Solar Tubes vs. Skylights: What’s the Difference?

posted by Chris Valentine

Nothing opens a room up or makes it feel more inviting than natural light streaming in. Unfortunately, it isn’t always feasible to have large windows in a room.

And that’s where solar tubes and skylights step in to get the job done. However, each shines in different ways; choosing the right one can be tricky.

Understanding the differences between the two and the pros and cons of each can help you make the right decision for your home.

What Are They?

Skylights are large windows made to sit into the roof of your home. They consist of a heavy polycarbonate, glass or acrylic panel, surrounded by a frame attached to flashing to make it leak proof.

Solar tubes, or tube skylights, are made up of a polycarbonate dome attached to a tube that feeds down through your roof or other floors.

Natural sunlight filters down through the tube, which can be rigid or flexible, and hits a diffusing lens on the ceiling that disperses the natural light through the room below.

More About Solar Tubes

Solar tubes can be purchased from solar companies. They are less expensive than traditional skylights but have a few drawbacks as well.


  • Easier to install. Solar tubes don’t require as much carpentry knowledge, as it is a plug and play system that simply requires holes. Skylights often require beams or trusses to be negotiated, the tube goes around them.
  • Multi-level capability. Skylights can only be installed at roof level, but solar tubes can go through hidden areas like closets to reach lower levels.
  • Less expensive. A solar tube kit is less expensive than a skylight install. Tubes also meet the requirements for energy tax credits!
  • Lower heat gain. Skylights are open to all sun rays and heat a room up quickly. Solar tubes block UV rays at the dome and contribute to less heat gain.
  • Little interior finishing necessary. A quick trim job is usually all that’s needed to finish the interior.


  • No resale value. A skylight is aesthetically pleasing and contributes to a home’s value. While they do let in natural light, a solar tube doesn’t add to the overall feel of the home.
  • Condensation buildup. Solar tubes can sometimes have condensation buildup in them. Unfortunately, skylights come with the same issue and are also prone to leakage.
  • No sky view. A solar tube is more functional than pretty, diffusing natural light into a room rather stealthily. Skylights offer expansive views of the sky above them.

Should You Choose Solar Tubes or Skylights?

When making your choice between skylights and solar tubes, it depends on your end goals.

If you’re looking for a quick way to bring natural light into your home, a hassle-free and less expensive install, and the lower maintenance option, choose solar tubes.

Tube lights bring the bright rays of the sun into your home without breaking the bank. You won’t have to worry about future leak issues or trying to finish out a complicated install.

Looking for more homeowner tips? Check out the home section of our site.

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