Are you looking for ways to add more natural light to your home? If so, you’re probably considering a skylight or a sun tunnel.
But do you know the main differences between the two so you can decide which one is right for you? If you don’t, you’re not alone.
The team at Bill Ragan Roofing has been installing skylights and sun tunnels in the Nashville area since 1990. We ensure your skylight or sun tunnel is leak-free from day one. That’s why we’re certified by the leading brand in the industry (VELUX) to install their products.
So, what are the key differences between a skylight and sun tunnel? Always eager to educate, I’m going to break it down so you can find the best natural light option for you.
By the end of this article, you'll learn the difference between a skylight and a sun tunnel, as well as how they match up on cost, installation, and more. And at the very end, we're going to give you a checklist to help you find a great roofing contractor for all your skylight or sun tunnel needs.
What’s the difference between a skylight and a sun tunnel?
Before we get to know which of the natural light options is right for you, you need to know the difference between them. A skylight and a sun tunnel are roof penetrations that allow more natural light into your home.
There are two types of skylights, vented and fixed. A fixed skylight is sealed tight, meaning it won’t open. A vented skylight opens to allow fresh air into your home.
There are two types of sun tunnels, flexible and rigid. Flexible sun tunnels are used when there are obstructions in the way of the space required for installation. Rigid sun tunnels are used when there is a straight shot from the roof down through the ceiling.
Now that you know the difference between skylights and sun tunnels, you’re ready to learn how they match up on key factors. Continue reading to figure out how they differ on cost, the amount of light they let in, and which one is easier to install.
Does a skylight or sun tunnel cost more?
Two factors that affect the price of your skylight or sun tunnel. The first is the cost of the labor it takes to install. The second is the cost of the materials (your skylight or sun tunnel).
The cost of materials for a sun tunnel is going to be slightly less than the cost for a skylight. However, the difference in labor cost between the two is where you start to see which one costs more.
A skylight requires a lot more labor and time to install than a sun tunnel, making the labor cost really add up. For example, a retro-fitted (fitted into an existing opening) skylight will be close to $1000 more than a sun tunnel on the labor alone.
The cost is just one thing you need to know about getting a skylight or sun tunnel. But what else should you know?
Remember, a skylight requires more labor and time to install than a sun tunnel. This means a sun tunnel is going to be easier to install than a skylight.
A sun tunnel only requires one or two people to install. To install a sun tunnel, your roofing contractor has to make a hole from your roof to your ceiling, fit the tube down into the hole, install an acrylic dome on the roof side of the tube, and install a light diffuser at the ceiling end of the tube. The finished product looks like a mounted circle on the ceiling.
On the other hand, a skylight requires a lot more labor and construction. To install a skylight, a roofing contractor has to cut drywall, make framing for the skylight, put back the drywall, flash the skylight, and then get a painter to apply the finishing aesthetic touches.
The entire process to install your sun tunnel takes 3 hours from start to completion. While the process to install your skylight could take up to a week. Because of this, a sun tunnel is the quickest and least expensive way to transform any room with natural light.
Does a skylight or sun tunnel let more light in?
A skylight is mounted directly to your roof’s decking or mounted on a curb. Either way, it’s a direct window to the outdoors with plenty of natural light.
On the other hand, a sun tunnel uses the acrylic dome to capture the light, magnify it, and then sends it down the tube into the light diffuser. They’re not a direct window to the outdoors, so a sun tunnel won’t let in as much light as a skylight.
However, that doesn’t mean a sun tunnel doesn’t provide plenty of natural light. I recommend sun tunnels for dark rooms in the middle of your house that don’t receive any natural light (such as hallways, laundry rooms, utility rooms, dark kitchens, bathrooms, large closets, etc.).
Do both a skylight and sun tunnel get the Federal Solar Tax Credit?
The federal solar tax credit allows you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy system. VELUX, the leading skylight brand, offers the solar federal solar tax credit on some of their skylights.
This means you’ll get a 26% tax credit on the skylight itself and the installation cost. To get this tax credit, something about your skylight has to be solar-powered. This could be the skylight itself or accessories, like solar-powered blinds.
Unfortunately, most sun tunnels won’t be eligible for this tax credit. The only VELUX sun tunnel that is eligible for the tax credit is the solar night light.
Are you ready to get your skylight or sun tunnel?
Now you know the key differences between a skylight and a sun tunnel. Both are great options for adding natural light to your home, but you have to pick the one that’s right for you and your situation.
Whichever one you decide to go with, it’s crucial to hire the right local roofing contractor that has a history of proper skylight installation. That's why you need our free 16 question checklist of questions to ask a roofing contractor.
Your free checklist gives you the questions every homeowner needs to ask when meeting with a potential roofing contractor and the answers you should get back. What are you waiting for you? Go get your free checklist!
The team at Bill Ragan Roofing has been installing/replacing skylights and sun tunnels for the residents of Nashville since 1990. Our strong history of proper skylight installation speaks for itself. If you're local to Nashville, don't hesitate to contact us to begin the journey of adding natural light to your home today.