Should I replace my skylights with solar tubes?

Elizabeth Brown Nov. 30, 2018, 9:32 p.m.

I currently have two skylights installed by previous owners (probably many years ago), one in a stairwell, and one in a bathroom. The bathroom one is definitely dripping with consensation post-shower, and the stairwell one is also showing condensation damage with paint bubbling up around it. And they let in a lot of heat in the summer. I'm on board that solar tubes are the better choice energy wise -if I were starting a new build, that's what I would choose. But do you think that I should close in my skylights and replace them with tubes? Or are there newer skylight models that can mitigate the heat and condensation issues? 

Responses (1)

Ecohome Dec. 3, 2018, 10:03 a.m. Reply

Hi Elizabeth,

That’s a very hard call to make, and one that only you can make, but we can give you some things to think about to help make that decision.

While we never recommend adding skylights to new homes, we are cautious about issuing a recommendation to replace or remove existing ones. Skylights are usually quite a bit bigger than a lightwell, so you will lose some of the light you are probably accustomed to, as well as the view of blue sky, so keep that in mind if you plan to switch them out. As much as we dislike skylights from an efficiency and durability stand point, it’s hard not to love the open feeling of light streaming in from above.

As a rule, we like to ‘repair’ rather than ‘replace’ if possible, but in the case of skylights and windows that depends on the extent of damage and the cost comparison of repairing / replacing. So – in some cases, if you’re sure it’s the condensation that’s the problem, covering the bottom with plastic or a sheet of plexi may make a difference. That would prevent moisture from accumulating in the cavity, it would also make them lose a bit less energy. You could also point a fan at them, either or both of those moves would probably prevent any moisture accumulating.

However, if it’s leaking from the roof surface then that’s not going to help at all. But if it were me doing it, that would be the first thing I’d do – get the two sided tape and plastic for windows and see if that temporarily solves the problem, if so, you may only need to scrape and repaint (with some stain-remover primer first) and call it a day. That and maybe a blind in summer to reflect the sun back out.

If it's actually leaking up top, then you had best do something more significant about it, either find and fix where it’s leaking, replace it with a lightwell, or cover it altogether. Switching to a lightwell will mean needing to reframe the opening to fit it, then working out a roof covering solution, but at least you won’t have to deal with the problem anymore. In that situation, I’d get a contractor to estimate what that job would cost. 

Don’t start by going to a skylight dealer, they will likely tell you all your problems will be solved by replacing them, and that simply isn’t true, particularly in your bathroom.

You may have found them already, but here are our related guide pages that may help. Please let us know what you try and how it works out!