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Sun Tunnels Vs Skylights

April 29, 2022

Is the middle of your home too dark? If you are looking to add some natural light to areas of your home, consider a sun tunnel or a skylight. Both will provide you with beautiful natural light anywhere in your home. But when it comes to sun tunnels vs skylights, which is better? 

What are Sun Tunnels?

Definition and Purpose

Sun tunnels, also known as tubular daylighting devices (TDDs), are innovative structures designed to capture sunlight from the roof and funnel it into interior spaces. They consist of a rooftop dome, a reflective tube, and a diffuser that disperses the natural light evenly into the room. Sun tunnels are particularly useful in spaces where traditional windows or skylights are impractical or impossible to install.

How Sun Tunnels Work

Sun tunnels utilize advanced reflective materials to maximize the amount of sunlight they capture. The rooftop dome acts as a light collector, capturing daylight from various angles throughout the day. The sunlight is then directed down the reflective tube and diffused into the room through the diffuser, providing a soft, natural glow.

Advantages of Sun Tunnels

  • Energy Efficiency: Sun tunnels require no electricity to function, making them an eco-friendly and cost-effective lighting solution.
  • Daylight Quality: The diffused light from sun tunnels closely resembles natural daylight, creating a warm and inviting ambiance.
  • Flexibility: Sun tunnels can be installed in tight or awkward spaces, providing light in areas where skylights might not be feasible.

What are Skylights?

Definition and Purpose

Skylights are windows installed on the roof or ceiling of a building to allow direct sunlight into the interior spaces below. They come in various shapes and sizes, offering different design options to suit architectural preferences and lighting requirements.

Types of Skylights

  • Fixed Skylights: These skylights are stationary and cannot be opened. They provide a constant source of natural light but lack ventilation.
  • Vented Skylights: Vented skylights can be opened, allowing fresh air to circulate while also providing natural light. They are ideal for areas that require ventilation, such as kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Tubular Skylights: Similar to sun tunnels, tubular skylights capture sunlight through a rooftop dome and direct it into interior spaces through a reflective tube.

Advantages of Skylights

  • Abundant Natural Light: Skylights offer a direct path for sunlight to enter the room, illuminating the space and reducing the need for artificial lighting.
  • Ventilation Options: Vented skylights provide an additional benefit of improved airflow and can help with passive cooling in hot weather.
  • Aesthetics: Skylights can enhance the aesthetics of a room, adding a sense of openness and spaciousness.

What’s the difference? 

Both are roof penetrations that allow for light into your home. Skylights are larger and take longer to install; their installation involves two large holes in your roof and ceiling. Sun tunnels are a much smaller footprint on your home, but they also provide much less light. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that there are two different types of skylights and sun tunnels. 

Skylights are either fixed or vented. Fixed are sealed to your roof, while vented let in fresh air along with natural light. Sun tunnels are either flexible or rigid; this really only has to do with their installation and not their performance. Fixed sun tunnels are used if a straight shot from the ceiling to the roof is possible, while flexible is used if there is some obstruction in the way. 

How much do they cost?

When it comes to materials, both products cost about the same. It is only in labor that the true cost difference comes into play. Sun tunnels are easier to install, while skylights are more of a process, which means that a skylight can cost close to $1000 more than a sun tunnel just because of the time and labor involved. 

Which is easiest to install? 

As mentioned earlier, sun tunnels are easier to install. This is because you only need to cut two relatively small holes in your roof and fit a premade tube into those holes. From there, an acrylic dome is sealed onto your roof and a light diffuser to place on your ceiling. A skylight, however, needs two large holes in your ceiling and roof that will be unique to your home and will need to be refinished by a painter once the job is done. This is why a sun tunnel will take two professionals about 3 hours to complete, while skylights could take as long as a week. 

Which lets more light in?

Think of a skylight as a window built into your roof, while a sun tunnel is more of a reflective tube that catches the light. Simply put, a skylight is going to let in a lot more light. This is why skylights are the preferred choice if you really want to lighten up a dark area of your home. 

Which Option is Right for You?

Considerations for Choosing Sun Tunnels

  • The location and orientation of your home: If your home receives limited direct sunlight, sun tunnels can efficiently capture and distribute it.
  • Energy efficiency: If reducing energy consumption is a priority, sun tunnels are an ideal choice.
  • Budget: If you have budget constraints but still want to enhance natural lighting, sun tunnels offer a cost-effective solution.

Considerations for Choosing Skylights

  • Aesthetics: Skylights can be architectural focal points, adding beauty and value to your home.
  • Ventilation needs: If you require both natural light and airflow in a particular space, a vented skylight might be the right choice.
  • Home design and roof structure: Skylights require suitable roof angles and proper positioning, so your home's design will influence the feasibility of installation.

Choosing between sun tunnels vs skylights 

If you want natural light in your home, it is better to get a skylight. Sun tunnels are great when you want sunlight in sections of your home that would not allow for a skylight. However, they do not provide the type of light that a skylight can. While they are more expensive and take longer to install, skylights simply work a lot better for what they have to do than a sun tunnel.

IBEX Roof offers installation services and repairs for skylights and sun tunnels to improve natural lighting in homes around Vancouver and Portland. If you’re still not sure whether a skylight or sun tunnel is better for your needs, give us a call. Our skylight experts would be happy to point you in the right direction.

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