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Light It Up: Bringing Natural Light Into A Pre-Engineered Metal Building

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Increasing the natural light in a pre-engineered metal building creates an upbeat attitude, and it allows you to save money on electrical lighting. Depending on your budget, your style preferences and your final objectives for your building, there are a range of lighting options you can explore. Here are some decisions you may need to make along the way:

1. Roll up, sliding or other doors?

If you are using your pre-engineered metal building as a workshop, a livestock barn or anywhere else that you need a lot of natural light, you should consider installing large doors. When you open these doors, light will flood into your space.

You can use roll up doors or sliding doors. If you opt for roll up doors, keep in mind that you need to connect them to a power source unless they are lightweight enough to open and close manually. Sliding doors are easier to operate without power.

Also think about where the doors are going to be stored. Most roll up doors, like garage doors, are stowed near the ceiling when they are open. This can block skylights, sun tubes and other natural lighting strategies, and if you want to use your ceiling for lighting, you may want to opt for sliding doors that are stowed along the walls of your metal building.

Finally, if you are in a cold climate, you may not want large doors that open to allow in light. They may make your building too cold. In these cases, you may want regular-size doors designed to let people into your metal building, and you may want to focus on roof top lighting options instead.

Ideally, you should decide what type of doors you want as soon as possible. That way, the metal building designer can leave the right openings in the frame so that it is easy to install your doors.

2. Solar tubes or skylights?

If you want to bring natural light into your pre-engineered metal building from the ceiling, your main choices are skytubes or skylights. Also called light tubes or solar tubes, sky tubes are cylindrical pieces of sheet metal that slip through the roof of your building. The top of the solar tube on the roof of your building features a weather-proof plastic cap, and the bottom features a flat "light fixture" that is level with your ceiling.

Light tubes are cheaper than skylights -- in most cases, they cost between a quarter and half the price of skylights. In addition, they are easy to install, and they create a lot of light. In fact, a solar tube with a 14 inch diameter can light up 300 square feet of space. However, skylights can easily be built into your pre-engineered metal building. In fact, with the right frame, you can make the entire ceiling into a series of skylights.

3. Polycarbonate or fiberglass?

Whether you opt for sun tubes or skylights, you need to decide which material you want these portals to feature. The main two choices are polycarbonate and fiberglass. Fiberglass was long the standard material for skylights whether they were installed on metal buildings or in homes, but polycarbonate is becoming more popular.

Polycarbonate resists yellowing from the sun's rays more effectively than fiberglass, and this helps to ensure the light coming into your metal building is as bright as possible. In addition, polycarbonate is less likely to crack than fiberglass, and it lasts longer.

However, polycarbonate is more likely to expand and contract than fiberglass, and if you live in a climate with lots of extreme weather changes, you may want to opt for the more stable fiberglass.

4. Clear or translucent?

Whether you opt for polycarbonate or fiberglass skylights for your pre-engineered metal building, you have to decide whether you want them to be clear or translucent. Clear skylights give you a view of the sky and are great if you want to be able to stargaze or watch the birds overhead through your skylight.

Translucent skylights, however, cut down on glare, and that helps to make the light in your metal building more even and easier to use for working. In addition, if you live in a warm climate, clear skylights or tubes can let in too much solar heat and make your building comfortably hot. Translucent lights or tubes, however, prevent some of the solar heat gain from getting into your building.

If you want as much natural light as possible in your pre-engineered metal building, you have a lot of options. Talk with a metal building fabricator like Commercial Industries Company Inc. to determine which lighting options are best for you needs, budget and climate.