A craving for sugary and/or starchy foods.

Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, has been linked to SAD. This hormone, which may cause symptoms of depression, is produced at increased levels in the dark. Therefore, when the days are shorter and darker, the production of this hormone increases.


Photo therapy or bright light therapy has been shown to suppress the brain’s secretion of melatonin. Although there have been no research findings to definitely link this therapy with an antidepressant effect, many people respond to this treatment. The device most often used today is a bank of white fluorescent lights on a metal reflector and shield with a plastic screen.

For mild symptoms, spending time outdoors during the day; arranging homes and workplaces to receive more sunlight may be helpful. One study found that an hour’s walk in winter sunlight was as effective as two and a half hours under bright artificial light.

If photo therapy does not work, an antidepressant drug may prove effective in reducing or eliminating SAD symptoms, but there may be unwanted side effects to consider. Discuss your symptoms thoroughly with your family doctor and/or mental health professional.

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