Solar Tubes Vs Skylights: What should you choose?

Choosing between solar tubes and skylights can be a tough decision for homeowners looking to enhance natural light in their homes. Both options have unique benefits and potential drawbacks, and the best choice depends on various factors like your home’s design, budget, and lighting needs. Let’s look at which natural light solution is best for your home.

This article covers:

What Are Solar Tubes?

Solar tubes, also known as sun tunnels or light tubes, are a type of daylighting system designed to bring natural light into interiors. They consist of a rooftop dome that captures sunlight and a reflective tube that channels this light into a room. 

Solar tubes are known for their efficiency in providing bright, natural light and are a popular choice for areas where traditional skylights cannot be installed.

Solatube Kitchen Inspiration

How do they work?

Solar tubes work by capturing sunlight through a dome-like structure installed on the roof. The captured light travels down a highly reflective tube, usually made of polished metal or mirror-like surfaces, minimising light loss while travelling through the tube. 

At the ceiling level, a diffuser spreads the light evenly into the room. This technology allows solar tubes to provide ample daylight to interior spaces without significant structural changes to the building.

You can learn more about Solar Tubes.

Pros and Cons

Pros of Solar TubesCons of Solar Tubes
Cost-effective installationLimited styling options
Minimal structural modificationsDoes not provide a view outside
Energy-efficient natural lightingNot suitable for every room type
Less heat gain than skylights
Low maintenance

What Are Skylights?

Skylights are window installations on the roof of a building designed to allow natural light to enter directly from above. They come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from flat to domed, fixed to operable. 

Skylights can significantly enhance the ambiance of a room by providing direct sunlight, a view of the sky, and in some cases, ventilation. They are often used in spaces where side windows are not feasible or where additional light is desired.

How do they work?

Skylights work by creating an opening in the roof through which natural light can enter a building. They consist of a frame that holds a transparent or translucent material, often glass or plastic, and are installed flush with the roof or slightly raised. 

The placement and size of a skylight determine the amount of light that enters a room and its distribution. Some skylights are fixed, while others can be opened for ventilation, either manually or with motorised controls.

You can learn more about Solatube’s skylights.

Pros and Cons

Pros of SkylightsCons of Skylights
Provides natural lightPotential for leaks
Offers a view of the skyHigher cost compared to solar tubes
Can be opened for ventilationMay require additional window treatments for light control
Increases home’s aesthetic appealRequires more maintenance
Can lead to heat loss/gain

Skylights vs. Solar Tubes: 

Let’s dive into a more detailed comparison of the two.

Appearance & Views


Skylights offer a distinctive aesthetic appeal by providing a direct view of the sky. This can create a sense of openness and space, making them an attractive feature in rooms where a connection to the outdoor environment is desired. 

The visual impact of skylights is prominent, with various design options available to complement the architectural style of a building. They can turn an ordinary room into a bright, visually appealing space.

Solar Tubes

In contrast, solar tubes do not offer views of the sky but are more subtle and blend seamlessly with the ceiling. They are designed to provide natural light without altering the room’s aesthetic significantly. 

Solar tubes are ideal for areas where natural light is needed but without the need for direct views of the sky, such as hallways or bathrooms. Their discreet appearance makes them a versatile option for various architectural styles.

Installation Process


Installing skylights is typically more involved than solar tubes and may require significant structural modifications. The process includes cutting an opening in the roof, reinforcing the surrounding area, and ensuring proper waterproofing and insulation. 

Skylights also demand consideration of placement for optimal light and aesthetics. Professional installation is recommended to ensure proper sealing and to avoid issues like leaks or heat loss.

Solar Tubes

The installation of solar tubes is generally simpler and less invasive. These systems require a smaller opening in the roof, minimising structural changes. The flexible, reflective tube connecting the roof dome to the ceiling diffuser can be manoeuvred around obstacles in the attic space, allowing for more versatile placement options. 

The installation can often be completed in a day, making it a convenient choice for many homeowners.

Costs (Initial & Maintenance)


The initial cost of installing skylights can be higher compared to solar tubes, primarily due to the complexity of installation and the materials used. Skylights often require more extensive roof modifications and professional installation, which adds to the overall expense. 

Maintenance costs should also be considered; skylights may require occasional cleaning, sealing, or repairs, especially if they are operable or have additional features like blinds. The long-term costs can vary depending on the quality of installation and materials used.

Solar Tubes

Solar tubes are generally more cost-effective both in terms of initial installation and long-term maintenance. The installation process is simpler and less invasive, which keeps labour and material costs lower. 

Maintenance for solar tubes is relatively minimal, often limited to occasional cleaning of the exterior dome. The durability and simplicity of solar tubes make them a more budget-friendly option over the long term.

Energy Efficiency


Skylights can impact a home’s energy efficiency, both positively and negatively. They allow abundant natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day. However, if not properly designed or installed, they can lead to unwanted heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. 

Modern skylights often feature energy-efficient designs, including double glazing, low-emissivity (Low-E) coatings, and thermal breaks, to minimise these effects. 

Additionally, some skylights offer venting options that can help with passive cooling and air circulation.

Solar Tubes

Solar tubes are highly efficient in terms of energy use. Their design minimises heat transfer, making them less likely to affect indoor temperature compared to skylights. 

Solar tubes channel daylight effectively while insulating the home against heat loss and gain. 

This makes them an excellent choice for adding natural light without compromising a home’s energy efficiency. They are particularly beneficial in areas where maintaining a consistent indoor temperature is important.

UV Rays & Light Control


Skylights can expose interiors to UV rays, which can cause fading in furniture and fabrics. However, many modern skylights are equipped with UV-blocking coatings to mitigate this issue.

In terms of light control, skylights offer various options. Some models come with built-in blinds or shades, like Solatube’s skylights, while others can be fitted with external or internal covers. 

This flexibility allows homeowners to control the amount of light and heat entering through the skylight, adapting to different needs and preferences.

Solar Tubes

Solar tubes generally provide less direct exposure to UV rays due to their design and the materials used. The tube’s reflective material and the diffuser at the ceiling level typically filter out a significant portion of UV radiation, protecting interior spaces from its harmful effects. 

However, they offer less flexibility in light control compared to skylights. The light delivered by a solar tube is consistent throughout the day, with no built-in mechanism to adjust the intensity or block it entirely.

Climate Considerations


The effectiveness and suitability of skylights can vary significantly depending on the climate. In areas with harsh winters, poor insulation and installation can lead to significant heat loss, while in hot climates, skylights can contribute to excessive heat gain.

It’s essential to choose skylights with appropriate glazing and insulation properties for your specific climate. In colder regions, skylights with double or triple glazing and gas fills like argon can improve insulation. In warmer climates, tinted or reflective coatings can help reduce heat gain.

Solar Tubes

Solar tubes are generally less affected by climate considerations due to their design and smaller size. They provide excellent insulation and are less likely to contribute to heat loss or gain. 

However, in regions with very little sunlight during certain seasons, the effectiveness of solar tubes in terms of light delivery might be reduced. In areas prone to extreme weather, like hurricanes or hailstorms, the durability of the solar tube’s dome should be considered.

Water Condensation Issues


Skylights can be prone to condensation, especially in climates with high humidity or during cold weather. Condensation occurs when warm, moist air inside the home comes into contact with the colder surface of the skylight. This can lead to water droplets forming on the interior, potentially causing water damage over time. 

Proper installation, including adequate insulation and ventilation, can help mitigate condensation issues. Additionally, skylights with double or triple glazing can reduce the risk of condensation by providing better thermal insulation.

Solar Tubes

Solar tubes typically experience less condensation than skylights. This is due to their sealed design and the smaller surface area exposed to the interior of the house. 

However, in extremely humid conditions or drastic temperature differences, some condensation might occur. 

Ensuring that the solar tube is properly sealed and insulated during installation can help prevent these issues. High-quality solar tubes are designed to minimise condensation and its potential effects.


When it comes to skylights, several brands stand out for their quality, innovation, and customer satisfaction. Some of the most popular brands include:

Velux – Known for a wide range of skylight options, including solar-powered and electric venting skylights, Velux is renowned for its durability and energy efficiency.

Fakro – Offering a variety of skylight designs, Fakro is praised for its innovative solutions, including flat roof skylights and balcony windows.

Solatube – Whilst we’re primarily known for our solar tubes, we also offer high-quality skylights with advanced features for enhanced daylighting and energy efficiency. You can learn more about our skylights.

Wasco – Recognized for both residential and commercial applications, Wasco skylights are acclaimed for their architectural designs and eco-friendly options.

Solar Tubes

In the solar tube market, a few brands are particularly notable for their product quality and technological advancements:

Solatube – We’re the leading name in the solar tube industry, Solatube is celebrated for its high-performance daylighting systems and innovative design. Learn more about our expert solar tubes, we offer both commercial and residential daylighting solutions.

Sun-Tek – Known for providing a range of solar tube options, Sun-Tek is favoured for its cost-effectiveness and ease of installation.

Velux Sun Tunnel Velux isn’t just a skylight brand; their Sun Tunnel line is also highly regarded for bringing natural light into spaces.

Return on Investment


The return on investment (ROI) for skylights can be quite favourable, especially when considering energy savings and potential property value increase. 

Energy-efficient skylights can reduce the need for artificial lighting, lowering electricity bills. 

Additionally, skylights can be an attractive feature for potential homebuyers, potentially increasing the resale value of a home. However, the ROI can vary based on factors like installation quality, climate, and the specific type of skylight installed.

Solar Tubes

Solar tubes also offer a good ROI, primarily due to their lower initial installation cost and energy efficiency. They provide natural lighting without the significant heat loss/gain associated with some skylights, leading to potential savings on heating and cooling costs.

 Like skylights, solar tubes can also enhance the appeal of a property to potential buyers, adding value to the home. Their low maintenance and durability make them a cost-effective long-term investment.

Which Option Is Better for Your Home?

Deciding whether skylights or solar tubes are better for your home depends largely on your specific needs, home architecture, and personal preferences. 

Here are key factors to consider when making your choice:

Home Design and Structure

The architectural design of your home can influence your choice. Skylights are suitable for rooms where a direct view of the sky is desirable and where roof space allows. In contrast, solar tubes can be installed in almost any room, including those without direct roof access, due to their flexible design.

Lighting Needs

Consider the amount and type of light you need in a space. Skylights provide more light and can also offer ventilation, which is beneficial in areas like kitchens or bathrooms. Solar tubes provide consistent and diffused light, ideal for spaces where you need ambient lighting without the intensity of direct sunlight.

Energy Efficiency Concerns

If energy efficiency is a priority, solar tubes might be the better option. They are designed to minimise heat loss and gain, making them more energy-efficient than traditional skylights in many cases.


Your budget can also guide your decision. Solar tubes are generally less expensive to purchase and install compared to skylights. If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution, solar tubes might be the way to go.

Aesthetic Preferences

Skylights can be a design feature in their own right, offering architectural interest and a view of the sky. If aesthetic impact is important to you, skylights might be more appealing. 

Solar tubes are more discreet and blend in with the ceiling, offering a subtler approach to daylighting.

Maintenance and Longevity

Consider the maintenance requirements and longevity of each option. Skylights may require more maintenance, especially if they are operable, whereas solar tubes generally require less upkeep.

Climate Considerations:

Your local climate should also be a factor in your decision. In areas with extreme temperatures, the energy efficiency of solar tubes might be more beneficial, whereas in milder climates, the additional benefits of skylights, like ventilation, might be more advantageous.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on balancing these factors with your personal preferences and the specific characteristics of your home. Both skylights and solar tubes have their unique advantages, and the right choice will align with your priorities for natural lighting, aesthetics, energy efficiency, and budget.


In conclusion, both skylights and solar tubes offer unique benefits for bringing natural light into your home. The choice between the two depends on various factors, including your home’s design, lighting needs, budget, and energy efficiency goals. 

Contact Solatube for Skylight and Solar Tube installation

Are you considering the vibrant light of a skylight or the subtle brilliance of a solar tube for your home? At Solatube, we specialise in both, offering a range of options to suit your unique needs and preferences. 

Our team of experienced professionals is here to guide you through each step, from selecting the ideal solution to expert installation. Contact us today by scheduling a consultation, or calling us and take a step towards a brighter, more beautiful home.