Increase the Natural Light in Your Home: Skylights vs. Solar Tubes

When you live in the state of Washington, it can be tough to illuminate your home naturally on a regular basis. When you take steps to illuminate your home naturally instead of relying solely on artificial indoor lighting, however, you can reduce the cabin fever you may experience during long, cold winters and reduce your home lighting expenses year-round.

Instead of adding more windows to your home to increase natural light, consider installing a skylight or solar tube on your roof. The average skylight provides five times more natural light than a window located on an exterior wall, and a solar tube provides affordable natural light without sacrificing home energy efficiency. 

Read on to learn more about both of these natural home lighting solutions, how they compare, and each of their unique benefits. 

All About Skylights

Put simply, skylights are windows that are installed on your roof instead of on your home’s exterior walls. Skylights increase the natural light in a room while also providing a great view of the sky. 

Skylight windows are made with glass, polycarbonate, or acrylic glazing. While polycarbonate and acrylic glazing are both lightweight and inexpensive, plastic skylight window glazing offers little insulation from the sun’s heat and can discolor over time.

Glass glazing is typically a better option because the right glass blocks the sun’s heat and helps create a much more energy-efficient skylight. For optimum energy efficiency, choose double-pane glass glazing with a low-emissivity, or low-E, coating. 

While all glass could potentially break, skylights are made with tempered or laminated glass. If broken, both options are less likely to cause harm to your family than traditional glass. Traditional glass breaks into sharp shards, while tempered glass breaks into small pieces with edges that are not very sharp.

Laminated glass is made of two glass panes with a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) film sandwiched between them. This glass is also frequently used in auto windshields, because if either pane of glass breaks, all the glass pieces remain attached to the PVB film. 

Skylight frames can be made of wood, metal, or vinyl. Each type of frame has its unique benefits, but vinyl frames are typically the best option. These frames are waterproof and offer good insulation. 

Options for Installation

While many skylights are fixed windows, which means that they do not open, others can be opened to ventilate a room when desired. While some skylights can be opened manually, others are motorized and opened with a remote. 

While skylights come in many sizes, as a general rule of thumb, the skylight placed in a room should not exceed 15 percent of the room’s floor area to keep the room as energy-efficient as possible. 

While skylights have their benefits, unfortunately, they cannot be installed on all roofs without sacrificing the roof’s structural integrity. They are better options for stick-framed roofs than truss-framed roofs; while skylights can be installed between the rafters of stick-framed roofs, the rafters of truss-framed roofs typically lie too close together to place a traditional skylight between them. 

Solar Tubes Explained

Solar tubes, also called tubular skylights, also allow plenty of natural light into your home, although their design differs greatly from a traditional skylight design. 

A typical solar tube consists of a clear dome that is attached to your roof with flashing. This dome is connected to metal tubes with mirrored interiors that run from the roof surface down to your home ceiling. When sunlight passes through the clear dome, it then bounces off the mirrored surfaces of the solar tubes and is then dispersed into the room below the solar tube with a special light diffuser. 

Options for Installation

Since solar tubes are available in a wide variety of sizes ranging from 10 to 21 inches in diameter, they are a much better option for truss roofs with little clearance between rafters. In addition, little of the sun’s heat passes through solar tubes, making them good options when you want to ensure that you do not increase the temperature of a room you are illuminating naturally.  

Solar tubes are typically more affordable than traditional skylights because they are much quicker and easier to install. 

One disadvantage of a solar tube, when compared to a skylight, is that a solar tube does not provide a view of the sky. Also, unlike some skylights, solar tubes cannot be opened to ventilate a room. 

If you would like to increase natural light in your home, then consider having one or more skylights or solar tubes installed on your home’s roof. Just remember that both natural home lighting solutions should be installed by an experienced professional. Improperly installed skylights and solar tubes can leak, break, or compromise the structural integrity of your entire roof.

Contact the roof and roof accessory experts at the Roof Doctor to schedule your skylight and solar tube installation today.

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What Our Clients Say

  • "I came back to my house a week after completion. The grounds were very clean, my roof looked great, and you were very helpful, courteous, and quick to return phone calls (very important).
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