Launch Slideshow

Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light

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    3form. Translucent panels from the Varia Ecoresin line allow for a range of daylighting uses in walls, partitions, and doors, or at the ceiling to soften rays from a skylight. Made with Ecoresin, a material with 40 percent post-industrial recycled content, the panels come in a variety of gauges, textures, and colors, and with varying levels of light diffusion. 801-649-2500. www.3-form.com.
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    Duo-Gard. Translucent illumaWALL is made of polycarbonate or resin art panels that transmit diffused natural light. At night, integral LEDs can be programmed to change colors. Pictured is a meditation room designed by the Virginia Tech School of Architecture for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The double-glazed walls filled with Nanogel Aerogel (optional) achieve R-10 with high light transmission. 800-872-4404. www.duo-gard.com.
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    NanaWall Systems. The Segmented Curves vanishing glass wall system on this California home has nine angle changes, bringing in more daylight than a flat wall while redefining the boundaries between indoors and out. The Energy Star-rated glass, which balances solar gain and U-value, is held in an SL70 thermally broken aluminum-frame folding system. 800-873-5673. www.nanawall.com.
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    Pella. Designer Series windows are available with triple-pane glass, which the company says can cut a home's heating and cooling bills by nearly a third. Between-the-glass blinds and shades let homeowners adjust light levels and are protected from dirt and dust. Cellular shades come in 15 colors and offer top-down or bottom-up light control. 800-374-4758. www.pella.com.
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    Solatube. Daylighting goes multifunctional with the ventilation add-on kit, for use in moist areas like baths and laundry rooms. The fan, which turns on with a switch, attaches seamlessly to the 160 Daylighting System, which illuminates up to 200 square feet, or the 290 DS, which lights 300 square feet. 888-765-2882. www.solatube.com.
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    Technical Glass Products. Pilkington Profilit channel glass can be formed into straight or curved walls for interior or exterior applications. The self-supporting glass is available in a variety of textures and colors with varying translucency, allowing light through while maintaining privacy. Nanogel Aerogel insulation can be added for a soft, even dispersion of light and enhanced energy efficiency. 800-426-0279. www.tgpamerica.com.
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    Velux. The electrochromic SageGlass skylight can be tinted with the touch of a button, reducing solar heat gain by 75 percent while maintaining the sky view. An automatic timer lets users program the glass to darken during specified times of the day. The glass has a double low-E coating that's balanced to let in natural light while limiting solar gain. 800-888-3589. www.veluxusa.com.

In the meantime, pros have plenty of high- and low-tech options to keep homes bright and open while maintaining aesthetics and optimizing energy efficiency.

Plugging into the Sun

Hybrid solar is an elegant new technology that uses solar collectors to track and magnify the sun's rays, which are then channeled through flexible fiber-optic bundles to hard-to-reach interior rooms. "The sunlight is concentrated about 400 times, so the opening required in the roof is much smaller than it would be for a skylight to bring in the same amount of light, resulting in fewer thermal and moisture leaks," explains Curt Maxey, senior research engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which pioneered the technology for commercial use.

The residential equivalent is the Swedish-made Parens fiber-optic skylight. It consists of a wall- or roof-mounted panel, about 3 feet square and 8 inches deep, fitted with 64 Fresnel lenses-scaled-down versions of those used in lighthouses. An internal fan circulates air to prevent heat buildup, and filters eliminate UV and infrared wavelengths. The fiber-optic cable can reach 60 feet into a house. "Unlike tubular skylights, the fiber optics are not affected by being bent and rotated," says Eric G. Huffman, vice president of Huvco Daylighting Solutions, which distributes the system.

With a retail cost of about $10,000, hybrid solar is being marketed to high-end homes.