Not all rooflights are created equal
The old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ is often true yet whilst most of us appreciate that a higher price normally reflects an increase in quality, it can be quite difficult to differentiate between certain products. One example of this is rooflights. To most people rooflights simply allow light and ventilation into their roof space; so what does make one product vary from another and why is price so closely linked with quality? There are some very big and well-known brands in the rooflight market. These tend to be mass produced in a range of standard sizes, production line manufactured and cheap enough to entice major housebuilders to use them in the thousands. But what if you need something unique for your project? What if you want an input into how your glazing solution will look and operate? Many suppliers are not set up for the one-offs or the bespoke designs and options. Mass production works by producing goods in large quantities, often using standardized designs and assembly-line techniques to minimize costs. It does not allow for changes or alternations to make your ideas a reality.
In addition to large scale production, factors such as location play an important part in the cost of producing a rooflight. It stands to reason that significantly lower labour and material costs allow manufacturers to produce and sell products for less. That said, the quality of the product can usually be directly linked to the amount the manufacturer spends on those two areas. There are many key factors in rooflight design including frame materials, glass, paint, mechanisms and the people used to produce the goods. It stands to reason then that if you pinch every penny to make your goods cheaper, then something has to give at the quality end. Over the past few years, more and more products have been produced abroad but this has invariably been done to reduce costs rather than to increase the quality for the customer. With such a focus on price, it is difficult for UK manufacturers such as Lumen to compete with the larger mass produced brands. That is why we choose not to and why Lumen is committed to producing outstanding rooflights to our clients personal requirements. When choosing a rooflight or rooflight manufacturer for your project, you should be asking a number of questions.
Compliance is essential
Your rooflights should be designed to exacting UK and European standards and should be reflected in a CE marking. Most of the rooflights available today are up to the required standard but not all. It is always worth checking that a product does comply and ask to see certification. Our products quote a U-value which gives an indication of thermal performance. Some companies have opted for an Energy rating as it is it not that hard to achieve a decent energy rating for a roof window and they may not want you to know the real U-value of their product. However, Energy ratings for example rely heavily on solar Gain (g value) and uses a generic average figure to calculate it. In reality it will differ massively dependent on how much glass is in the rooflight and which way your house is facing. As such energy ratings are more useful for advertising a product rather than providing an actual thermal performance.
Where are the rooflights designed, manufactured and assembled?
It is not unusual for one or two of the processes to be handled in the UK. Those are the ones that suppliers will tell you about. However, saying that something is designed and assembled in the UK does not mean that it is manufactured in the UK.
Get the bigger picture
Getting the right design might be one of the first considerations when choosing your rooflight, but from a practical viewpoint, the most important thing to think about will be the physical viewable area of glazing. This may sound obvious, but do not make the mistake of thinking that all rooflights are the same in this respect and just because you are buying a rooflight, for example, that is 1m x 2m, be aware that this doesn’t necessarily mean that that you are going to have 2m² of viewing area. It is important to understand that the amount of light that enters your property relates to the internal viewable size rather than the more general fixing or overall size of the rooflight. The most common mistake to make is to specify a rooflight that simply fits the space between your rafters. In fact the size of the actual rooflight is immaterial if all you are paying for is a large frame. The common perception is that if you buy more glass the viewing area will be bigger.
Don’t be baffled by edge-to-edge glass, it’s what’s underneath that counts so check what your clear viewable dimension will be as on the same sized rooflight, the actual viewable glazing area between different manufacturers can be significant, and make a huge difference to the amount of light entering the building. There is not point in paying for a rooflight that is predominantly framework or non-useable glazing. In addition to the clear viewable area, the internal framing plays a big part in the appearance of the rooflight. Lumen use real timber linings, most commonly American ash. Lumen provides customers with the opportunity to specify any timber for the internal linings and these can also be painted in any colour. There are a number of benefits offered by real wood over materials such as mdf and pvc.
Don’t run out of gas
It has recently been highlighted by NHBC that there are significant variations in the quality of double glazed units being used in the UK. The quality of unit seal and the amount of argon gas used within the units can vary considerably. Lumen only use Pilkington glass and Pilkington manufactured units. Other suppliers may claim similar performance or self-clean properties but it is always worth asking for details to support this. Pilkington are world renowned glazing specialists, produce IGU’s to EN 1279 and are BSI Kitemark registered for: KM 06882, Insulating Glass units Assessed to the performance requirements defined in BS EN 1279-2:2000 and BS EN 1279-3:2002 Kitemark Number: 07211 BS EN 12150 – 2000 – Thermally toughened soda lime silicate safety glass Pilkington are assessed twice yearly by BSI on each Kitemark licence to ensure consistent quality.
Do your research
Before you choose a rooflight for your project, the advice would certainly be to check with the manufacturer on all the aforementioned points beforehand. You might be saving a few pounds by choosing a cheaper rooflight but with so many variables that could make such a difference to the performance and aesthetics of your project, why take the risk.