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Skylight Tube Kit Is an Easy Way to Add Light


QUESTION: My kitchen, bathroom and hallway are too dark. I prefer no-cost natural light, but skylights are too expensive and difficult to install. How effective are do-it-yourself low-cost skylight tube kits?

ANSWER: Natural light, with its excellent color rendition, is especially appealing in a kitchen. It makes foods look more appetizing. Natural light is full-spectrum, which has been shown to help alleviate the winter "blues" that some people suffer.

Skylight tube kits are easy to install yourself. I installed a skylight tube in my garage in about one hour. Unlike in the installation of a large skylight, no cutting of joists or support framing is needed.

A basic skylight tube kit uses a 10- to 20-inch diameter tube with a highly reflective interior. It runs from the roof to the ceiling. On a sunny day, one provides the equivalent light of 15 100-watt bulbs. Since the diameter is small and totally sealed, the tube is very energy-efficient.

One unique skylight tube kit has an optional built-in vent fan for kitchens and bathrooms. The vent inlet is hidden inside the decorative ceiling trim collar. A small, quiet exhaust fan is located high up under the roof. Built-in nighttime electric light kits are also available.

From indoors, a skylight tube looks just like a standard globe light fixture on the ceiling. Some kits include decorative oak wood trim for putting around the indoor globe. The other end of the tube, which extends through the roof, is covered with a waterproof, break-proof, clear acrylic dome.

The dome extends only a few inches above the roof. The interior of the tube is made super-reflective by being highly polished or laminated with a special reflective film. Light just bounces back and forth inside the tube as it makes its way down into your kitchen or hallway.

Since it is so reflective, very little brightness is lost. Skylights are effective even on steeply pitched roofs where the tube must be long to reach up to the roof. Adding a standard skylight would be difficult.

Most rigid skylight tubes are made of lightweight sheet steel or aluminum. Various designs of angled dome flashings are available to simplify mounting and sealing on all types of roofing materials. Optional angled sleeves allow routing around an attic obstruction.

If the attic space has many obstructions, choose a skylight tube made of a flexible corrugated material. This special tube is very reflective on the inside and can be bent and twisted in any direction. Write for Update Bulletin No. 554, which includes a buyer's guide of high-efficiency do-it-yourself skylight tube kits listing sizes, features, prices and installation instructions. Please include $2 and a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Pre-Hung Door Is Easiest to Install Q: My old front door is leaky, and I need to replace it before next winter. Is it better to buy a separate door, frame and hinges or just get a more expensive pre-hung door?

A: Unless you are a handyman and have replaced doors before, I would recommend a pre-hung door. It can be difficult to line up everything properly for an airtight seal if you buy all the components separately.

Many pre-hung doors come with special attachment methods for the do-it-yourselfer. For example, Pease uses an adjustable jamb / jack design. Once the door is installed, the fit can be easily adjusted.

What Sun Room Design Is Most Efficient? Q: I am planning the addition of a sun room to my house. I will use it for growing some plants and hope to get some free solar heating in the winter from it.

Should I get one with a slanted or vertical front?

A: Get one with a vertical or near vertical front. Although the slanted front designs are usually less expensive, they tend to overheat in the summer, even in northern climates.

If you plan to use your sun space to help heat your house in the winter, include adequate solar mass. This is often accomplished with a heavy brick or concrete floor. You will also need a fan to move the warm air indoors.


Letters and questions to Dulley, a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant, may be sent to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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