Light Quality from a Window

A Simple Light Quality Experiment

Rooms with large windows often still feel dark. Here is a simple test to check the quality of window light and discover if you can benefit from a skylight installation. It’s easy and quick.

Step One

backlit PGo to the room on a bright day. Turn off all the lights and walk into the room looking down at the floor or with your eyes mostly closed (be careful not to trip though). Avoid looking directly at the window, but walk towards it with your back turned to the window (eyes shut if possible). This test works even better if you close your eyes for about twenty minutes prior walking into the room, but who has that kind of time?

Step Two

Den BeforeNow open your eyes and look up and around the room. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how bright the room is. Now go back and walk to the other side of the room, directly across from the window and look back to where you were standing. The room should go back to being dark and shadowed again.


Why the sudden change in appearance? It’s called backlighting, and you might recognize it from photography. The light coming in from the window is about eye level and moving horizontally, casting shadows on vertical faces. The sunlight over powers any other light source in the room, causing your pupils to dilate in the intense direct light, deepening the shadows even more.

What to Do?

Den AfterThe great thing is that these kinds of shadows disappear when a skylight is installed! Skylights give off indirect, overhead, diffuse lighting, which spreads out evenly and casts the shadows downward, not towards you. The additional light will also typically remove the glare that a typical big window casts on sunny days. Your eyes do not have to adjust from skylight light like they do from your windows. That is why everybody loves the light from a skylight.

Bedroom with light-filtering shadesIf a skylight is out of your price range at the moment, the best alternative option would to install light filtering shades on your windows. The blinds reduce glare, and diffuse the light, reducing the backlighting and harsh light. However, window treatments can get costly, very quickly, so you might be surprised at the difference between a skylight and window treatments.

Please Note: It is important that the skylight be sized properly for the size and layout of your room. Our technicians visit every home and recommend the best skylight match for the specific conditions. Our other skylight posts discuss the conditions to consider when determining size and style of skylight to install in further detail.


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