What's the most affordable type of skylight?
Skylights come in three types: fixed, ventilating and tubular. Of these three, tubular skylights are the most affordable. Here’s why...
#1: Materials and Accessories
Fixed and ventilating skylights, typically referred to as traditional skylights, require a massive amount of building material. Aside from the skylight itself, lumber, drywall, paint, and roofing materials are needed.
From there, costs for traditional skylights can go up, depending on the homeowner’s needs. Want to control heat transfer or keep your furnishings from fading? You’ll have to pay extra for special coatings to reject infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) light. Need more privacy? Get ready to hand over even more of your cash for shades or curtains. Want to electronically open and close your skylight? You’ll need to buy an operating component and its accompanying remote. That will cost you too.
A tubular skylight, on the other hand, requires no structural modifications, so no building materials are needed. All you require are the parts that come with it: the dome, tube and diffuser. As for extras, you can protect your interior and enhance thermal performance for free by purchasing a tubular skylight from a manufacturer whose products offer built-in IR and UV blocking. Since tubular skylights are closed systems, privacy is not an issue and there’s no need for a remote.
But just because these skylights are simpler and less expensive doesn’t mean they are generic, one-size-fits-all products. On the contrary, you can choose from an array of decorative fixtures to customize your system to match your home’s decor. You can also add accessories for nighttime lighting, humidity control, and daylight dimming...all at relatively low upcharges that will keep you well under the cost of a traditional skylight.
Installing a fixed or ventilating skylight can be challenging and time-consuming. It requires a massive amount of work, including tunneling through your home’s roof and internal structures, reframing, drywalling and repainting. The entire process can take a full day or more to complete. During that time, your home is exposed to dust, dirt, bugs and debris. Plus, your normal daily routine is completely disrupted.
In comparison, a tubular skylight installs quickly and easily—usually in just a few hours. It doesn’t require any structural modifications, so no extra building materials are needed. As a result, installation costs are significantly lower and there is virtually no mess.
Traditional fixed skylights require regular external and internal cleaning. Dirt, sap, leaves and branches can collect on the glass or plastic pane and partially or completely block the sunlight. Interior wood framing must also be inspected periodically for peeling, cracking or fading, and repainted or refinished if necessary.
Ventilating skylights require even more work. In addition to caring for the outside and inside surfaces, the electric venting components must be checked to ensure they continue to work properly. To do this, the electricity must first be powered off, the skylight opened, and the chain inspected and cleaned. Leaves and branches must be cleared out of the crevices between the roof and the skylight to prevent opening or closing problems. In addition, insect screens must be removed, cleaned, and dried before being reinserted. Whether a homeowner performs these tasks or hires someone to do them, ongoing maintenance is an additional expense a homeowner needs to take into account.
In contrast, tubular skylights are designed to be maintenance-free. Once installed, homeowners don’t need to clean the dome or remove debris from the roof. Due to the dome’s round shape, leaves, dirt and water have no place to collect so they simply flow around and away from the system. Additionally, the closed system doesn’t allow dirt, dust, bugs or water to get inside, so there is no need for interior cleaning or leak repair.
So what does this all mean in terms of expense? In actuality, the cost for a traditional skylight by itself is not unreasonable. A fixed skylight normally starts at about $200 while a ventilating model is $400 or more. If you opt for a more sophisticated solar or rain-detecting model, though, the cost jumps significantly to about $1000.
But installation is where the major expense is typically incurred. Often double or triple the cost of the skylight, you can expect to pay anywhere from $700 - $3800.
Tubular skylights are priced similarly to fixed skylights, starting around $200. But you’ll typically spend an average of only $300 on installation. That makes the tubular version the most affordable skylight as well as the quickest to install and easiest to maintain. Plus, it offers numerous options for customization to meet your specific needs.
If you want to brighten your home using natural light but want to avoid high installation costs and ongoing maintenance, a tubular skylight is a worthwhile option to consider.