Imagine lying on your bed and watching the clouds float by, or the leaves waving in the breeze. The very idea calls up notions of tranquility, ease, and luxury—opening up your home’s design and bathing it in natural light.
A skylight in a home can serve many of these purposes. Homeowners use them to lighten up a dark corridor, lend a master bath a spa-like feel, or just add a touch of interest to a home’s exterior profile. Because skylights can do so many things, there are many styles—and additional features—that influence its final cost. In fact, the price of a skylight could run you anywhere from $450 to upwards of $5,000 after installation. That’s quite a range! Fortunately, however, if you’re trying to do your window renovation on a budget, some smart choices can keep your costs low—and still let the light in!
The style you choose will affect your costs
Generally, skylights fall into three different styles: tubular skylights, fixed skylights, and vented skylights. As with everything in home renovation, the type you select will affect your overall costs. Here’s how they all stack up:
- Tubular Skylights: These rounded skylights work well to brighten up a large area at a low cost. In fact, manufacturers claim that these skylights are so bright that a 10-inch tube has the luminating effect of three 100-watt light bulbs, and can light a space as large as 200 square feet wide. Most have a diffuser in one end to limit glare; however, they aren’t going to provide you with much of a view. They’re also known to be a little bit easier to insulate than a skylight, since the tube fits snugly into the wall opening, and isn’t operable at all.
- Fixed Skylights: This is the most traditional style, the one most homeowners think of when they decide they want to install a skylight. Unlike a vented skylight, it isn’t operable—it only lets light into the interior, rather than opening for air circulation. For this reason, they cost slightly less.
- Vented Skylights: Vented skylights can be opened, either manually through a hand crank, or through an electric control that is manipulated through the push of a button or the use of a remote control. You can also opt for a solar vented skylight, which is powered using a solar panel located on the rooftop below the window opening—ENERGY-STAR certified models get a vote for better energy efficiency, as well.
You’ll also need to think about the project’s labor costs
Because skylights typically require cutting into your roof and ceiling, it’s not a job that’s recommended for amateur DIYers. A botched skylight can have serious consequences, including a loss of insulation, ceiling leaks, and mold from condensation.
That means that you’ll need to factor in labor costs in your skylight estimates, which can raise the overall price by several hundred dollars. Labor costs will obviously be compounded by how difficult the installation is. If you have a metal or tile roof, need to cut into roof trusses, or are installing a chase to channel sunlight through the attic space, then the installer will need to work longer, and will consequently charge more for the project.
Some other features that can affect the final cost
We’ve briefly touched upon some window features that can increase the labor costs associated with your skylight project. Now let’s take a more in-depth look at those items, and how they impact the overall costs.
- Roof Type: Most skylights are made to be installed on roofs with asphalt shingles. Therefore, if you have a metal or tile roof, you’ll usually be charged more to install extra flashing around the window opening, and that could raise the final cost up to 30 percent.
- Window Size: Typically, the larger the size of the skylight, the more you can expect to pay. Keep in mind, though, that the design impact will be greatly reduced with a smaller window. However, if your roof is framed with trusses, and the installers need to cut into them to fit the window in, then your roof is going to need to structural changes. That means you’ll need to enlist the expertise of a structural engineer, which will add around $300 to $500 to your project.
- Installing a Skylight Chase: In homes with attics, a skylight chase is often used to funnel light from the roof into a more commonly-used living space. Chases are typically framed with drywall and finished with paint or other coverings, so they cost quite a bit to build. If you want to use a chase in your home skylight, expect to spend around $1,500 more.
- Additional Features and Window Treatments: In addition to the basics, skylights come with optional bells and whistles that add to the final cost. For instance, many vented skylights are have automatic controls that allow you to operate the window with a remote control. This feature will raise the base price of the window to around $600. If you’d like to install an additional rain sensor to close the window automatically in the event of inclement weather, you’ll need to set aside an average $200 to $300 more. Additionally, some homeowners are opting for built-in mini blinds or shades in skylights, which can be turned manually or through remote control. Expect to pay an extra $200 to $400 for this feature.
Skylights can also impact your home energy costs
Skylights keep lighting costs low, letting you use less energy to keep your home well-lit throughout the day. However, you’ll need to be careful with them as well. Improperly installed skylights can create drafts or add excess heat to your home. And those conditions can force your HVAC to work harder, driving up energy costs. To keep your heating and cooling bills on an even keel, you’ll want to consider both the slope of the skylight and its sealing and insulation.
The right slope will depend on your home’s geographical location. Since the sun isn’t exactly stationary, having a skylight that’s angled too low for your area’s latitude can increase glare and raise the interior temperature of your home. The Department of Energy recommends that you follow this formula to find the ideal slope: research your geographical latitude and add 5 to 15 degrees. An experienced contractor should also be able to help—they will have experience working in your area and understand how the location plays into your new skylight’s overall comfort factor.
But that’s not the only way poorly-installed skylights dial up the energy expenses. Improper sealing and bad insulation can allow heating and air conditioning to slip through the cracks—or offer an entry point for chilly drafts in the winter time. Most skylights come with insulation included in the glass and frames, so it’s mainly the area between the frame and the roof opening that you’ll need to worry about. Your contractor should add cavity insulation around the skylight shaft, and expandable foam insulation to fill any remaining gaps, to let the light in without any extra drafts.
Overall, windows have an enormous impact on your home’s energy expenses, so it pays (literally!) to do your homework before you buy. To learn more about how you can use windows to save you money on your heating and cooling bills, visit our windows cost calculator.