Saturday, March 27, 2021

Kitchen brilliance

Over the past year, I’ve done a lot of experimenting in the kitchen. Much of it has worked out well, and some it—hasn’t. But the true brilliance in the kitchen from now on won’t be from my efforts, it’ll be from the sun. It's all because of something I had installed this past Thursday.

Way back in November of last year, I went to the Waikato Home and Garden Show and, among other things, I talked with the people from Solatube, a company that provides special skylight-like solutions. I talked with others, too, but theirs is an established, well-known brand, and that will help at resale time. Specifically, it’s a super reflective tube that extends above the roof, with a clear dome on top. It catches and reflects daylight down into the house. I was interested in it because my kitchen is quite dark: It’s in the middle of the main living area, with interior walls on three sides. The only daylight light comes from across the room.

A true skylight would have been very expensive, and probably a bit of overkill, since the kitchen isn’t all that big. This was the best solution to get full daylight into the kitchen (see before and after photos, at the right side of this post, both taken at roughly the same time of day on Thursday and Friday under similar circumstances: All curtains and blinds open, and no electric lights turned on).

Because of where the peak of the roof is, and also the location of the roof trusses, the only place the ceiling part could go was directly over the sink. That means it also directly lights the peninsula, which is were I do most of my prep work when cooking or baking, and that’s a bonus. Of course, there’s also plenty of daylight to light up the whole room.

I was aware that sometimes full sunlight streaming in might be a bit much. Say I wanted to watch a movie, and I’d closed all the curtains and blinds: The kitchen would be in full daylight. So, I also got an optional dimmer (as they call it), which is a motorised diaphragm-flap-thingee that allows me to control the amount of light allowed into the kitchen, including shutting out the light. This will also allow me to shut out the light from a full moon at night, should I want to do that (apparently, it’s not only werewolves who want to do that).

There’s a frosted glass “lens” at the ceiling opening to diffuse and soften the light (I got to choose which style I liked best). Above that is another clear lens, and that acts as a thermal break, like double glazing, to prevent heat loss in winter/heat gain in summer.

So, far, it’s been awesome—and very surprising. It often looks like I have a bright ceiling light on, even in the morning when I first get up (it’s getting light later already, but, even so, I no longer have to turn on a light to make my first cup of coffee). I’ve noticed that in full morning-to-midday sunlight the kitchen is brighter than the rest of the space, which has windows and stacker doors for daylight. This is probably partly because the part that extends above the roof to collect the daylight is on the eastern side of the roof peak. This light difference is greatly reduced later in the afternoon when the stacker door side is flooded with afternoon sunlight. I also noticed that when the daylight is coming through a cloudy sky, the Solatube evens out the daylight in the entire space. That means there will be good light on all but the darkest rainy days (something I should know for sure as early as this coming week, because storms are predicted for some days).

Most people have things about their homes that annoy them, even if those things are extremely small and unimportant. I’m no different. For me, the poor light in the kitchen was the thing I disliked the most. I tried hanging some mirrors horizontally (visible in the photos) to reflect light from the stacker doors across the room, but it didn’t help nearly as much as I’d hoped, not even almost (probably because what they point at is a wall next to a stacker door; they did fill a big, empty, white wall, though). Adding daylight through the Solatube has finally done the trick.

It’s true that it would have been much cheaper to have a bigger, brighter ceiling light installed, but this solution gives me natural, electricity-free daylight (before this I had to turn on the lights even in the brightest part of the day in order to truly see what I was working on in the kitchen.

Unfortunately, all this brightness has allowed me to see how poorly I’d been cleaning my kitchen up until now—I missed a lot because I simply couldn’t see it. I suppose that’s actually a sort of benefit? I also realised it’ll been good light for when I want to photograph an object of some sort, like for this blog, and I also like that.

So far, this has done exactly what I wanted it to do. While the way I control the amount of light may change over time (right now I’m not controlling it at all), the kitchen is brighter, and that was the thing I was trying to fix all along. The thing that annoyed me the most about this house is now sorted. And, I’ve assured there will be continuing brilliance in the kitchen. Some of it may even be mine.

Disclaimer: The name Solatube is a registered trademark, and it, and the link to their website, are used here for purposes of description and clarity. No company or entity provided any support or payment for this blog post. So, the opinions I expressed are my own genuinely and sincerely held opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the company, its representatives, or any known human being, alive or dead, real or corporate. Just so we’re clear.

This post has been updated. Follow the link to see the update.


Roger Owen Green said...

"motorised diaphragm-flap-thingee" - I love it when you talk technical!

Arthur Schenck said...

I take my responsibilities very seriously.