Skylights or Sun Tunnels

What's the difference

Skylights or Sun Tunnels
Skylights or Sun Tunnels Whats the difference

Skylights or Sun Tunnels (Tubular Skylight?)

Everyone loves a room drenched in natural light, and installing a skylight or sun tunnel is a wonderful way to add this light without significant renovations. Before deciding which option is best for you, it's wise to consider the difference between a skylight and a sun tunnel. Skylights provide natural light, ventilation, and energy savings to areas of your home that may otherwise be dark and underutilized. Sun tunnels, on the other hand, have a smaller footprint and bring light to places where skylights aren’t practical. Regardless of your choice, the benefits of light are undeniable - and can lead to a more energetic and cheerful new year.

Skylight Benefits, Features, and Installation Concerns


A skylight is attached directly to the roof of your home to allow sunlight and ventilation to areas that need it. The warmth provided by skylights can minimize heating, cooling, and lighting costs while adding a sense of spaciousness to your home. Some skylights open to release hot air and humidity while allowing fresh air into your space.


Visualizing the leaky, dark bubble inserts of decades ago? Gone are the dripping skylights of the 1960s and the acrylic bubbles of the 1980s. New designs provide homeowners a wide variety of energy efficient, no-leak skylights that can be ventilated at the touch of a button. Solar blinds can also be used with a skylight to improve energy efficiency. Blinds can be manually or electrically operated and are available in a variety of light diffusing or light blocking materials.

Installation Concerns

Installation costs will differ based on the size of your skylight and type of glass. Skylights commonly require new drywall, paint, and alterations to framing to insert. This may sound like a lot to any homeowner, but a skylight is a good investment because the cost will be recouped within two years – or less – through reducing your reliance on artificial lighting.

Sun Tunnel Benefits, Features, and Installation Concerns


One of newest trends in natural lighting is the sun tunnel – also known as a sun tube or tubular skylight. They serve the purpose of bringing in natural light, but they do not open to allow ventilation. They are easy to install and are often used in "green" building projects. The sun tunnel is a sheet-metal tube with a polished interior which acts as a mirror to channel light along its entire length while preserving the light's intensity.


On your roof, the tunnel is capped by a weather-proof plastic globe, and the tube ends in a diffuser in the ceiling of the room below. The diffuser looks similar to a porthole or recessed light. The globe gathers light from outside, and then the diffuser spreads the light into the room. A tubular skylight captures daylight and brings light to areas that traditional skylights cannot – such as closets, dark hallways, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Sun tunnels take up very little space on your roof and minimize heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter.

Installation Concerns

A sun tunnel is an economical approach to bringing the benefits of natural light into your home - at a fraction of the cost of a skylight. Typical costs for installing a sun tunnel are less than those for placing a skylight. However, if a sun tube extends from your roof through multiple floor levels, the price can increase significantly. Sun tunnels produce less heat than electric lighting, and the energy savings achieved by reducing dependency on electric lighting far exceeds installation costs.

The Importance of Light in Your Space

In addition to providing light and benefiting the environment, another factor to consider is the health benefits of getting regular doses of sunlight and fresh air. Insufficient amounts of sunlight are directly linked to a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People who suffer from this disorder have less energy, increased appetite, and depression.

The use of skylights in schools has been correlated to better student performance, and many businesses have improved productivity and reduced absenteeism by providing natural light sources to combat fatigue due to lack of daylight. With the growing number of people working from home, providing natural light through skylights and sun tunnels can be the best change you could make for your home and your health.

Energy Efficiency

Energy Star has established efficiency criteria for skylights found here. You may want to look for products that carry the Energy Star label. Many installations qualify for up to a 30% tax credit - be sure to obtain a manufacturer's certification statement from your installer and complete IRS Tax Form 5695 for submission with your tax return.

Choosing Which Option is Right for You

While deciding which option works best for you, these are other things to consider:

  • Overall quality and style
  • Energy efficiency
  • Installation cost
  • Glazing of the glass for visual comfort and energy efficiency
  • Control over heat and amount of interior light produced
  • Easily accessible convenience controls
  • Passive solar heating potential

Whether you choose a skylight or sun tunnel, it's best to a hire a professional who not only knows how to install, but has also repaired leaks on existing installations. Not all roofers have this experience, and this knowledge is essential to prevent leaks and ensure that energy-efficient performance is achieved.

Both skylights and sun tunnels can bring warm, natural light into your home or office. If you have any questions about what is right for you and your space, contact The Skylight Guys today. A happier, healthier, and brighter home may be just a phone call away.

Skylights or Sun Tunnels ?

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