What will it cost to bring more light into your home?
Did you know that a window tax applied to all houses in the United Kingdom and France during the 18th and 19th centuries? The more windows you had, the more tax you would pay. Fortunately that tax has long since been abolished.
The window tax was a form of property tax and it changed the face of residential architecture in England, Scotland, Ireland and France. To avoid the tax, some houses had window spaces that were bricked in, with the idea that they could be glazed at a later date (presumably when the house owners could afford the additional cost). In other cases, houses were designed to have as few windows as possible, leading to dark, gloomy interiors.
The window tax was designed to be a kind of income tax. Rich people, who generally had bigger homes with more windows, would pay more than poorer people. When the tax was lifted, we imagine there was a massive renovation boom as people across the UK scurried to get additional windows installed!
We didn’t have a window tax in New Zealand, but for many older Kiwi homes bringing lots of natural light into living, kitchen and bedroom spaces wasn’t a high priority. By today’s standards, the villas, bungalows, arts & crafts homes and Art Deco homes of the past are often severely lacking in the natural light department. So, for owners of older homes, the question arises…’what will it cost to add a window?’.
If you go the obvious way and ask a builder to quote you for adding windows to your historic home, expect an eye-watering cost estimate. Not only is there the actual cost of buying a complete new window that’s carefully crafted to match the original windows in your home, there can be major construction work involved with new window installation, especially if your home is brick or concrete plaster.
A far easier and cheaper solution to bring natural light into your home is to install a tubular skylight, a type of tunnel skylight that’s designed to bring natural, diffused light into dark rooms and hallways.
What is a tubular skylight?
A tubular skylight consists of a clear acrylic or polycarbonate dome that’s installed on your roof. During the day, light that enters the dome is reflected down a mirror-surface metal tube that connects to a ceiling dome in the room below. The internal ceiling diffuser has a special surface that disperses the light, allowing it to penetrate further into the room (so you won’t get the unfortunate ‘Mr Bean intro’ beam of light effect!).
Tubular skylights can be installed in as little as two hours and they have purpose-built flashings to ensure the weathertightness of your roof isn’t affected in any way. The installer will consult you about where the ceiling diffuser should be located.
In New Zealand the most popular tubular skylight is Solatube. A special feature of Solatube is the bands running around the external dome. These are actually small prisms that have been designed to capture more light and direct it into your home. They also minimise harsh midday sun.
Getting one Solatube installed costs around $1500 including G.S.T and installation*, which is significantly less than the cost of adding a window to a house; and significantly less time.
*Price dependent on tube length/height of attic space.