| energy-saving q&as
Get Rid of Glare; Open Windows for Air
By KEN SHEINKOPF
QWe recently moved to a new house, and now
i cannot sit in my favorite chair and read anymore because of the glare on the paper. i don’t
know if it’s because i’m getting older or if it’s the fault
of that shiny paper so many magazines use, but this
didn’t happen in our old home. Any way i can fix this
horribly annoying problem? — M.B., Buda, Texas
AIt could be because your eyesight isn’t what it used
to be, and it could also be because of the shiny
paper, but I’ll bet it’s the result of light coming into
that room from a different angle than you had in your previous home. I get a lot of questions about glare, many from
younger people, so the problem isn’t necessarily caused
by age. Many people have this problem and don’t realize
they can fix it.
There are generally two kinds of glare problems in buildings. Disability glare occurs when a light source reflects and
essentially obscures the thing you’re looking at, reducing
its contrast. For example, you might
be sitting under a skylight on a bright
sunny day, or under a bright ceiling
light, and that light reflects from the
book you’re reading into your eyes.
The low contrast makes it difficult to
see the black ink on the bright white
Discomfort glare happens when you
have light coming onto your task from
the side that is much brighter than the
light coming from your task. If the task
is a book you’re reading, for example,
your eyes will try to focus on the words
on the pages, but there is so much light
coming from the side, your visual processes get confused
and you have trouble concentrating on what you are doing.
This often happens when you are sitting next to a window,
and though you have enough light to read, this extra light
can give you a headache or eye fatigue and reduce your
ability to do the task.
Look around the room where you like to read and see
if any of these conditions exist. Direct or reflected sunlight, a powerful electric lighting system, bright windows
located in dark walls and other situations can all cause
So what do you do about this? You can plant a tree
outside the window next to your chair to block the direct
sun, or just use blinds or drapes to cut down on the amount
of light coming in from the side. You might get a shade to
fit inside the skylight well to help you regulate the amount
of light. Maybe a different overhead light fixture could
Ken Sheinkopf has been
working in renewable
energy for 25 years
and knows where to
find the answers to
Glare often comes from
uneven lighting, when the
window is much brighter
than the rest of the room.
Got questions about
home energy usage
and renewable energy?
Send them to askken@
all questions can be
but watch for yours
in this column.
better direct light to where it is needed and away from
where it causes the glare problem. Or you can take some steps
to directly address the uneven lighting. Make the window less bright using window film or an interior shade on
the window glass, or make the room brighter with better
electric lighting or by painting the walls a brighter, more
Because visibility can be affected any time there are big
differences in lighting in a room, designers often bring light
in by bouncing it off the ceiling or bringing it in through a
high space, rather than letting it pour in from one side of
the room. Light from a television, glossy magazine paper or
even the colors of your walls and furniture can all produce
light directly in your eyes. Control this light and you’ll be a
lot more comfortable.
Qi really like the end of summer, when we can
open up our house and enjoy the cooling outdoor breezes. however, i’m concerned about
this flow of air since i have read often about the need to
control outdoor air. is it bad for us to open the windows
when the weather is mild? — J.S., Troy, Ala.
AActually, opening your windows to enjoy the natural ventilation is one of the best things you can do
to both control the indoor air quality of your home
and to stay comfortable without relying on your heating or
Ventilation is the controlled use of air flow into and out
of a house, as opposed to air infiltration, which is unwanted
air flowing through holes, cracks and other openings.
From a health standpoint, just think about all the potentially harmful contaminants you have in your home right
now: cleaning supplies under the kitchen cabinet, paints
and solvents in your workroom, bags of garbage sitting in
the can by the kitchen door, various perfumes and products in your medicine cabinet, the candles and incense you
sometimes light, fumes from your fireplace, cooking or
tobacco, and perhaps radon from the basement.
Opening up your home to ventilation means that fresh
air will flush out stale air. While mechanical ventilation systems can help increase the flow of air through your home,
opening screened windows for cross-ventilation can help
keep air moving without using energy.
If you’re constantly bothered by a runny nose or itchy
eyes, talk to a contractor about a ventilation system to keep
the air clean. This can involve exhaust fans to draw the stale
air out of the home, or supply-ventilation strategies to have
fresh air blown inside, perhaps through a filter.
Keep cool outdoor air flowing through your home. It can
improve comfort without the use of a cooling system. ST