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Roof Window vs. Skylight: What’s the Difference?

roof window with blinds

A roof window or skylight can be a great way to increase the amount of natural light in your home. This additional light can help cut energy costs because you’ll likely need fewer electric lights, and it may also help warm the house, reducing your heating bill. The first thing that you will need to decide is whether you will use a roof window or a skylight. Since many people might not know the difference between the two, here, we look at both to learn more about them. Keep reading as we discuss size, use, cost, and more to help you make an informed decision.

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Overview of Skylight

What Is a Skylight?

Most skylights are stationary windows that typically do not open, and their primary purpose is to provide natural lighting in the home. Some skylights can open and close to allow or prevent the light from entering, and some may even open enough to allow a small amount of airflow. These windows are usually not reachable from inside the home, so you will usually need to climb onto the roof to gain access if they do open.

skylight during daytime
Image Credit: Alexandar Todov, Unsplash

Styles

There are two types of skylights: deck mounted, and curb mounted. Deck-mounted skylights will have a square or rectangular shape, while a curb-mounted skylight will have a tubular shape.

What It’s Good For

The skylight is great for adding natural light to the interior of your home. Since it is in the direct line of the sun, it will help reduce energy costs during the winter, and as a luxury item, it will help increase the value of your house.

Pros
  • Increases home value
  • Increases natural light
  • Reduces winter energy cost
  • More installation options
Cons
  • Doesn’t provide adequate ventilation
  • Doesn’t open or close from inside the house

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Overview of Roof Window

Unlike the skylight, you can open and close a roof window from inside the house, and it not only increases the amount of natural light coming in but also provides ventilation to the interior of your home. These windows provide you with a better view of the outdoors, and you can use them to look at the night sky. Since these windows open wide, they often provide access to the roof, but the downside is that you can only install them when there is at least a 15-degree angle, so you cannot place them on a flat roof.

wooden roof window
Image Credit: Thanos Pal, Unsplash

Styles

Roof windows are similar to casement windows, and you can get them in a wide range of styles, so there are many more options available than for a skylight. However, since a roof window requires a minimum of a 15-degree angle, you can put a skylight in more places.

What It’s Good For

The main advantage of a roof window is that it adds natural lighting and ventilation to your home, increasing its value. Like the skylight, the roof window can help reduce energy costs during the winter.

Pros
  • Increased ventilation
  • Good view of the stars
  • Provides access to the roof
  • Increases the home’s value
  • You can open it from inside
Cons
  • Minimum angle requirements

Which One Is Right for Me?

The type of light that you choose will depend on several factors. The first thing to determine is if you have a flat roof. If so, you can only install a skylight. If you need or want access to the roof to look out at the weather and see the stars and moon, you will need a roof window. If you are worried that the direct sunlight could bleach your interior, you will need to install a skylight for diffuse lighting, and you will also need one if you want to put a window where you can’t reach it.

When to Use a Roof Window
  • You need access to the roof
  • You want to see the sky
  • You require additional ventilation
When to Use a Skylight
  • You’re installing on a flat roof
  • You want diffuse light

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Conclusion

There is no clear winner here, as both kinds of windows serve different purposes, despite their similarities. For example, skylights are primarily for adding an increased amount of diffuse natural light to your home, though you can open some models for ventilation. Even if your skylight does open, it’s not enough to climb through, and most of these windows are out of reach. Roof windows provide access to the roof and additional lighting and ventilation to your home, but they are quite large and have a minimum angle requirement, so you can’t install them in as many places as a skylight can be.

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