Natural light is an important feature of every home when building or decorating a house. Most homeowners don't recognize the important of natural light because it's not an object you see like walls, windows or furniture. Artists and those who understand lighting, make natural lighting a priority when picking their home or studio, and they make sure they don't block this light.
While we tend to focus on temperature with seasonal changes, the amount of daylight also changes significantly. Winter with it's shorter days, can be especially hard on some people who cherish natural light so if you get more tired, sluggish or depressed in the winter, one of the first things to look at is lack of adequate lighting.
Natural Light in Your Living Environment
Look around you and study the natural light coming into your home. Do it at different times of day and you'll see variations in the amount of sunlight a room gets. It wasn't until we started designing our new kitchen, that I realized how much extra sunlight the transom windows brought into my kitchen (new red kitchen below).
Most window decisions get made when a home is designed and positioned on the land. Green builders will focus on maximizing natural light during the winter and minimizing how much sunlight enters a home in the summer. You can't change the position of your house but you can change your windows and/or doors, so let's explore your options.
- Replace existing windows with larger windows, i.e. by adding transoms above.
- Replace windows with patio doors where you have a deck (or plan to add one).
- Replace exterior doors with glass doors, or add glass sidelights and/or transom.
- Add a storm door to any exterior door, letting in more natural light during fall and spring.
- Add skylights or sun tunnels to rooms where the ceiling is directly under the roof or an unfinished attic.
- Replace solid interior doors, with glass doors to share sunlight from one room with an adjoining room.
Architects and other home designers have always had to balance more natural light versus reasonable heating and cooling costs. Today's homes have larger windows because they're built to be energy efficient, enhancing our homes with lots of natural lighting. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) includes natural light as a key element of healthy housing, along with artificial lighting, a comfortable environment, adequate space and protection from excessive noise.
Bedrooms, Bathrooms and Natural Light
While we might not spend as much “awake” time in our bedrooms or bathrooms, natural light is also important in these spaces. It's harder to wake up in a room that is dark in the morning and larger windows will provide better ventilation for a good night's sleep. There are activities that also need natural light like picking your clothes out or putting on makeup. My favorite for these rooms are the new sun tunnel skylights from Velux, providing natural light in small spaces.
Natural Light Challenges in Home Offices
In the past home offices have often been the dining room table, a nook in the family room or a spare bedroom. With roughly 28 million Americans work from home at least part-time, more formal home offices are becoming popular. You want to think through any improvements you make as home offices fall at the bottom of the list in terms of return on investment when selling.
Lighting work space in a home office, or even children's desks where they do schoolwork, is more challenging than other home based activities because of the close work you're doing and potential eye strain. Windows will provide natural light which helps create the overall environment or mood of the room.
Unfortunately you can't rely on natural light for all your work requirements. The position of the workspace and chairs may block the sunlight or even cause glare on computer monitors, making it difficult to read (learn more about natural light requirements when working at your computer). That's why you need to look at the activities happening in any room, and match lighting, both natural light and artificial light, to what each activity needs.