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Wasco (Aerogel Filled) High Performance Skylight Review

I did a blog post about this skylight in 2011 when it was first introduced, but I’m finally gotten a chance to install them (three to be exact) in one of my houses.  I’m building a rather modern duplex for a father-son where their families are separated by the common wall of the duplex.  As you can image the interior of these duplex’s could be rather dark as there is no light coming from that side of the house.  So, the Architects on the project Michael Hsu Office of Architecture designed a really cool light monitor for one side (kind of a modern cupola) and the other side has three large skylights to bring light into the center core of the house.  I’ve become more of a fan of Skylights over the years as I’ve seen Architects do amazing things with bringing light into dark houses.

FAB Architecture Designed these hidden skylights to bath this interior master vanity with light. Once I saw how cool this looked I changed my tune on skylights.

Ok, so back to the Wasco Nanogel skylights I just installed.  The biggest statistic I like is that they are much more thermally efficient than standard Double Pane glass skylights.  I looked up the stats on the Curb Mounted Low E Argon “Delux” model I usually use and it has a U-Factor of .51.  Remember that U is inverse of R-value so this is basically an R-2 hole in your roof.  Not great for efficiency.  But, these Nanogel filled Wasco skylights have a U-Factor of .22 which equates to R-4.6.  That’s 100% better than the standard units!  However, they do have a lower SHGC (less good) number than Low E Cardinal 366 glass which is usually .25 or less.  These Wasco units are .57 on SHGC.  As you can see they aren’t perfect.  Better in many ways, but not perfect.

The diffused light from these Wasco Lumira Skylights is amazing!
They install like a traditional curb mount (my favorite). The bubble cover is kinda cheesy I must admit.
Close up photo of the Nanogel inside the skylight.
Micah the Project Architect with Michael Hsu’s office did amazing things by placing these inside this stairwell. The metal staircase is meant to stand out, not the view through the skylights.

They aren’t clear glass so they are meant to bring in natural light where you’re not meant to look at the sky.  These are a corrugated plastic that’s filled with Nanogel so they produce a nice filtered light.   Besides the beautiful light filtering, I think these are really nice because you shouldn’t ever have to clean them.  I’ve got two clear skylights in my family room and I can’t look through them without feeling compelled to go outside and wipe them down with Windex.

In conclusion, I like these skylight alot.  They are expensive, but double the insulation value will pay off in the long term.  My project has some shade from a nearby Pecan Tree, but I’m using them in Austin Texas where radiant gain is a big issue and I’m not thrilled that the SHGC number isn’t as good as standard glass.  If you’re in a heating dominated climate I would say switching to these would be a no-brainer.  Be judicious in your use of Skylights, not every house needs them.  They are a big hole in your roof and your thermal envelope.  On the other hand, if your house is dark there is no better way to bring light into a space than from overhead.  Bright natural light will never be replaced by LED bulbs in my opinion.  What’s your opinion?  Drop me a note below.

Matt Risinger
– Risinger Homes in Austin, TX

Risinger Homes is a custom builder and whole house remodeling contractor that specializes in Architect driven and fine craftsmanship work. We utilize an in-house carpentry staff and the latest building science research to build dramatically more efficient, healthy and durable homes.
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