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Solar Tubes vs. Skylights

Even with large windows, the amount of sunlight that enters your home is limited. Homeowners have often used skylights to increase natural sunlight, which can provide warmth and boost mood. Solar tubes, or sun tunnels, reflect light down to a lens in the ceiling of a room. Both are similar in they bring light into the home from above, although the benefits and disadvantages of each differ.

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What Is a Solar Tube?

A solar tube consists of a dome on the roof, made of acrylic or polycarbonate. This dome catches sunlight that is reflected down a sheet metal tube. Heat and glare are filtered out in the process. There is no break in your home’s insulation either. Once light reaches a diffusing lens embedded in the ceiling, which looks like a light fixture, light enters the room from above.

Solar tubes provide natural daylight and come with other advantages, including:

  • Cheaper installation than a traditional skylight
  • No heat gain or glare that direct sunlight causes
  • No effect on insulation, minimizing impacts on internal temperatures
  • Prevention of heating or cooling energy loss
  • A one-piece design that’s leak/damage proof and nearly maintenance free

Efficiency

Compared to skylights, solar tubes are more energy efficient. A skylight allows direct sunlight to enter the home, in fact, three times more than a regular window, so heat gain can be substantial in warmer months. While low-E glass can help, you might want to install a skylight on the north face of a roof for indirect sunlight.

Safety

The sun’s UV rays are blocked by the solar dome. Therefore, the light that exits the tube cannot cause sunburns or eye damage; nor can it fade furniture, artwork, or carpet fabric. Installers often recommend adding solar tubes to the southwest side of homes. In that location, they can capture a maximum amount of sunlight with minimal unwanted effects.

Condensation

Water condensation is common on top of skylights. On the other hand, a solar tube can collect condensation on the inside if the humidity levels are high. Wrapping the tube section in R-15 or R-19 insulation can prevent moisture from building up inside.

When Would I Want a Skylight Instead?

Skylights provide a direct view of the sky and can even be opened and closed. This is good if you want more ventilation. However, the sunlight is unfiltered, and a window-like construction provides a break in your home’s insulation.

Installing a skylight is more expensive than a solar tube. It requires roof work, framing, and repainting, while skylight parts are prone to breakage and leaks. Solar tubes are typically half the price to install. Both solar tubes and skylights are suited for use in warm and cold climates, although acrylic skylights are susceptible to damage from temperature extremes.

There are a few cons to installing a solar tube. One is you don’t have a direct view of the sky. The other is the sealed design prevents the tube from being opened. While solar tubes are more energy-efficient, the choice of installing one or a skylight mostly depends on taste.

Contact a Professional for Energy Efficient Window Installation

Window World of Boston specializes in installing popular types of windows in area homes, including the most energy-efficient solutions. Located in Shrewsbury, Pembroke, and Woburn, we employ experienced professionals and adhere to high standards. We are experienced in lead-safe installation methods. Financing and online payment options are available. To request a free estimate, submit your request online or give our nearest office a call.

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