4 top window options for light quality

July 23, 2011

Windows are the heart and soul of any home. Any architect will tell you that light can transform your space entirely, sometimes making or breaking even the most thoughtful home designs. Windows dictate how much your space interacts with the natural environment, but also the amount and quality of natural light that seeps in. The following four window options can improve your home's quality of light significantly.

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1. Think big: large windows maximize total light

If your goal is to maximize the amount of natural light within your space, bigger may be better. Look to the strength of steel windows for large, open panes. Look to brands like Cittrall, Hope and Torrance for well-rated steel products, but expect to pay up to $1,500 per window, depending on its size and the complexity of installation. If steel is too industrial for your taste--or too pricey for your budget--consider grouping smaller windows together using narrow sightlines. Either way, window installation costs tend to increase with window size, so homeowners on a budget should carefully consider window placement to ensure they get the most from their investment.

2. Clerestory windows and skylights: aim high

A clerestory was traditionally a term used only when discussing church designs, but today's architects use the term to describe any high windows, near the roofline. Typically long and narrow, clerestory windows improve your space's access to natural light without sacrificing privacy, making it an ideal solution in urban settings. According to CNN Money, placing windows close to the ceiling can boost window installation costs by as much as $400 each. Skylights--windows installed into the ceiling--are another, but often costly option. Velux is a well known and respected skylight manufacturer; prices range from about $300 plus installation for a baseline, tubular model to nearly $5,000 for a large, custom design.

3. Window grids: the fine line

Access to light is not the only thing that influences light quality; how light is filtered or broken up is an important consideration. Gridlines are the support lines across a window's pane. Scarce or thin gridlines maximize the amount of light entering your space, while decorative lines create a bit of atmosphere. Custom grid designs increase window costs somewhat, but as homeowners can still install replacement windows in traditional sizes and styles, are typically still affordable.

4. Window glazes: when less is more

When it comes to light, more is not always better, particularly with large, south-facing windows at the peak of summer. Window glazes are an affordable way to diffuse the light entering your space without replacing your windows entirely. Some treatments are clear, but filter out UV light that can cause wood or fabric to fade over timeb while others simply limit the amount of light getting through. Decorative glazes, like those that mimic rain drops or add color, pack an aesthetic punch.

If you didn't want to let the light in, you wouldn't need windows at all. Choose your windows for the amount and quality of light they provide, as much as for any other reason.

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