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Lighting Underground Homes

If you've never been inside an underground house, you may still have an image in your mind of a dark and dreary place that would make you feel like you were living in a cave. In actuality, that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Lighting for an underground home is important

Many earth-sheltered homes use passive solar for at least some of their energy needs, and the glass area used is often on the south wall of the house.

Homeowners use light wells, which add extra light to the houses' interiors, and the surfaces inside have been specifically designed to reflect the natural and artificial light sources well into the habitat. Light wells often have open sides and a roof, to admit indirect light in the summer months.

Some earth homes also have dome lights and glass facades, which will allow their rooms to be bright and full of pleasing light. For secondary rooms like bathrooms, you can use simple dome lights.

Drawing Light ...

Underground homes can often achieve zero heating bills, and the structures' solidity can lead to an environment that is quite tranquil. That doesn't mean the interior is dark. The homes often boast glass frontage that faces in a southerly direction, which actually draws in light no matter what the season.

Depending upon location and positioning of the dwelling, however, earth-sheltered homes can suffer from a lack of the most beneficial light, which is natural light, since there is often not a lot of space available for windows. Skylights can be used in some designs, and it's important to allow space for them, if you don't get a lot of light through windows. Skylights with mirrors can also be used to reflect scenery surrounding the house.

Urban Underground House and Skylilght

Highlights of Skylights ...

In addition to providing light to underground homes, skylights are an excellent way to generate good air flow. They may lose some heat in colder months, though, and radiate more heat than you would like in warmer months. The best skylights available today often can eliminate older problems like leaks and heat gains or losses. Some of the better skylights even feature interior blinds for increased privacy.

When you plan your skylights and have them installed, be sure that they are fully secured from the inside of your house, so that they won't be tempting to intruders. They are important enough that they should be included in most designs, for lighting and ventilation. Skylights are not as easily included if you use a precast form for your roof. If you're adding skylights to a dome, be sure not to affect the structural integrity of the dome, and seal well to prevent any leaking.

Windows are best included in underground homes if they face in a southerly direction. This gives you a good opportunity for passive solar heating on winter days. If the building codes in your area require the standard of 10-percent windows in all rooms, you may have to file for a variance, since this percentage is not always attainable in underground homes.

When you locate windows in your design plan, have them as high on each wall as you can. This will allow the light penetration to deepen. Make sure that your windows are not so high, though, that they lose their ability to draw in the sun's rays for solar heating, during the colder months when this is necessary.

If you have any other bright ideas about this subject, send them in (Okay, I'm a dimwit for saying that).

Written by Kevin Knatloa

First Published on November 05, 2012

Updated November 22, 2013