Home Skylights—Dome, Tubular, Operable Skylights and More

Learn About the Different Types of Residential Skylights

When it comes to choosing skylights for your home you have a variety of options. You can choose ones in all different shapes and sizes, with different tints and levels of UV protection, and with differing levels of energy efficiency and ventilation. There are three major categories to consider. Here are some tips to help you learn how to choose residential skylights.

Style and Functionality. Skylights come in many shapes and sizes...and functionalities. In the broadest sense yours can be fixed, operable or tubular, but within these classifications you have more options yet.

  1. Fixed. A fixed skylight is one that doesn't move or open. It's sole purpose is to allow light into a room. These include:
    • Flat roof -see below.
    • Dome -see below.
    • Round-this circular skylight bubbles out above the surface of the roof in a half-sphere shape.
    • Pyramid- These consist of 4 triangular pieces that come together to form a pyramid that protrudes from the roof.
    • Polygon-this ornate skylight is created using multiple glass or acrylic pieces shaped like long, slender triangles (polygons) that peaks above the surface of the roof; typically a very costly, but impressive choice.
  2. Ventilating (Operable Skylights). A ventilating (or operable) skylight is controlled by a remote, hand crank, or automatically by the temperature inside your house. These have the ability to open and allow air to pass though. These are great for homes that need a little extra breeze and circulation. Ventilating skylights are typically hinged on one end and open and close on command.
    • Flat-this common skylight is simply a flat piece of glass or acrylic in the shape of a square or rectangle.
    • Dome-this is similar to a flat skylight except that it is rounded up past the surface of the roof.
  3. Tubular Skylights. A tubular skylight is a popular choice for narrow hallways, bathrooms and closets. These tend to resemble conventional light fixtures because of their size and concentrated intensity. A tubular skylight captures sunlight in a tube protruding from the roof. The inside of this tube is covered in a highly reflective metal coating, which sends the light bouncing off the metal and into the small room or hallway that is at the other end of the tube. The sunlight is diffused, which prevents carpeting and furniture from experiencing the sun damage that other skylights can cause. These are also typically very easy to install, depending on the set-up of your house.

Skylight Material. There are three standard materials that skylights are made of. Your choices may be limited by the type you choose, so check to see which of the following options are available to you before you make a final decision.

  1. Acrylic. Acrylic is the most common and economical synthetic glazing available. It allows you to choose from a variety of tints, UV resistance levels and between single or double glazed applications. Acrylic is used in both the Northern and Southern regions of the United States.
  2. Lexan. Lexan is a synthetic glazing material similar to acrylic that is impact resistant against airborne debris. Lexan is used on skylights in hurricane-prone regions.
  3. Laminated Glass. Also used in hurricane-prone areas, laminated glass is available in both monolithic and insulated performance glass and can be used with Low E coatings, reflective coatings, and numerous tints and inert glass fillings. Laminated glass is not available in dome skylights.

Skylight Glazing Options. Glazing options give you different levels of protection and insulation. Depending on the severity of the weather and other environmental elements in your area, you may opt for limited or substantial insulation.

  1. Single. Single glazing is available in all of the above glazing types. It provides the least insulation from heat and cold as well as sound.
  2. Double. Double glazing is available in acrylic and lexan and includes an insulating air space that is mechanically sealed. It reduces outside noise (i.e. rain and hail) and increases the energy efficiency of your home.
  3. Insulated Glass. Insulated glass is available for glass skylights and, as the name states, provides insulation-more specifically a hermetically sealed airspace. This is also a great choice to help protect your home from the elements.

Now that you know the types of home skylights, you can choose one and start installing it! Good luck!


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