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Brighten rooms with skylights

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Dear Jim: I have seen how a skylight can brighten a room and make it appear larger. I want to install a venting model for summer cooling, but we have an attic above it. Can we install one, and what features are best? — Art W.

Dear Art: You are absolutely correct about the positive effect that adding a skylight can have on an otherwise ordinary room. I installed a large super-efficient one in my family room. It really brightened my room.

Skylights are not just for rooms with sloped cathedral ceilings. Many are installed in rooms with attics. All you have to do is build an insulated tapered lightwell between the roof and the ceiling. With the new controls available, you can open a venting skylight with a hand-held TV-type remote.

From an energy efficiency standpoint, adding a high-quality efficient skylight is about a wash in the winter. It loses more heat than an insulated attic floor or ceiling, but it reduces the need for electric lights and provides some passive solar heat gain from the sunshine.

In the summer, a venting skylight is an energy saver. Since the hottest air in a room stagnates up at the ceiling, the skylight will exhaust it. This creates a natural air flow drawing fresh cooler outdoor air in your windows.

If you have been to a local home center store to look for skylights, you have probably seen, at most, five percent of the styles and designs available. There is a huge array of shapes, frame designs, flat and domed glass and plastic glazing, etc. Make sure to look through all the companies' brochures first.

Two major design features to consider are the frame and the glazing. The strongest frames are made of wood with durable aluminum cladding.

Another strong design fuses a fiberglass frame to the glazing. Proper sizing is also important: too small is ineffective, and too big looks out of place.

The glazing options are similar to new efficient window glass. Double pane glass, with a low-emissivity coating and argon gas in the gap, is a good choice for most homes and climates. Super-efficient Heat Mirror glass is available for cold climates. Triple glass/acrylic panes are another option.

Since you plan to install a venting skylight in a lightwell, consider getting one with a hand-held or wall-mounted remote control. Without it, you probably won't open it as often as you should. The remote can also be used to open and close mini-blinds or other shades under the skylight.

For a steeply pitched roof, as in a remodeled attic, a floor-to-ceiling balcony-style skylight is ideal. When it is opened, the lower half forms a balcony with a handrail. The upper half becomes a glass cover over your head.

Write for (instantly download — www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 522 — buyer's guide of 12 skylight manufacturers listing frame materials, shapes, flashing/ glazing options, accessories, features, sizing chart and lightwell construction details. Please include $3 and a business-size SASE. James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Dear Jim: I am remodeling my living room, and I will add some additional wiring. I am trying to determine the proper size wire for the 20-amp circuit breaker so appliances that I plug in do not get damaged. — Ron P.

Dear Ron: Always call your local building inspections department first and check on any specific local code requirements. In general, installing 12-gauge wire is compatible with a 20-amp circuit breaker. Keep in mind that the purpose of a circuit breaker is not to protect the appliances that are plugged into the wall outlet. Its purpose is to keep the wiring inside the walls from overheating and starting a house fire.