Thursday, January 13, 2011

Skylight Shade Problems

Things seem to be coming along. REC removed the old solar panels and my friend Bill took them up to Mendocino County. It felt like when I traded up my first PC, a grey no-name PC-AT clone with an upright black and white Xerox monitor, for a Pentium with a color monitor: a bit sad to see an old friend go but at the same time exciting that I'm getting new technology that costs less and performs better. All that is left is a pile of mounting rails:

 We'll take those up to Bill's in April or May on a weekend trip to Mendocino County.

The roofers fixed the roof where the old solar panels were removed, since the rails used back in 2004 when we had our system installed were not as well designed as today. We had some leaks in the roof, one of which caused a mold problem that we only finally got fixed in 2009. There were a couple leaks after the roofers were done, but we found them in the leak test. Ponzini has started insulating the interior, they have the Buddha room almost done and have started on the living room.The big mystery right now is: where's PG&E? They seem to have disappeared over the holidays. But we were told this week we will get a date for the 200 amp upgrade on Jan. 17. Hopefully, the upgrade date will be soon. I'd really like to get back into the place by the end of March.

Better news: I got to order my Nissan Leaf! The process was fairly painless,  through a form at the Leaf web site on which I have an account due to my registration. I opted for the 440V fast charger, in addition to the 220V and 110V chargers, since I'd like to be able to take it up to Pt. Reyes or down to Monterey some day when the charging infrastructure is in place. Today, the dealer called and asked a couple questions. He told me there have been some problems in the initial distribution (which I had read about on In December, Nissan reconfigured part of a factory in Japan to build Leafs (Leaves?) because demand  was running much higher than expected, and that pushed out the deliveries. The dealer told me that the car won't sell like a regular car - where the dealer has inventory and you go in and buy out of that - for another 2 years. This is very encouraging for electric cars, they seem to have much more demand than I originally had thought. I'll have to wait 4 to 6 months for the car, and in March they'll have a demo model at the dealer which I can try out.

But on to the subject of this post: skylight shades. Part of the work we were intending was to install motorized shades in the skylights that adorn the ridge of our roof. They are at the top of the cathedral ceiling in the hallway, which is where most of the warm air collects. In summer this is great, because we can open the middle skylight and all the hot air simply exhausts itself out of the house. But in winter, it's not so good because we lose a lot of heat through the windows. The HRV exhaust ducts will reduce the amount of warm air by redistributing it downstairs and to rooms upstairs, but the skylights will still act as a heat radiator on cold winter nights. I would like to have some motorized insulating shades on a timer that will close after sunset in winter and open at sunrise.

Here is a picture of one of our skylights:
The yellow cable you see hanging down is intended for the motor. Each skylight has one now, replacing the useless ceiling fan we had in place before.

The geometry of our skylights is a bit peculiar. The skylights form a triangle, as does the bottom of the frame box onto which the skylight is installed. So there is no part of the frame that is square where we can install a shade motor.

On top of this, the products on the market seem mostly to be for skylights set at an angle and not horizontal as ours is. Most of the companies we talked with seemed to want us to have two shades that ran directly against the glass. But this wouldn't work for the middle skylight, it opens. Even for the others, there is no real place along the spine that would be big enough for a shade track that sealed. The final problem seems to be that Hunter-Douglas, apparently the largest manufacturer of shades of all sorts, discontinued a certain motor that would have been the right thing for us.

Aside from the geometry, I'm having a bit of a problem seeing why nobody makes a product that would  fit our case. It seems fairly straightforward. At any rate, we've pulled Christine off the trail since she was spending a lot of time coming up short, and it was costing us money. She has one more contact to follow up, a guy who makes his own motors. If that doesn't pan out, I'm going to look into what I can find, maybe ultimately I'll end up with a DIY solution if I can't find a product that works.


  1. It's a good thing you had your roof fixed. Great choice with the skylight shades. I'm actually planning to install some on my house.

    -Lino Kosters

  2. It was a relief to have your roof fixed! Now you don’t have any leaks and your roof can very well protect you against the harsh weather. Next time, don’t forget to clean your roofs regularly so that it won’t accumulate any mold or dirt that causes it to deteriorate faster.

    -Joann Winton

  3. How is your skylight now? Are you still having problems with it? If so, I suggest that you contact your contractor to see what the real problem is. There may be some hidden damage or leaks that cause the heat to escape. [Mariam Freame]

  4. You might be eligible for a new government solar program.
    Click here to discover if you qualify now!