Solar Tubes, and Skylights, and Dormers, Oh My!

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So, what do these three things have in common? While most would think not much, they actually do provide some similar benefits and at very different costs. The one thing they all do is provide a method to get exterior light to interior spaces, and each with a very different exterior appearance. They offer great options when designing a home and can enhance a home both inside and out. Here are some comparisons that will help with deciding which option to use based on your needs and your budget.

A Little About Each

Solatubes (aka Solar Tubes or Sun Tunnels) – Solatube is actually a company that created a product that can bring daylight to every dark corner of your home. They are installed by placing a highly reflective tube in the roof of a home that is capped with a clear cover. The light is then reflected down the tube into a diffuser or clear cover in the ceiling of the home. This light is bright and brings natural light into what is typically a dark corner.

Skylights – Skylights have gotten a bad rap over the years. They are essentially a window in your roof. Because of this, they can act like a window, not only letting in light but also allowing ventilation. Because some of the older products had issues with leaks, many have refrained from using them. Today’s skylights from reputable manufacturer’s offer great options; for example, solar power for operating venting and blinds between the glass. And all managed with a remote control! Best of all, the latest flashing and installation methods have created products guaranteed not to leak.

Dormers – Many would think that dormers have nothing to do with Solatubes or Skylights. And you would be right except that many times dormers have applications for providing light to areas in great rooms while simultaneously being used to upgrade the exterior design of a home. Dormers come in many styles: Shed Dormers, Gable Dormers, Eyebrow Dormers, Hipped Dormers, etc. One of the key characteristics of dormers that in addition to providing light, most provide the home with additional usable floor space.

Skylights versus Solar Tubes

When comparing skylights versus Solar Tubes one of the first questions to ask is, “Where is the light needed?” Second, you need to know if there is access available to the roof. Skylights work perfectly in vaulted or cathedral ceilings where access to the roof is just on the other side of the ceiling and with no obstructions. Skylights lie flat and are a very cost effective way to bring natural light into areas that would otherwise have limited access to direct light.


Solatubes have a way of being able to bring natural light in an indirect path to interior areas of a home. For instance, an interior utility/laundry room is very dark with no natural light. There can even be a second story to the home and the solar tube can act like a solar tunnel being installed in a closet and funneling natural light to interior spaces. Interior kitchens are also another room that can benefit by using the features of a solar tube to redirect natural light into a darker work space.

Dormers versus Skylights

Dormers are primarily used to provide more space to the interior of a home and to provide extra style to the exterior of a home. A Gable dormer is a signature trademark for a Cape Cod style home. While a Shed dormer is a trademark characteristic for many Craftsmen style designs. Dormers, especially shed dormers, can help create a massive amount of additional usable square feet in the roof area of the home. Dormers also can provide glazing or window area that allows critical light to reach the roof area of the home. Building Code requires a minimum amount of light in a given room area and the windows in dormers can help meet that critical requirement.

On the other hand, skylights could be looked at as an economical dormers. Dormers can cost thousands of dollars each and change the overall look of a home. In certain cases, skylights can be more economical and not impact the homes exterior design while letting in massive amounts of natural light into a large living space. Don’t forget that skylights can be opened to provide ventilation.

Making the Right Choice?

With the flexibility of modular home design, dormers, solar tubes, and skylights can offer you many options based on your home plan. Each of these items can be incorporated into the design of your home providing additional space, additional natural light, or additional ventilation. You can even get all three at the same time. When it comes to design, you have lots of options to make your house the home you want to live in.

About the Author
Ken Semler

Ken Semler

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Hi, I am Ken Semler the founder of Impresa Modular. I am passionate about our company and the homes that we provide. Modern modular construction enables us to deliver healthy, safe, and energy-efficient living spaces. Impresa Modular is a licensed/registered/certified builder/contractor in almost every state. I believe that modular homes provide the best way to deliver virtually unlimited design flexibility at the greatest value.

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