Solar Tubes vs Skylights : Major Similarities and Differences


Natural lighting comes with significant physical and psychological benefits. By letting natural light into your home, you’re not only creating an energetic, positive environment, but also reducing electricity costs—and what better way to do so than with solar tubes and skylights?

Solar tubes and skylights add a bright, sunshine-filled space to your home. Both come with their own special appeal and aesthetic, with accompanying pros and cons. Solar tubes are much easier to install and maintain, but skylights add a unique aesthetic focal point that draws anyone’s eyes in.

Read on as we discuss everything you need to know about these roof and ceiling fixtures. Solar tubes vs skylights: which should you get for your home? Let’s find out.

What Are Solar Tubes?

Solar tubes, otherwise known as sun tunnels, tubular skylights, and light tubes, are pipe-like structures that are installed directly on the roof of your home.

They’re made of weather- and UV-proof polycarbonate or acrylic material that transferred the absorbed sunlight to a diffuser installed on the ceiling of a room. The diffuser then emits a bright light from the absorbed sunlight.

Solar tubes are much more subtle and sophisticated than skylights. Despite their small size, they can disperse as much power as six 50W light bulbs or three 100W bulbs.

What Are Skylights?

Skylights are windows installed onto the roof of your home. They come in a variety of shapes and can be as small as 12 x 12 inches or as large as 10 to 15% of the room’s square footage.

Traditionally, skylights are made of polycarbonate, acrylic, or glass, all of which feature a frameset surrounded by flashing to prevent leakage.

Unlike solar tubes, some skylights can be opened to improve the room’s ventilation.

Solar Tubes vs Skylights: What Should You Get?

The choice between solar tubes and skylights comes down to a number of factors. Here are the biggest differences between the two installations:

Energy Efficiency

Although skylights gather up to three times the light of regular windows, solar tubes do a more effective job in capturing and diffusing light into the home.

In warmer months and climates, skylights are prone to solar heat gain, forcing your air conditioner to work harder when cooling down the place.

There’s less heat with solar tubes because of their small surface area, which is an advantage for individuals living in warmer climates. As an added financial benefit, installing solar tubes can result in up to 30% tax deduction depending on their EnergyStar ratings, as per the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

Design

Solar tubes and skylights have their own aesthetic appeal. However, skylights trump solar tubes but a large margin because they completely change the feel of the room.

Similar to adding mirrors on walls, skylights make a room look and feel more spacious. Plus, you get the extra benefit of looking at the gorgeous night sky. So, it’s no surprise that vented skylights increase the release value of your home.

Solar tubes are more subtle and basic in design. They add natural light into your home without significantly changing the room’s appearance or calling attention to themselves. This is great for minimalist designers and individuals who don’t want to alter the room’s architecture.

Exposure to UV Rays 

Skylights have a larger surface area than solar tubes, resulting in a higher risk of UV exposure. Even with solar shades, blinds, and glazing, they still won’t block the UV rays as well as solar tubes.

Unlike skylights, which are filtered to reduce UV rays, solar tubes block these rays at the dome before they get into the tubes.

As such, the light dispersed into your home won’t cause any adverse effects connected to UV rays, such as color fading, furniture damage, and more.

Maintenance and Care

Dirt, dust, and debris are much more obvious on skylights than solar tubes. Since they serve as a focal point of the room, they must be cleaned on a daily basis.

Every month, you’ll have to climb up the roof and loosen the dirt and debris from the glass surface with a special cleaning solution.

You’ll also need to clear any leaves and debris around the flashing so rainwater can smoothly flow around them. The interior must be cleaned, too, although not as much as the exterior.

As skylights are exposed to strong heat and high humidity, the surface needs to be treated at least once every four years.

Solar tubes are much easier to maintain. Most of them are vacuum-sealed, which prevents dust and debris from entering the tubes. Furthermore, the curved design reduces the amount of debris collected on the dome.

Solar tubes need to be cleaned at least once every six months to maintain the brightness of the room.

Cost

UV-protected skylights cost around $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the size of the project and the complexity of the design. Ventilated models often exceed the $2,000 mark. This is without installation, which can cost an additional $200 to $1,000.

Solar tubes aren’t as large and difficult to install as skylights, so they’re much cheaper. Unlike skylights, solar tubes have no major effect on the roof framing and the ceiling drywall. A standard 14-inch solar tube costs around $550 to $700, including materials and professional installation.   

Installation

As you may expect, skylights have a more complicated, intricate installation. It isn’t a DIY job; it requires professional expertise and experience. Your roof must also be oriented in a specific way for it to be installed, preferably  5 to 15 degrees above your latitude, as recommended by the US Department of Energy.

Solar tubes have a much easier and less time-consuming installation. They still require professional help to install, but if you’re an expert DIYer, you can install the tubes yourself.

Final Thoughts

In terms of energy efficiency, cost, maintenance, and overall value, solar tubes come through with flying colors. Their minimalistic design doesn’t bring a ton of aesthetic appeal to your home, but they do a brilliant job of illuminating your space.

Skylights are valued for their cosmetic appearance. They make even the smallest room look bigger. For this reason, they’re a huge selling point for potential buyers. After all, who doesn’t want a view of the night sky and the luminous moon in the dark?

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Both are great additions to your home. Thanks for reading!

Jason

This is the site where I share all of the information about home security. I have been working in this industry from last 10 years and therefore, sharing all my experiences and learnings.

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