CT Window Treatment: Prescribed to Prevent Winter Blues

How to maximize the natural light in your home as the angle of the sun changes

The days are getting shorter, and will continue getting shorter.  For some people, this reduction in the amount of natural light has a seriously negative effect on mood.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real type of depression that affects 10 million Americans.  Another 10-20% of Americans have mild SAD, and experience symptoms like fatigue, changes in sleeping patterns, weight gain, and difficulty making decisions. 

Even if you don't have SAD, you can be sad.  Most people are struck with the 'winter blues' from time to time.  Melatonin is a natural hormone your body produces in response to darkness, which makes you sleepy.  When the days get shorter and darker, your body produces more melatonin.  This can make you feel sluggish and depressed.  Your body's internal clock may also shift as the seasons change.  

Above information and 'How seasonal are you?' self assessment courtesy of Psychology Today

  

summer winter spring fall connecticut solar radiation

As we approach the winter solstice in our revolution around the sun, the angle at which the sun strikes the northern hemisphere becomes shallower, resulting in cooler, shorter, darker days.  The farther north, the more extreme (extreme as in 24 hours of darkness on the winter solstice.)  We can't change the fact that our dear planet is now tilted away from the sun, at least from our perspective, but there are some things we can do to increase the amount of natural light in the home without adding unwanted glare from direct sunlight.

It is important to consider the angle of the sun as you decide where to place your windows, and how to shade them. The angle of the sun changes both seasonally, and throughout the day.  Let's take a look at what the path of the sun looks like in the summer verses the winter: 

 

windows solar radiation connecticutlight radiation windows connecticut

 Images via Florida Solar Energy Center

These changes can be taken advantage of in order to let light shine in during the winter and keep it out during the summer.   

light through windows winter connecticutlight through windows summer connecticut   window winter sun angle

Where and When the Sun Strikes:

South-facing windows

Direct Sunlight in the late morning through the early afternoon

Advantages:

  • This side of your house receives the most direct sunlight, so if you need a solar boost, it's a great spot for windows

  • Heat loss through windows is minimized because the sun warms this side of the home.  In fact, having south-facing windows can actually help reduce your heating costs.

  • If you have proper shading, you have a lot of options for windows here!

Disadvantages:

  • Direct rays are not always pleasant, for your eyes, or any fabrics near the windows

Solutions and Tips:

  • A simple roof overhang on the south-facing side of the house can block all direct sunlight, with the exception of the lowest winter rays.  Awnings can produce the same effect.

  • If necessary, windows can be tinted to reduce glare.  Fiderio&Sons offers tinting, among other options for replacement windows.

  • Directly under the roof overhang is a great place for picture windows because you don't need to worry about shades.  Picture windows are ideal for providing unobstructed views and letting in natural light

roof overhang solar radiation windows winter summer connecticut                              image via Hill Country Sustainable Solutions 

 

North-facing windows

Naturally shaded for the most part

Advantages:

  • They do not need much, if any, shading because they only receive direct sunlight early in the morning, and late in the afternoon during summer months. 

  • They can add a lot of natural light without transmitting direct rays

  • A north-facing roof is a great place to put skylights, especially somewhere like a bathroom because you get the light without losing privacy!

Disadvantages: 

  • Heat loss through windows is something to consider on this naturally shaded side of the house. 

Solutions and Tips:

  • Choose materials with a high R factor and a low U-factor. 

  • Windows with multiple panes, low-e coatings, and insulation glazes minimize heat loss. 

  • Sunrise Windows offers a variety of insulated glass, such as the UltraPlus 12.  The frames are equally important, but for certain types of windows they can obstruct your view, particularly with double-hung windows, or any kind of sliding window.  Sunrise window's vinyl PVC frames show 30% more viewing area than other brands.

    double hung vinyl pvc window sunrise windows

 

East and west facing windows

East: Direct Rays in the morning  West: Direct rays in the afternoon

Advantages:

  • For part of the day they will both provide an excellent source of natural light

Disadvantages:

  • On the east side of your home you will receive direct rays as the sun rises

  • West-facing windows will receive direct rays in the afternoon (during the hottest part of the day) as the sun begins to go down

Solutions and Tips:

  • You will probably want to control the amount of shading throughout the day, so operable shades are recommended.   
  • For west-facing windows, enjoy the views in the morning, and lower the shades in the afternoon when the sun is setting.  Cover east-facing windows in the morning (unless these are bedroom windows and you'd like a natural alarm clock) and open them sometime after you've had your coffee
  • On the east, you may want blinds or shades that are effective light-blockers so that you don't wake up at the crack of dawn

  • Choose a shading method that is easy to control.  Sunblinds are probably the most convient option out there and they are easy to install with sunrise replacement windows.

  • Enjoy the crisp fall air, with screened windows that don't take away from your view, such as Optiview Screens:

    Optiview screen sunrise replacement windows

               ONE LAST IDEA

green windows ct

Adding Clerestory Windows to a room with high ceilings is an excellent way to add natural light to a room, without sacrificing privacy.  Another benefit is that the light that enters the home is not at eye-level.  Regardless of the angle of the sun, the glare won't bother you.  Clerestory windows also allow for full utilization of the wall space for shelves or cabinets. 

 

SAD is most serious between December and February.  Don't let it get you down! Fall is the perfect time for home renovation projects because there is minimal precipitation and it is less humid.  Check out the Fall Home Improvement Guide and get started on your projects before the winter blues depress you and your motivation.