Sun Tubes vs Skylights
Written by Brandt Builders

Solar Tubes vs. Skylights: Cost Comparison, How They Work, & More

There are many differences between installing solar tubes vs skylights. Learn more about each below.

You get more than just natural light when you install solar tubes – you also get a lower electricity bill every month and none of the hassles associated with skylights. If you are thinking about adding light to a hallway, just one room, or another place in the home, you’ll want to consider solar tubes. Solar tubes provide greater warmth as well as more indirect light.

How Do Solar Tubes Work Vs. Skylights?

Solar Tubes are a very effective option to standard skylights keep reading to learn more. Or, read more about the disadvantages of skylights.

How Do Solar Tubes Work?

solar tube is a tube with a diameter of 10 or 14 inches with a polished interior assembled of sheet-metal. Commonly known as a tubular skylight, sun tunnel, light tube, and sun tube. Light will be channeled through the entire length while preserving the intensity of the light the interior acts as a continuous mirror as it captures the daylight on your roof and carries it to the interior of your home.

A solar tube on the roof captures light in a plastic globe that is weatherproof. The tube then runs into the room below via a porthole and that diffuses into the portal already installed into the ceiling. The globe on the roof collects the light from outside and is spread or dis-fused as a glow of pure white. it is certainly a dramatic effect. Homeowners often say that when they are installed, they sometimes reach to turn off lights that aren’t on, the solar tube is that effective!

How Do Skylights Work?

Skylights work in an identical way to the manner the windows in your home operate. Skylights are basically windows for your roof. Some skylights feature closing and opening options allowing you to open the skylight windows a few inches.

What is a Solar Tube vs. a Traditional Skylight?

It is important to understand the differences between solar tubes and skylights. Read on to learn more.

What is a Solar Tube?

What is Solar Tube

Definition: Solar tubes (commonly known as solar tube lighting, light tube, light pipes, or tubular skylights) are tube-shaped pipes that capture natural sunlight and distributes it to the interior parts of your home or office for illumination purposes. Compared to traditional skylights, solar tubes are cost less to install and are more compact.

What is a Traditional Skylight?

What is a Skylight

Definition: Skylights (commonly known as a roof light) is a light-transmitting type of window that forms all or part of the roof space of a building for lighting purposes. Sky lighting types include roof windows, unit skylights, tubular daylighting devices, sloped glazing, and customized skylights.

What is the Cost of Solar Tubes vs. Skylights?

It is important to understand the differences in cost between solar tubes and the two different kinds of skylights. Read more to find out for yourself!

What is the Cost of Solar Tubes?

Tubular Skylights Cost

The cost for a solar tube is about $750 with costs ranging from about $500 to $1,000 when professionally installed, compared to over $2,000 for the traditional skylight installation. If you happen to be somewhat talented at handyman projects, you may be able to install the solar tube yourself for between $200 to $400. Remember one of the many excellent features is that the light tube does not require new drywall or alterations to the frame or the home or paint!

What is the Cost of Skylights?

  • Skylights (fixed): The average cost for material and installation of a skylight ranges from $600 to $1,500 depending on the size of the skylight. You need to check with a skylight installer before you decide the kind of skylight you want as it cannot exceed more than 15% of the floor area in the room. The installer will also advise as to whether you need UV Protection which is dependent on the angle the skylight is installed.
  • Skylights (vented): Remote controlled or electric skylights will set you back between $1,000 to $5,200 including costs of installations and materials. You may also require the services of an electrician to ensure the wining is correct if the skylight installer does not have one available.

How Much Light Do Solar Tubes Generate vs. Skylights?

You may be wondering if how much light does a solar tube produce? Is it really more effective than a skylight, read further to learn more.

How Much Light Do Solar Tubes Generate?

The smallest option available is the 10-inch and gives off the light usually generated by 3,100-watt light bulbs, more than enough to illuminate an area of up to 200 sq. ft. A 14-inch tube can light up to 300 sq. ft.

Light tubes can be installed anywhere but here are some of the most popular areas:

  • Kitchens
  • Laundry rooms
  • Walk-in closets
  • Stairways
  • Hallways
  • Bathrooms

One thing to consider: You may want not to locate the tube above computer or television as the glare may be a tad too much.

How Much Light Do Skylights Generate?

Standard style skylights are just not capable of producing as much light as tubular skylights as they use a skylight well. Solar tubes do not need one and will not lose light through absorption as skylights do, what is more, standard skylights do not diffuse reflection or use light diffusion. Diffusion of light helps spread the light over the entire room opposite only shining down on areas where the sun directly shines through.

What About Installing Solar Tubes in A Multi-Level Home vs Skylights?

People often want to know can a solar tube be installed in homes with more than one level and how does that compare to a skylight. The answer may surprise you!

What About Installing Solar Tubes in A Multi-Level Home?

Yes, you can use solar tubes to illuminate the ground floor in a 2-story house. As long as there is a mechanical chase or even a close that a tube can be run through, it would enable you to channel the light down to the first floor of your home. Conversely, if you have to start cutting through floors and walling, very quickly other issues could start piling up making it a complicated proposition.

What About Installing Skylights In A Multi-Level Home?

Skylights cannot bring light to the ground floor as there is no tube for the light to traverse through. They can only be installed directly over the floor of the home where you want the light come in. Installing them on a 2-story house only illuminates the upper floor.

Is My Home Right for A Solar Tube vs. Skylight?

Here are some things you need to think about if your home may be suitable for a skylight or solar tube.

Requirements For Solar Tube Installation

With no alternations to framing required there are not many limits to where you can locate your light tube. Check the attic and ensure there is enough room so you can do a straight run. You can use elbows or flexible tubing to get around any permanent obstructions. It is simple to install light tubes if you have a vaulted ceiling as they only require 12 inches or so of tubing.

The Following Factors Should Be Considered in Advance

  • Location: if you want to get the best results, your globe should be installed on the southwest side of the roof. When you choose the spot to run the tube make sure it is less than 14 feet or less. You can also place the globe above the target room, and it would be capable of conveying 98% more exterior light. If the tube can turn or twist, you will get a minimal amount of light.
  • Weather: When you live in an area with high humidity causes condensation can cause issues to the interior of the tube. Condensation can be cut down by wrapping up the tube using (R-15) or (R-19) insulation. There are sections of tubing available from a few manufacturers have small fans built in to help remove any moisture in the air. if you reside in an area that is likely to get hurricanes, a polycarbonate dome will be extra hardy and long-lasting.
  • Roofing Material: The installation kits have been designed with asphalt shingles in mind. In addition, they can work with shakes and/or shingles as well. There are also flashing adaptors available to use for tile or metal roofs.
  • Roof Frame Spacing: The rafters need to be spaced at 16″ and need to be gapped enough to fit a 14″ or 10″ inch tube. If the rafters on your home are spaced on center at 16″, they have a special order 21″ tube available for light coverage of up to 600 sq ft.
  • Roof Slope: Many light kits include flashing to be installed on roofs having slopes ranging between 15 degrees (having a 3″ 12 pitch) or a 60 degree (having a 20″ 12 pitch).

Requirements for Skylight Installation

A skylight will require modifying of the framing and there are limitations of where they can be installed. In addition, standard skylights take up more space and of course only can be installed on the parts of your roof that have a lot of room. Solar tubes are a lot smaller and can be installed in several locations on your roof.

Brandt Builders Offers Tubular Skylight Installation In Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Glendale, Peoria, & Sun City, Arizona

Brandt Builders offers professional tubular skylight installation in Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Glendale, Peoria, Sun City, and other areas of the West Valley of Phoenix, Arizona. Get a free tubular skylight installation estimate today!

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