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Which is Better: Skylights or Solar Tubes?

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Are you thinking about adding some more natural light to your home?

If so you have probably considered installing a skylight or a solar tube.

Below is a in depth comparison between the two natural light sources.

Cost

A solar tube is only a couple hundred dollars, where as a skylight can be a few thousand.  The labor it takes to install a solar tube vs a skylight is also minimal in comparison.  If you’re strapped for cash, a solar tube is the better option.

Maintenance

A leaky skylight is extremely problematic.  Its a problem for your roof, framing and your interior.  Also, a skylight needs to be cleaned as it is visible.  Rain streaks and droplet marks ruins the affect of the skylight itself, requiring extra time spent on your roof taking care of those windows.

However, a solar tube requires less maintenance as it comes in a one piece design.  The single piece design minimizes chances of leaks.   With a tube there is no window to clean. The fixture itself is set in the ceiling and resembles a recessed light.  The dome where the light enters cannot be seen from inside your home, leaving rain streaks and dirt invisible to those inside.

Energy Efficiency

While both skylights and solar tubes do not take energy to function, they do affect the energy usage in your home.

Due to the window nature of the skylight, on hot days, heat emits from the skylights and contributes to an increase of temperature inside.  Likewise on colder days, skylights produce drafts.

The solar tube is reflective in nature. The actual hole that is made at the roof line is much smaller and encased in a tube.  The tube is sealed at the top with the dome, and at the bottom, leaving drafts and heat impenetrable.

Aesthetics

A well maintained skylight can enhance the beauty of a room.  A grand entry way with one or two skylights can be beautiful.  They help rooms look open and airy.  Skylights enhance curb appeal from the road.

In contrast, solar tubes are nothing to write home about.  As mentioned earlier, from the inside they look like a recessed light. From the roof, they look a bit like a tiny UFO.  If you want a solar tube to enhance the way your home looks, choose a skylight instead.

Ventilation

Certain types of skylights are able to be opened to let in fresh air.  This can be a great bonus to rooms that have limited access to fresh air.

Unlike skylights, solar tubes do not offer any type of ventilation at all.  That’s it. It’s as simple as that.

Location

A Skylight’s placement has to be thoroughly planned out.  Extra framing and reinforcements may be necessary to install the skylight in the desired location.

Due to the simplicity and size of a solar tube, they can be installed in most rooms without extensive planning and extra framing.

 

Tax Credits

Good news!  Both skylights and solar tubes qualify for tax credits.  Wait! Before assuming all products are tax credit worthy, make sure that they are marked appropriately.

Here is a skylight includes a tax credit on installation and the product:

Products Eligible for 30% Federal Tax Credit

Here is a solar tube brand that includes a tax credit on the product:
http://www.solatube.com/residential/info-center

 

In Conclusion:

Solar tubes are definitely more friendly for the average consumer.  Those of us who aren’t loaded with money, and time or have the aesthetic need for the actual skylight, can receive the benefits of a skylight with a more manageable solar tube.   Less maintenance, less cost, and less of a hastle to install, solar tubes are becoming more and more popular.

But do not discredit the need for a skylight.  Skylights are definitely beneficial and are a beautiful enhancement to many homes.  However, they just aren’t always feasible for the average homeowner who just wants a little more natural light.

Simply put:  If you can’t afford the skylight, its installation, the maintenance, or energy costs, go with a solar tube.

  1. I had been working with Sky Lights since quite some time but barely heard about solar tubes, would love to learn and explore it, looking at the massive and cost effective advantages it carry and also it seem to require no to little maintenance. Many thanks for posting this very informative article!

    • lauraweldon05 lauraweldon05

      Thank you! We are glad you liked our article. We are located in the PNW and get a lot of rain, so leaky skylights are often problematic.

      Here is a website with more information. I guess they aren’t “solar tubes” but “solatubes” (We’ll probably still refer to them as solar tubes). http://www.solatube.com/

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