Skylights and Lightning Protection
The Arizona Republic
If you love natural daylight, there’s no better way to get it than through a window in your roof.
Conventional skylights are as small as two feet by two feet and as large as eight feet by eight feet. You can put them in any room that connects to your roof, although kitchens are by far the most popular place for them.
A big skylight in your ceiling can have a dramatic effect on the room. If you choose clear glass, you can look out the skylight and see the clouds. If you prefer a softer, diffused light, go with white glass. You also can choose acrylic, although glass is more energy efficient.
And keep energy efficiency in mind when you choose your skylights. Where there’s light, there’s heat, so the larger the skylight, the more hot sunshine gets into your room. Beat the heat by investing in a manual or motorized shade or a heat blocker that you attach like a shower cap to the outside of the skylight during the summer.
You also can buy skylights with screens and hand-cranks or motors to open and close the window. Some models have sensors so they automatically close if it rains.
A basic skylight will cost between $1,000 and $3,000, and you can add options on from there.
If light is your goal and you’re not concerned about the view, you can save a pile of money by installing a tubular skylight instead of a conventional, window-type model. A tubular skylight looks much like a light fixture in the ceiling. It’s a self-contained modular unit with a clear acrylic dome on the roof. A polished, highly reflective tube ducts down through the attic and ends with a lens that you will see on your ceiling.
Tubular skylights are most popular in bathrooms and laundry rooms. They’re more utilitarian than decorative, and they cost around $500 installed. A handy do-it-yourselfer could save on installation costs.
Arizona claims more lightning strikes than any state except Florida, and they’re concentrated mostly during monsoon season.
As we build more homes in the once-open desert, lighting is finding more homes to strike.
When it does, it’s looking for the path of least resistance to the ground. Your home is an easy path to the ground. Once lightning strikes your home, it’s likely to damage your electrical panel or other electrical equipment that’s grounded.
If it aims for your roof and you’ve got an air conditioning unit or evaporative cooler up there, that’s probably what it will hit.
The solution: Install lighting rods (called “air terminals” by the pros) on your roof—and on your rooftop equipment.
“You can’t stop lighting,” says my friend Bob Ross, owner of Lightning Busters in Apache Junction, “but you can direct it. It’s like a large locomotive that’s coming down the track. You can’t stop the locomotive, but with a track switch, you can change the direction.”
He recommends that homeowners install 12-inch lightning rods about every 20 feet on the roof, along with a whole-house surge protector. For a 2,400-square-foot home with a pitched roof, you’ll pay from $1,800 to $2,500 to have that package installed. Garages and homes with flat roofs cost extra, as do decorative rods like weather vanes.
Skylights and lightning protection are rooftop options that can make your home more beautiful and safer for your family.