Are Skylight Windows a Good Idea? [Solved!]

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 02/18/22 •  11 min read

Skylight windows offer a beautiful burst of natural light into a dark room or hallway that simply can’t be replicated by artificial lighting.  With that said, if you’re anything like me, you’ve heard some negative things about skylights in the past and you may be left wondering if they are going to be a pain.

So, are skylight windows a good idea? Often, it depends on where you live as well as the design of your home.

Those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere know just how gloomy the poorly lit areas of a home can feel, especially during the fall and winter. There’s even research to show that insufficient natural light indoors decreases our mood and makes us less productive! 

A skylight’s light can be converted into heat, warming the area beneath it – but depending on where you live, that’s not always an advantage.  Think about the aspect of the property and where you’re planning to install the window.  Will the placement offer you useful, warming heat in the morning without then overheating the area when the sun peaks later in the day?

We think of additional light as a positive, but because skylights bring in so much sunlight, unless you’re positioning them in a darker spot, you may find yourself competing with too much light. If you’re renovating a property, it’s far easier to know where you need more light, but when it comes to building a property from scratch you need to carefully think about where to place a skylight, or if one is needed at all. 

What Is the Purpose of Skylights?

Skylights allow you to bring more light into your property where sidewall windows are too small, or are not present or wanted.  During cold weather, skylight windows offer the possibility of warming part of the house, while in the summer some styles can be opened to allow for improved ventilation.

Suitable for a range of roof types, a skylight window will allow in up to five times more natural light than a sidewall window. The aesthetic produced by natural light opens up a space and is beneficial whatever your interior design aspirations, though it is particularly well suited to the bright, airy look.  By transforming the likes of a dark attic, skylights can allow you to renovate and provide a new living space, thus increasing your property’s value.

Heat control is an often underappreciated purpose of skylights, with both warming and cooling functions achievable.  If your home is on the cooler side, as the sun warms the window, that heat is drawn into the home (toward the colder side of the window), following the laws of heat conduction.  In warmer months, certain styles of skylights can be opened ajar (vented) to draw air through the property.  Opening your skylight can also freshen up your home, since warm air will rise up and out and the air from outside will be drawn in.

What Is the Difference Between a Skylight and A Roof Window?

The main differences between skylights and roof windows relate to what functions they can serve, and where they can be installed. Skylights are either static or only open slightly, whilst roof windows can open to the point of being used as an access route to a roof or roof terrace. Skylights have far greater versatility when it comes to the type and pitch of roofs into which they can be installed.

To complicate things further, a skylight is sometimes called a rooflite, and a roof window can sometimes be called a venting skylight.

SkylightRoof Window
FunctionsImproving light levels, warming an area and some can be used to ventilate.Improving light levels, ventilation, enhancing views from the property, access to the roof.
OpeningSome are fixed and those which do open can only be set ajar (vented), rather than fully opened.Can always be opened, with most having the capacity for full opening for unobscured views of the sky and ease of access out of the property.
PlacementCan be mounted on top of a framed opening in the roof (curb-mounted skylights) or directly to the roof with a nail right on the seal of the roof itself (deck-mounted skylights).Must be installed on the same plane and orientation as the roof.
Roof TypeSuitable for a wide range of roof constructions and pitches, including a flat roof.The roof must have a minimum pitch of 15°.
Ease of UseSome models can be opened manually, electronically, or via solar power, making them useful if they’re positioned high on the roof.Can only be operated manually, so must be within reach if you want to open and close.

How Much Are Skylights for A House?

The cost of a skylight window varies depending on its specification,  with individual good-quality panels costing between $150 – $500, and then you can expect to spend up to six times that cost on installation fees. Additional features such as electrical or solar powered opening will increase costs, as will high-quality materials such as laminated glass.

If you have any experience in home renovations or house building, it’ll come as no surprise that the greatest cost for these windows is the installation. You need an experienced tradesperson to calculate the pitch of your roof and the internal ceiling, and to install the panels in a manner that prevents leaks. Always opt for someone who has installed many skylights across a range of roof types. 

To enhance the value of a property, buying quality panels is important, and helpfully there are many options available at the lower end of the price range (especially around the $200-$300 mark).  If your budget accommodates,  you may enjoy the more state-of-the-art “smart” skylights. These monitor the external and internal temperatures and then adjust the venting and blind level on the skylight accordingly, promoting an even more energy-efficient and healthy home.  

Do Skylights Add Value to A House?

Although buying and installing skylights can seem like quite a financial investment, it is money well spent since skylights are an excellent way to add value to a house.  Primarily, they do this by improving the look of the property interior – bright, airy rooms appeal to buyers and therefore bump up your valuation. There is also an energy efficiency benefit of well-fitted skylights and this can also add value to your property, with the modern eco-conscious buyer keen to see such features in a home.

On paper, the mention of skylights in a property’s schedule may not leap out as a must-have feature for buyers, but once they enter a home they can’t help but be influenced by the atmosphere the natural light creates.  You can’t change the dimensions of a room in your property, but you can make it feel bigger.  As any realtor will tell you, natural light can achieve this effect, so whilst they won’t increase the square footage, they’ll add value by making smaller rooms appear more spacious.

In the Canadian Home Buyer Preference survey, energy efficiency (including high-efficiency windows) made it into the top ten most desirable features in a property. By reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day, warming the interior, or cooling a property when vented, skylights increase a home’s value by making it more energy-efficient and therefore cheaper and greener to run.

Do Skylights Always Leak?

For a window, it’s not a great reputation to have, but skylights have been notorious for their tendency to leak.  Modern panels are far more leak-proof than earlier models and it is generally poor installation and maintenance that contribute to the dreaded drips. Sometimes what is thought to be a leak is actually condensation, so learning how to assess and care for your skylight is key.

Modern skylights are constructed in a manner that reduces the risk of leakage, for example featuring multiple layers and strengthened seals.  Manufacturers offer panel and flashing installation instructions which also help prevent leaks – with some offering a no-leak warranty. If you’ve made the wise decision to choose a high-quality panel, as long as you use an experienced tradesperson, installation-based leaks are unlikely. 

Condensation can give the appearance of a skylight leak. If your panel is located in a humid environment, such as a bathroom or kitchen, is single-glazed, and if you experience cold weather across the year it is always worth checking to see if drips from a skylight are actually accumulated condensation.  In addition to being a contributing factor to condensation, wintery weather can also be a challenge to the integrity of skylights. Melting snow can create an ice dam and subsequent damage to panels (especially those of poorer quality), so if your skylight sits within a flat roof, snow clearance is an important maintenance job.

Do Skylights Increase Insurance?

The impact of skylights on your home insurance shouldn’t be too much, but be sure to read the small print – the insurer may have some caveats when it comes to these windows. If your skylights are increasing the cost of your home insurance notably, shop around because with manufacturer warranties and building standards there is now little need for skylights to be considered a liability.

Whilst the physical presence of skylights within your roof should not make a marked difference to the cost of your insurance, you may well wish to pay a little extra to ensure your skylights are covered to the extent you’d prefer.  Check your insurance policy to see what stipulations they have about skylights and you might be surprised to find that a main area of concern is not leakages, but home security! Some policies advise that accessible, vented skylights should be locked with a key. 

Sometimes insurance covers the cause of damage rather than the specific structural issue, so if there’s been a leak onto your belongings it won’t matter if that leak came from a hole in your roof or a crack in the sealant of a skylight.  However, you may find that whilst a policy covers expected general wear and tear of a roof, it won’t cover the same for a skylight and many policies feature a wind or hail exclusion.  Always double-check so you’re not left with any unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. 

How Long Do Skylight Windows Last?

It’s a good time to be purchasing skylights because high-quality modern panels come with a manufacturer’s warranty, usually of around ten years. Well-maintained skylights in a structurally sound roof can last for 15 years or even beyond.  As with many features in your home, the quality of the product really does make a difference and therefore though the cost of a good panel may seem high, in the long run, you may well save yourself money.

The lifespan of a skylight can easily surpass the manufacturer’s warranty but it is wise to replace most models after 15 years.  For the likes of FACRO and Velux skylight windows, whose models have longer warranties, replacement may not be needed until the 20 or even 30-year mark – again highlighting the long-term value of the more initially expensive models.

If your skylight was poorly installed or maintained, or if your roof was damaged or worked upon then the lifespan may be reduced. If your property is exposed each year to challenging weather conditions, again, it may have a shorter life span – but the warranty should still stand.

Conclusion:

Skylights are the perfect solution when you need a lot of light in a small or dimly lit space in your home. Today’s skylights improve a home’s energy efficiency (saving the owner money and allowing them to improve the property’s eco-credentials), they’re known to make us feel better, and some fit beautifully into the new era of “smart homes”.

Not every room or hallway will need or benefit from the plentiful light source provided by a skylight, so if you’re not sure whether they’re right for your space, click here to see our list of the 13 most popular window styles for your home.

References

Shishegar, N., & M. Boubekri. (2016). Natural Light and Productivity: Analyzing the Impacts of Daylighting on Students’ and Workers’ Health and Alertness. Int’l Journal of Advances in Chemical Engg., & Biological Sciences (IJACEBS). 3 (1). https://www.iicbe.org/upload/4635AE0416104.pdf

thewriteDuffy

At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.