NSWS for Marvin - Velux Skylights News and Events

Velux: New Skylight Lets in Air & Light, Without Rewiring

By Mike McClintock, Special to Tribune Newspapers

11:00 a.m. CST, November 7, 201

Modern skylights that brighten rooms open with remote-controlled motors for ventilation and close automatically when a sensor detects rain. In new construction, they're easy to install along with wiring to power the motor, an essential feature in unreachable locations like the top of a stairwell.

But adding motorized skylights after construction can hit a roadblock. Providing power has typically involved the disruptive and expensive job of opening ceilings and walls, and drilling through framing to run wiring, sometimes all the way back to the service panel. Companies including Bristolite, Sun-Tek, Wasco and others offer a wide range of hard-wired sizes and options. But this year, Velux, a major manufacturer, eliminated the roadblock with a solar-powered unit.

The new model, called the Velux Fresh-Air Solar Powered Skylight, needs no wiring. The installation work is on the roof, with no disruption of ceilings and walls. That saves time-consuming and costly patching, taping, painting and cleanup inside. And unlike the add-on solar kits for skylights, there is no bulging motor mount or a stand-up array of cells to clutter the roof.

A small solar panel that matches the skylight frame extends only a few inches below the unit. It charges the motor battery even in ambient light, so you're not limited to a sunstruck southern exposure. Opening, closing and adjusting blinds are all solar powered and respond to a hand-held, programmable remote control even if the skylight is three stories up in a vaulted ceiling.


Solar power

The obvious question with anything solar is what happens when there's no sun. But you don't you need an alternate power source, for instance, the way most solar heating systems are installed with conventional fossil-fuel equipment as a backup.

To power the light electrical load of a skylight, the Velux system uses only 1 percent of battery capacity to crank the unit one cycle fully opened and closed. Opening (and closing) it halfway uses half that power. And it opens more than you expect, lifting the sandwich of Low-E3 insulated and laminated glass 11 inches at the low end. That creates a large, pie-shaped opening for whole-house ventilation, even through a screen.

One hour of exposure in sunlight stores enough power for six cycles. On standby to keep the rain sensor active — handy if you're not home when it starts pouring — the unit draws 1 percent of battery capacity in a week, even if there is no sunlight every day. The unit charges more slowly in ambient light and at variable rates, as exposure can vary from a slight haze to a dense fog. But during the day, rain or shine, it's always charging. 



When adding a skylight in a new location, it pays to use either 14- or 22-inch-wide units that fit between stock framing set 16- or 24-inches on center. That saves major reframing work. My install was a straight upgrade: the new Velux in the same opening as a 24-year-old skylight with a long, wobbly hand crank, clouded glazing and no rain sensor.

Two experienced DIYers, confident on a walkable roof, could handle the job because the basic unit is fully assembled and Velux makes a compatible flashing kit: headers, footers, step flashing, the works. But most people are well off using a contractor familiar with the product (and carpentry and roofing) who has a proven track record and guarantees no leaks.

The first step: unpack the solar panel and set it in the sun for a full charge. Most installations start with a rubberized backup like Grace Ice and Water Shield and include multiple layers of water-shedding protection on top of it. The skylight itself is flashed and counterflashed above step flashing that's woven into overlapping shingles. You'll need to replace a few, even on same-size upgrades, where old flashing is removed with the old skylight. The last step: plug the solar panel into the motor coupling and secure it with two screws.

Optional remote-controlled shades — to block noonday sun blinding a computer screen, for instance — are installed on two narrow tracks screwed to the frame inside. Check details and an installer locator at veluxusa.com.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

NSWS for Marvin - Velux Skylights News and Events