You may soften, block or reduce unwanted daylight, glare or solar heat gains coming from your skylight by 1) installing it in shady spot (the shade of trees, for instance)... or by 2) using awnings, blinds or other skylight covers.
Skylight covers can be used to enhance the decor of a room. They come in a wide range of types and colors and they can enhance the decor of many interiors. But that's not their main function.
Skylight covers have a more important function: to control excess light, glare (protection from UV rays, to prevent furniture from fading) and unwanted heat gains, coming from the skylight.
Skylight covers - blinds, shades, awnings - are useful and can minimize and reduce some of the downsides of skylights. But they don't do miracles; they can't prevent many of the negative side-effects of skylights that are oversized or should never had been installed.
Skylight covers include several types of shades and blinds to control sunlight and glare: roller shades, venetian blinds, light blocking shades. T
hey come in very different styles, colors, sizes and materials, affecting the results and the amount of transmitted light (and heat).
Exterior vs interior skylight covers
Heat-blocking covers - positioned on the exterior of the skylight - can provide maximum protection against heat gains without obstructing views to the outside (though some models do block light and views).
They are retractable, and can be electrically controlled, sun-powered or manually operated.
There are very few skylight covers intended for solar heat control, and most skylight manufacturers and dealers do not offer them (Velux offers heat blocking skylight covers, but Fakro - the world’s second largest skylight manufacturer, after Velux – doesn’t).
Note that indoor skylight covers are ineffective at blocking unwanted solar heat. Once the heat enters the room through the glass and the materials making up the skylight, the indoor cover is not of much use.
Even outdoor skylight covers may not be very effective. Skylight covers made of aluminum-coated fabric can be useful at blocking sunlight, but only in a small degree.
As mentioned earlier, solar heat gains should be prevented by locating properly the skylight on the roof, and by using shading strategies and properly selected low-e coating glazing.
Skylight Covers Effectiveness
Skylights are often responsible for overheating, heat loss and unwanted light gains. Skylight covers – blinds, awnings, shades… - cannot solve the problems posed by skylights that should had never been installed, or that are oversized or unproperly positioned. Skylight covers are useful to soften or to block sunlight, or to reduce heat gains and heat loss (during the night due to the so-called clear-night-sky re-radiation phenomena), but they aren't miraculous solutions.
Indoor Light blocking covers
Light blocking skylight covers (1st image, left) are typically made from aluminum-coated fabric. They are intended to block sunlight, particularly in rooms requiring high levels of light protection (bedrooms…).
New units can be solar-powered, and manufacturers are offering no-wired units, operated by remote control.
Indoor Venetian skylight blinds
Venetian skylight blinds (3rd image, left) are a tested and cheap technology. The best units use a control mechanism to position the blinds at the wanted point of the skylight.
These covers are intended to control glare and the amount and direction of the light, and may add a nice aesthetic touch to the room.
Indoor Roller shades and blinds
Roller shades and blinds (2nd image, left) are a cheap sun-screening option for roof windows. They are designed to control light, and can be operated manually with a pull cord, or remotely. They are an effective heat-protection device for roof windows.
Indoor vs. outdoor skylight covers advantages and disadvantages
As mentioned earlier, outdoor skylight covers can intercept the solar gains before they reach the room – a significant advantage to control solar heat gain. They are the best for energy savings and solar heat control; but they have also obvious drawbacks: exterior covers are more prone to wear and damage; do not expect them to last as much as indoor skylight covers.
As to indoor skylight covers, they are designed to control excess light (and to enhance the aesthetics of rooms), which is much easier than controlling solar heat. Some can provide significant darkness, even on sunny days, and since they are not subject to the direct impact of the elements they can last much longer.
Electrically motorized skylight covers vs. manual operated devices
Skylight awnings (outdoor units, to reduce solar heat) can be electrically controlled or manually operated.
But they can also be solar powered and operated by using a remote control. The intermittency of the sun does not diminish the effectiveness of non-wired solar-powered skylight covers; the system comprises a solar-rechargeable battery that holds enough charge for hundreds of operations, even in the periods when there isn’t sunshine for recharging.
Electrically motorized and solar powered systems are becoming the norm, and areb't significantly more expensive (especially non-wired solar powered units).
Manual vs. motorized and solar powered skylight indoor covers
Manually operated skylight covers are more inexpensive and easy to use. They can be raised or lowered by using a bar at the bottom of the cover (these skylight covers may use rod controls and rod extension pieces).
But for out-of-reach skylights, consider motorized and solar powered skylight covers.
Typically, remote controlled electrically powered covers are operated with a control supplied with the skylight. This option offers pre-set programs: skylight covers can be programmed to raise and lower at specific times.
Some skylight manufacturers are offering control systems to operate blinds and other covers for skylights that have not been designed to be operated electrically.
Solar powered covers can also be operated with a remote control supplied with the cover. They also provide pre-set programs.
If necessary, electrically wired and solar powered covers can be operated manually.
Skylight covers installation
The installation of skylight covers is a simple DIY job. Models with brackets are very easy to install.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. To see some videos involving the installation of Velux blinds take a look at: Installation videos: blinds-shades and awnings.