April 25, 2022

Solar Tubes vs Skylights: Which One Should You Choose?

We're here to make your decision on solar tubes and skylights just a little easier.

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What could be better than free energy?  With skylight and solar tube installation, that’s exactly what you can have!  

Natural lighting is a great way to make your home feel warmer and brighter.  It can lower your energy bill and bring sunshine straight into your living room. 

While a skylight and solar tube both bring the sunlight straight into your home, that’s where the similarities end.  If you’re thinking about installing one of these light fixtures in your home, here are some pros and cons to each to help you decide which is best for you.

Solar tubes

Solar tubes have been around for a while, but are less well known than skylights.  As the name suggests, these are long aluminum tubes that collect light in a dome on the roof of your house.  Aluminum reflectors inside the tubes direct the light down the tube to a diffuser in one of your rooms.  The diffuser looks very much like a traditional light fixture, but it brings natural sunlight in, instead of harsh electric light.

Pros

It’s the cheap option.  A lot of people choose solar tubes just because they tend to be cheaper to install.  That’s because they come pre-made, and only need a small hole cut into the roof and ceiling in your home.  Of course, they still require a contractor to make sure the roof is sealed and secure, but they can usually be installed in just a few hours.  And, solar tubes can be tax deductible if they meet the energy star requirements.

Solar tubes do a great job of diffusing the light.  The fixture on the inside of the house is designed to scatter the sunlight so that it fills the room as a lightbulb would.  This is one of the reasons that they look so much like normal light fixtures.

Solar tubes are also great at blocking UV light. This is because the dome that collects the light on your roof is really pretty small.  Most are only about 10 inches in diameter and treated with a UV blocking coating. This makes the sunlight that’s brought into your home completely safe.

Cons

While solar tubes can get the job done if you’re just looking to bring more light into your room, they don’t look as great as other alternatives.  The diffused light fixture just looks like an old lightbulb.

There is also very little control over how much light gets in.  Whether it’s a sunny day or a cloudy one, you’re going to get the same relative brightness or darkness inside your house. There’s no real way to adjust the light for your personal needs.

While solar tubes are cheaper to install, they aren’t as durable as skylights.  They are particularly susceptible to damage from extreme temperatures. Because of the summer heat, solar tubes in Texas usually don’t last very long.

Skylights

Skylights are windows in your roof, and function in pretty much the same way as other windows. They have many of the same benefits and drawbacks as the rest of the windows in your home.

Pros

Skylights are the more popular option for bringing natural light into your home, and there’s a reason. Skylights look nicer than the lightbulb fixture appearance of solar tubes.  While they are a bit more complicated to install, once they are in, skylights add beauty to your home.

Skylights are also more versatile.  While you’re still going to have to deal with the realities of the weather to determine how much light comes in, you do have more control than you do with a solar tube.  Skylights can have curtains installed to reduce or block light when you want to make the room darker. And they can be made to open and close, so you can also add fresh air to the natural sunlight in your home.

In the winter, skylights can also be used as a passive heat source.  By letting the energy of the sun into your house, it can work like a greenhouse to warm your home and reduce your heating cost during the colder months.  In the summer, curtains can be used to control how much heat is coming in.

Cons

Because skylights are more complicated to install, they do cost more to put in.  They also take longer to install, which can be frustrating if you’re wanting the job done quickly.

Skylights do let in a lot of light and pretty natural scenes from outside, but they do not diffuse the light in the same way that a solar tube does.  This can lead to some light efficiency being lost in exchange for better aesthetics.

The passive heat that can be a benefit in the winter can also be a detriment in the summer.  While curtains can help reduce the amount of solar heat coming into your home, they also block the light. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of installing a skylight.

Which should you choose?

So, are solar tubes better than skylights?  It really depends on what you want.  For cheaper, more diffused light, solar tubes can get the job done. But if you want natural light that is visually pleasing and has more versatility, then skylights are the way to go.

Because solar tubes are less durable and can break and crack in high heat, we don’t normally recommend them for people here in Texas. They may seem cheaper to start with, but the cost of repair and replacement is going to add up quickly over time.  

If you’re looking for someone to help you bring safe, natural light into your home, Parish Roofing Solutions can help. We can guide you through the process and add a skylight when putting on your new roof.  Reach out today for a FREE consultation and let us help you get the natural lighting you’ve always wanted for your home.

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