Daylight Harvesting: Natural Light Can Turn Your House Green

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As our concern over energy consumption and costs grow, so does our interest in more sustainable living, including daylight harvesting. Architects are once again carefully considering how their buildings receive natural light. Often the challenge is not only getting daylight into our homes but controlling it so that it is put to best use and does not result in glare, contrast problems, heat gain, UV damage to furnishings and lost energy savings opportunities. Hunter Douglas, the nation's leading manufacturer of custom window fashions, has been pioneering new options that embrace the power of light and offers these tips on how to best harvest natural light in your home.

"The history of architecture is the history of man's struggle for light - the history of the window," said Mies Van der Rohe, one of the twentieth century's most iconic architects. For centuries until the invention of the electrical light bulb, architectural design was in part dictated by daylight harvesting which is simply defined as, "the use of daylight as a primary source of illumination to support human activities in interior space."

As our concern over energy consumption and costs grow, so does our interest in more sustainable living, including daylight harvesting. Architects are once again carefully considering how their buildings receive natural light. Often the challenge is not only getting daylight into our homes but controlling it so that it is put to best use and does not result in glare, contrast problems, heat gain, UV damage to furnishings and lost energy savings opportunities. Hunter Douglas, the nation's leading manufacturer of custom window fashions, has been pioneering new options that embrace the power of light and offers these tips on how to best harvest natural light in your home:

  • Too much of a good thing

Allowing too much light into your home may result in higher cooling costs, furnishings damaged from exposure to harmful UV rays and glare that's hard on your eyes. Proper harvesting of light involves enhancing and controlling the light a room receives at different times of day. Hunter Douglas window fashions are ideal for moderating light levels and penetration - especially those with sheer fabric. They diffuse sunlight as it enters a room to create a softened lighting effect across the space. These products include Pirouette® window shadings, an innovative new window fashion that features soft adjustable horizontal fabric vanes attached to a single sheer backing; Silhouette® window shadings, showcasing two sheer facings with rotating fabric vanes suspended between them; and Luminette® Privacy Sheers, with a soft fabric sheer backed by rotating vertically oriented fabric fabrics.

  • High light

One rule for good daylight harvesting is that daylight should enter the space from as high a point as possible. Products with the Top-Down / Bottom-Up design from Hunter Douglas have the option of opening from the top and stacking at the bottom, thus allowing light to stream into a room from the top of the window, effectively lighting the room without electricity, while still providing a measure of privacy and a view. This option is available on many Hunter Douglas window fashions, including Duette honeycomb shades, Silhouette window shadings, Vignette® Modern Roman Shades and Brilliance® pleated shades. Moreover, products with horizontal vanes or louvers, like Silhouette window shadings, Heritance® hardwood shutters or Country Woods® wood blinds may be rotated to direct light upward.

  • Dim light

The simple application of dimmers to your electric lights allows you to be in control to maximize use of natural daylight and reduce dependency on artificial lighting. This can be done at minimum cost. Window fashions can give you the same flexibility with natural light coming in from windows and even skylights. Moreover, dressing skylights with a highly insulating window fashion like the new super-energy-efficient Duette® Architella™ honeycomb shades, which feature a patented honeycomb-within-a-honeycomb construction, can cut cooling costs by shading rooms from the hot noonday sun.

  • Make it automatic

To best harvest natural light you need to integrate it with the other systems in your home - including media, security and electric lighting systems - for energy-savings potential to be maximized. Hunter Douglas hard-wired motorization systems, available with many of the company's window fashions, may be integrated into a variety of new or existing automation systems. Closed-architecture proprietary automation systems are a thing of the past - all good systems should be able to communicate with one another to optimally respond to your home's needs, including maximizing the use of natural light in your home. You never need worry again about turning off an unnecessary light bulb!

Consider the source
The direction your windows face determines how much natural light enters a room and the quality of the light:

  • Northern light

This is the coolest, clearest and most constant light, but also the coldest. For energy conservation, treat these windows with insulating shades - such as Duette Architella honeycomb shades. Duette Architella honeycomb shades from the high-style and exclusive Alustra® Collection in a fabric called Sheer Opalessence™ recently garnered a Green Product award from the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, the industry's most important trade association. This product pairs a soft, outer sheer with the sparkle of an inner fabric that contains flecks of natural mica to subtly shine through to brilliantly harvest the light.

  • Eastern light

Eastern light is warm, bright and clear, but its brightness may render it overly warm, especially in the morning. East-facing rooms often heat up quickly and often hold the heat during the day. While this is a plus during the winter in cold climates, it is a good idea to cut down on glare by treating these windows with materials that diffuse the light. A good choice for these windows is light-diffusing Pirouette window shadings or scrim-like Designer Screen Shades, now available in a new Greenscape fabric that is PVC-free and recyclable with no off-gassing.

  • Western light

Afternoon light is the warmest in color and the hottest since the atmosphere heats up during the day. It is often hazy, as the impurities of the day linger until nightfall. Because prolonged exposure to this strong light can be damaging to furnishings, windows should generally be covered with any one of a combination of light-diffusing, UV-ray protecting treatments. A treatment with vanes or louvers such as Heritance® hardwood shutters works especially well since the light can be admitted but directed onto the ceiling for really efficient harvesting. Thanks to their sheer facings, Silhouette window shadings and Luminette Privacy Sheers can provide substantial UV protection even when the fabric vanes are open, while still providing light and a view.

  • Southern light

South-facing windows are the most important natural light source in an interior because they receive sunlight year-round and cast a warm, golden glow. Heat and UV-rays in this consistent light will cause the greatest damage. Fabrics and window treatments that are UV-stable are most desirable here. Window coverings with metalized or white backings that reflect the light also help reduce solar heat gain. Duette honeycomb shades and Vignette® Modern Roman Shades both come with neutral white fabric backings and white backings are also available as an option on Provenance® woven wood shades.

With these options from Hunter Douglas you can add style and comfort to your home while helping reduce your energy costs.

Hunter Douglas Inc. is a national sponsor of Habitat for Humanity, covering windows in every Habitat home built in the U.S. and Canada. Headquartered in Upper Saddle River N.J., the company is the leading manufacturer of custom window coverings in North America.

For more information, contact Hunter Douglas at 1-800-274-2985 or visit: http://www.hunterdouglas.com.

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Laura LeBrun

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Sarah Fletcher

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