Traditional Skylights vs Solar Tubes (Everything You Need to Know)

In today’s homes, natural light is coveted, bringing not only beauty to a room, but also reducing the cost of electricity and offering mood-boosting sunlight. Skylights and Solar Tubes can bring much-needed sunlight into the rooms of your home which are suffering from a lack of sunlight.

Tubular skylights still utilize some of the earliest methods we discovered to bring natural sunlight into our homes. The first commercial tubular skylights were patented in the 1850s, and they’ve only modernized since then.

Here’s everything you need to know about skylights and solar tubes so you can determine which is best for your home.



Skylights - The Roof Guys

Skylights are familiar to most people. They are made of acrylic, glass, or polycarbonate, and are placed on the roof of your home allowing in sunlight. The skylight “windows” feature a frameset on the roof and are surrounded by flashing to prevent leaking. Skylight sizes begin small, such as a 12 x 12-inch square, and can be as large as 15 percent of the room’s square footage.

Skylights are more complex to install, often requiring professional carpentry skills to get the job done correctly. Because rafters must be cut for installation, surrounding rafters must be reinforced. Given the added labor to install a skylight, it is more costly than a solar tube. Basic skylights begin at around $1,500 and go up from there depending on UV and other coatings, venting, shades, and installation.


Solar Tubes

Solar Tubes - The Roof Guys

Solar tubes, also known as light tubes, sun tunnels, and tubular skylights, consist of a polycarbonate or acrylic dome which are also placed on the roof of your home. The similarity ends there. As the solar tube dome works to capture sunlight, it reflects it down a sheet metal tube into the attic, shining it through a diffusing lens in the room’s ceiling. Solar tubes can be 10 inches or larger.

Solar tube installation is simpler than that of a skylight. Generally, a solar tube can be installed in approximately two hours. Due to the ease of installation, solar tubes cost nearly half that of a skylight.

Solar tubes provide the most light. You will get 99% of the light coming into the tube, compared to just 36% with Skylight. This is due to the dome shape on the outside of your home, which captures the light with greater efficiency.


Other Considerations – Skylights versus Solar Tubes

In regard to energy efficiency, the solar tube is more effective, capturing light and diffusing it into the home. Though skylights gather three times the light of regular windows, energy is lost through heat gain, particularly in warmer months and climates. Skylights are often filtered to reduce UV rays, but solar tubes block UV rays at the dome. Because UV rays are damaging to skin and eyes, as well as homes and furnishings, it is important to block them as much as possible.

Water condensation is an often expressed concern with both skylights and solar tubes, though the concerns can be addressed successfully. Condensation on skylights can often be eliminated with the use of a humidifier in the home. While similar condensation inside solar tubes can be alleviated by wrapping the tube with insulation.

Traditional skylights may have the edge when it comes to appearances. Skylights provide ambiance from the sunny daylight sky to the star-filled night sky. Of course, solar tubes of not at all obtrusive, and inside the home look eerily like a standard light fixture. As far as aesthetics, skylights versus solar tubes simply depend on one’s preference.

Solar tubes and skylights can be used in any climate, though in areas of heavy snow, there will be no benefit in winter. Acrylic skylights are prone to damage in extreme heat or cold, making glass a better option in those areas. Polycarbonate is the material of choice for both skylights and solar tubes in areas where hurricanes are a concern.


Making Your Decision – Skylights vs Solar Tubes

A skylight is a great choice for getting natural sunlight and adding ambiance to an interior room in your home. A solar tube is an excellent approach for getting natural sunlight into your home in an energy-efficient way.

Whatever choice you make, here at The Solar Guys, we can help you get the job done right with the highest quality products and the best customer service in the business. Contact us today for a free estimate!




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