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Originally published in Interiors & Sources

11/01/2013

Skylight Choices and Challenges

Focus on types, controls, and incentives so your project shines

By

 
How to choose the correct skylight.

Photo Credit: Firestone Building Products

Consider Controls
Automation can take your skylight project to the next level.

“Photocontrols in conjunction with daylighting produce the best bang for your buck,” Ahland says. “Skylights will certainly benefit buildings without controls, but most owners want to see impact on the bottom line. Controls ensure the lights get turned off.”

The human eye has difficulty detecting when light levels are acceptable. But controls can, in addition to making life easier for FMs.

“I’ve been in a building with skylights on a nice sunny day, and all the interior lights were on. With so many things going on, the building manager forgot, and I had to tell him to shut them off,” says Barmore. “An automated system takes the guesswork out.”

Controls can incorporate manual override, but you likely won’t be using that switch to turn lights on.

“In a study, we found users that thought the system was less aggressive than they wanted, so they shut fixtures off themselves,” Heschong says.

Investigate Incentives
To push your project over the top, find the sweet spot at the intersection of these three areas: reductions, rebates, and reroofing.

Lighting is one of the biggest pieces of the energy pie, so your first motivation is reduced energy costs. See sidebar for a case study with typical savings.

Success Story

VP Buildings performed a skylight retrofit on a 43,200-square-foot portion of its own production facility in St. Joseph, MO. The project’s successes include:

  • Increased footcandles from 5-12 to an average of 45.
  • Reduced electric lighting by 57%, saving $9,286 per year in energy costs.
  • Savings of $9,100 on upfront cost using rebates from the regional power company.
  • One-time tax deduction of $25,920 per the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which provides up to 60 cents per square foot for reducing lighting energy consumption.
“Generally a skylighting solution pays for itself within four to seven years,” says Barmore. “Afterwards, when you start saving on energy every month, that’s probably the biggest incentive.”

But if the cuts aren’t compelling on their own, look for rebates and tax credits.

Some regional utilities will cover part of the upfront cost for upgrades, and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides up to 60 cents per square foot for cutting lighting consumption.

However, a skylighting project may be most feasible when roofing is already in the budget plan.

“Reroofing is the best time for a retrofit because you can determine the best use of your capital,” Barmore says. “Ask yourself what you can get out of your roof.”

Don’t miss the big picture and reroof without reasoning.

“Think about holistic solutions. Don’t just focus on the roof or the lighting, because all systems interact and have an impact,” explains Ahland. “It’s not about one or the other. It’s about the entire pie.”

 

Chris Curtland christopher.curtland@buildings.com is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.


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