Fiberglass Skylights

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Pros & Cons of Fiberglass Skylights

Fiberglass skylights are made with FRP, or fiber-reinforced polymers. All fiberglass constructed skylights require maintenance. Cleaning the skylights periodically is helpful in removing pollution and light-blocking dirt from the exterior surface.

Fiberglass skylights have an exterior gelcoat that helps reduce damage from UV rays, but this wears away over time. It depends upon the manufacturer and even when it was manufactured to determine how often the fiberglass gelcoat needs replaced or re-coated. This is critical to fiberglass skylight care, as it prevents fiberbloom, which leads to water infiltration, discoloration, bacterial infection and unpleasant odors.

Do you already have fiberbloom? Read more here.

Fiberglass skylights are commonly used on commercial buildings because they are much more cost-effective than glass. They also provide diffused light, which reduces heat gain, glare and other discomforts usually caused by glass glazing.

Polycarbonate is another option to consider. Like fiberglass, it is much more cost-effective than glass glazing, and provides improved energy efficiency over both glass and fiberglass glazing. It also has reduced maintenance costs, and doesn’t need UV gel coats.

We offer free consultations to help you choose the best product for your building or project. Contact us so we can help solve your daylighting or glazing issues today!

Daylighting Always A Compromise

Daylighting is always a compromise. How much light do you need vs. how much solar heat gain can you accept.

When considering a daylighting system there are three main performance measures.

  1. Light Transmission
  2. U Factor
  3. SHGC

The more light transmission you require will result in more solar heat gain. Reducing light transmission to reduce solar heat gain is not always the best trade off. A daylighting model may be necessary to determine the appropriate light level.

CPI LogoIn our research and experience, the best product for currently on the market is UniQuad by CPI Daylighting. UniQuad has the best light transmission percentage to solar heat gain in the industry. Coupled with Skylight Specialists Inc, they can also provide assistance with daylight modeling and studies.

UniQuad vs. Non-Removable Skin Systems

Not all daylighting is created equal! Glass, fiberglass and other non-removable building envelopes can’t compete with the UniQuad system.

Daylighting Technology Visible Light Transmission NFRC-100 Center of Glass U-Value
Glass (Clear/Dbl Glazed, 90% Argon Filled) 79% 0.48
FRP (Crystal/Crystal w/batt insulation) 30% 0.29
UniQuad (Clear Matte/Clear Matte, Air Filled) 50% 0.23

The UniQuad system is the best of both worlds – it will give you up to 50% LT with a U-Value of 0.2

Do You Have Stinky Skylights?

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Fiber Bloom

Building managers and owners are typically surprised that skylight can stink, horribly, but have no idea what causes this unpleasant condition.

Fiberglass skylights are protected from the elements by a coating sometimes referred to as “gel coat”. The coating has a UV blockage component to help prevent the sun’s rays from damaging the fiberglass and causing fiber bloom. This coating breaks down over time, and when its lifespan is over, fiber bloom starts to occur.

Fiber bloom is when bacteria are able to get into the fiberglass, and start to break down the material and spread. It’s basically a bacterial infection for your building. Its unhealthy for the inhabitants of the building, and causes a very unpleasant stinky smell.

Detection of Fiber Blooming

One method of inspecting the skylight for fiber blooming is by running your hand across the surface on the exterior of the panels. If your hand picks up fiberglass and you see fiberglass particles in the air, then you know that you have lost the gel coat and immediate maintenance is required.

If you notice brown spots inside the panels or even notice an unpleasant or stinky smell permeating the air inside the building then the gel coat is gone and water has penetrated to the interior of the panels. The spots are bacterial growth spots, and the smell is from them breaking down the fiberglass. Replacement of those panels with a product other than fiberglass is recommended.

Fiberglass Gel Coat

fiberglass gelcoat repairUnfortunately the coating applied to the exterior of the skylights by the fiberglass manufacturers does have a short life-span and requires a regular scheduled maintenance. This time span varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Fiberglass Skylight Inspections

Our experience has shown that the skylights should be inspected about every five years to insure that the exterior surface is in good condition and does not degrade too far. If the coating disintegrates it leaves the fiberglass strands exposed and allows water penetration. This should be avoided if at all possible, because it begins a process that is very difficult to return the skylight to its original condition. If caught soon enough a new layer of gelcoat can be applied that will extend the life of the product.

A warning sign of fiberglass breaking down is when the skylight emits a yellow light. This yellow light is bad for our health and typically our clients are tired of the feeling it gives.  They express the desire to replace the skylight in order to capture the blue light available from the sun. But if the skylight has become smelly, then it’s too late to save, and absolutely needs to be replaced.

Skylight Specialists, Inc., a Denver, CO company brings 35-years of commercial skylight repair experience to the table. We approach skylight repairs from a perspective that comes from decades of hands-on experience with problem skylights. From the smallest to some of the largest skylights in America.

Detailed information on our services and repair process.
Available for work in Colorado and coast to coast — It all starts with a simple phone call: 1-866-759-7732

Daylighting and Health

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The Health Benefits of Daylighting

Plants aren’t the only living organisms that metabolize sunlight, we human beings do too. While the relationship daylight exposure and our health isn’t simple, it is important to know. Most people are aware of the risk of skin cancer from long exposure without protection, a number of studies and scientists suggest that moderate exposure leads to a surprising number of health benefits.

  1. Daylight helps lower blood pressure.

    A group of researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that as soon as daylight hits the skin, a compound is released that helps lower blood pressure.

  2. Daylight improves bone health.

    The most well-known health benefit of daylight is the creation of Vitamin D when daylight hits the skin. The creation of Vitamin D also creates Vitamin D3, which has been shown to reduce risks of bone fractures.

  3. Daylight improves brain functions.

    A study by the University of Cambridge found that higher levels of vitamin D were correlated with higher levels of cognitive function. The inverse was also true, where lower the levels of Vitamin D among those with lower cognitive function. Even more studies have shown that daylight could help with grown of nerve cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating and storing memories.

  4. Daylight eases mild depression.

    A lack of daylight can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a common mild form of depression in the winter months or for workers who have long hours in artificially lit buildings. Moderate daylight increases the levels of natural antidepressants in the brain, like serotonin.

  5. Daylight improves sleep quality.

    When daylight hits our eyes, the brain sends a message to the pineal gland to stop production of melatonin, the hormone mainly responsible for making us drowsy. When it starts to get dark, the message stops and melatonin is produced again. Over production of melatonin during the day leads to low levels at night, making it harder to fall asleep.

  6. Daylight improves growth in children.

    Studies have revealed that amount of daylight a child gets, especially in the first few months of it life, has an effect on how tall the child grows.

  7. Daylight improves the immune system.

    Daylight helps suppress an overactive immune system, which is why daylight is used to treat autoimmune diseases like psoriasis. Daylight also causes an increase in white blood cells, which play a key role in fighting diseases and infections.

  8. Daylight reduces risk of some cancers.

    Scientists from the University of California noticed that higher levels of Vitamin D drop your risk of many cancers, especially colon cancer and breast cancer. Other studies show that Vitamin D supplementation produce a dramatic 60% drop in risk of developing any form of cancer.

Blue spectrum of light.

The biggest reasons for these health benefits is the full spectrum of color that daylight provides. Most artificial light is on the yellow spectrum only, whereas natural daylight carries the full spectrum, especially blue.

It is important that daylighting systems must not filter out the blue spectrum of light. These benefits cannot be achieved without the blue spectrum of light. When a daylighting system has yellowed it is actually a failed system because it is filtering out the blue spectrum of light.

Case Study: Chase Bank

Chase Bank of Loveland

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A Pyramid Skylight Retrofit Will Provide Improved Daylighting

The Chase Bank building in Loveland, CO has four low-rise pyramid skylights. The bank has experienced problems with these skylights over the years. Gaskets failing, condensation problems, and popping noises were a just few of the constant problems.

The biggest complaint, however, was the quality of the light and the heat from the sun. The light the skylights were projecting into the building was the number one complaint over the years. The longer the acrylic panels were in place the worse the yellowing of the light and the unbearable heat gain, especially on the second floor.

Going up to the second floor was like being an ant under a magnifying glass in the summer.
The Contractor

We discussed with the contractor and building owner the combinations of colors we could use to gain the control they were looking for. It was decided to use a blue polycarbonate outer layer with an interior layer of Ice White Matte. The Ice White Matte allows the light to be dispersed evenly across and down from each skylight.

A Daylighting Comparison: Yellowed Fiberglass vs. Translucent Polycarbonate