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What is the Difference Between a Roof Window and a Skylight UK

Roof Windows Stroud GL5 Gloucestershire Skylights

Installing roof windows or skylights in your home can make a big difference when it comes to bringing in more natural light. Both roof windows and skylights serve the purpose of illuminating interior spaces that don’t have enough external walls for the desired number of windows.

However, despite serving a similar function, there are some key differences between roof windows and skylights that are worth understanding before choosing one or the other for your home. Natural light has many benefits for physical and mental health. Exposure to daylight helps regulate our circadian rhythm which controls our sleep-wake cycles. Natural light also uplifts mood, enhances cognition, and provides vitamin D. Rooms lit with natural light also appear more spacious and appealing.

For these reasons, architects and homeowners aim to maximize natural light through careful home design. Skylights and roof windows are excellent solutions for bringing sunlight into interior rooms and spaces that would otherwise rely solely on artificial lighting.

Introduction to roof windows and skylights

A roof window is essentially a window built into the roof rather than into a vertical wall. Roof windows are typically vertical in orientation, like regular windows. They have glass panes and frames much like traditional vertical windows.

A skylight also brings daylight through the roof, but skylights lay flat against the roof rather than being vertically oriented. The glass panels in skylights are also often acrylic or polycarbonate rather than traditional window glass.

Roof Windows: Features and Characteristics

Before comparing roof windows and skylights, it is helpful to understand standard roof window features, types, and installation considerations.

Definition and purpose of roof windows

A roof window is, quite simply, a window situated in the roof rather than a wall. Roof windows serve to bring natural daylight and ventilation into attic rooms or other interior spaces that lack exterior walls suitable for standard vertical windows.

Key purposes and benefits of installing roof windows include:

  • Illuminating attics or interior rooms converted into living spaces
  • Bringing ventilation as well as daylight into enclosed rooms
  • Enhancing views of the sky above
  • Contributing an architectural accent to enhance aesthetics

Types of roof windows

There are a few different types of roof window mechanisms and opening styles:

Top-hung roof windows

  • Located in the upper section of the window
  • Open outward at an angle
  • Enable ventilation

Centre-pivot roof windows

  • Hinged at the centre point
  • Enable easy cleaning from the inside
  • Some offer ventilation capabilities

Conservation roof windows

  • Do not open
  • Excellent thermal efficiency
  • Ideal for locations where ventilation is not needed

Advantages of roof windows

  • Energy efficiency – Multiple glass panes with argon gas filling increase insulation
  • Durability – Can withstand extreme weather conditions
  • Easy to clean and maintain – Controlled from indoors in most installations
  • Adds natural light to converted attic spaces and interior rooms
  • Contribute ventilation for better indoor air quality
  • Enhanced views and architectural aesthetic

Limitations and considerations

Potential downsides of roof windows to weigh include:

  • Higher cost than some skylights
  • Heat loss and gain if incorrectly sized
  • Possible leaks if improperly installed
  • Limited light control without blinds or curtains
  • Visible from street level more than flat skylights

With proper selection, installation, and maintenance, roof windows offer exceptional performance and longevity. But consideration of home design factors is important when deciding between roof window or skylight options, a point emphasized by a roofer in Stroud.

Skylights: Features and Characteristics

In addition to roof windows, skylights offer another roof daylighting and ventilation option with some different qualities.

Definition and purpose of skylights

Skylights bring natural light into interior spaces through an opening in the roof, much like roof windows. But unlike vertically-oriented roof windows, skylights sit almost flush with the roofline.

Types of Skylights

There are a few main types of skylight product categories:

Fixed Skylights

Do not open, Often used more for light than ventilation

Ventilating Skylights

Include flaps or openings for airflow. Provide light as well as air circulation

Tubular Skylights

Include highly reflective tubes to transfer light through attic spaces. Useful for interior rooms when roof openings are not directly overhead. Offer less visible exterior appearance

Installation Considerations

As with roof windows, proper skylight selection and installation are vital for best performance:

Positioning for optimal light – Where possible, install above eye level to fill room with light, Consider potential obstructions from trees or other buildings

Energy efficiency – Select double or triple glazing to minimize heat loss/gain. Look for Low-E coatings to reduce UV and glare

Advantages of Skylights

Benefits provided by skylights include:

  • Cost effective way to add natural light
  • Flatter profile blends better with roof visually
  • Easy to combine multiple units to illuminate larger areas
  • Tubular options work for areas far from roof access point

Limitations and considerations

Possible skylight disadvantages involve:

  • Acrylic glazing less durable than roof window glass
  • More prone to leaking if improperly installed
  • Susceptible to damage from hail or falling debris
  • Exterior condensation in some climate conditions
  • Limited light control without additional window treatments

With careful product selection and proper installation, skylights offer reliable visual and energy performance for decades.

Comparing Roof Windows and Skylights

Roof windows and skylights serve the same basic functions of delivering natural daylight and ventilation from overhead. But there are some notable differences in terms of their design, capabilities, installation requirements and costs.

Design and aesthetic differences

There are clear visual differences between vertical roof windows and lower-profile skylights:

Frame styles

  • Roof windows use sloped frames like traditional windows
  • Skylights have low-profile aluminum framing

Visibility and aesthetics

  • Roof windows stand out visually from the ground
  • Skylights blend more subtly into the roofline above

So for homeowners preferring a subtle accent, skylights may align better with roof visual continuity. But roof windows make a bolder architectural statement.

Functional differences

Beyond aesthetics, roof windows and skylights also differ functionally:

Ventilation capabilities

  • Most roof windows open for airflow
  • Only some skylight types offer ventilation

So roof windows usually provide better control over ventilation.

Light control options

  • Blackout blinds easier for roof windows in vertical orientation
  • For skylights, exterior awnings or interior light shelves often used to manage sunlight and heat gain

So roof windows make it simpler to darken rooms when needed. light and heat control takes more planning with skylights.

Installation and maintenance

There are also some important distinctions when it comes to installation and upkeep:

Installation complexity

  • Roof windows require more structural alteration to the roof
  • Skylights can be added with less change to roof construction

So for simpler retrofitting or pre-construction ease, skylights involve faster installation.

Maintenance requirements

  • Roof windows offer easy access from indoors
  • Skylights usually need to be accessed from the roof for cleaning and repair

So roof windows allow for simpler maintenance over their lifespan.

FAQ Section

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions comparing key capabilities of roof windows versus skylights in residential settings.

Can a roof window be used as a skylight or vice versa?

Generally no – roof windows and skylights are designed differently to serve slightly different primary purposes:

  • Roof windows position glass vertically to allow outward views as a traditional window would, in addition to allowing light in.
  • Skylights sit flush with the roofline mainly for allowing overhead light to enter, rather than facilitating an external view or access point.

Using one in place of the other would not align with the product’s intended functionality and could negatively impact performance or code compliance.

What are the energy efficiency considerations for roof windows and skylights?

Two main factors affect energy efficiency with roof windows and skylights:

  1. Glazing material: Multiple glass panes with argon gas filling provide better insulation in roof windows and premium skylights.
  2. Supplemental shading: External shade structures, window films and interior light shelves help control solar heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter.

In hot climates, minimizing solar gain is especially important for energy efficient operation through roof openings. Careful product selection, smart shading strategies and professional installation are key to optimizing efficiency.

Do roof windows and skylights require special blinds or shades?

Managing light and privacy are often important with overhead daylighting elements. Purpose-built window treatments can enhance functionality:

For roof windows, standard blackout blinds mount neatly into side channels. Some even offer remote-control operation for hard-to-reach units.

Skylight shades require custom dimensions to fit into ceiling openings. Light-diffusing cellular shades and blackout blinds are common options tailored specially to the exact skylight width and length. Exterior awnings also help control solar gain and glare through flat skylights when desired.

How do roof windows and skylights impact home resale value?

Properly installed roof windows and skylights boost resale value in two key ways:

  1. They visually enhance interior spaces with natural light that buyers find appealing.
  2. ENERGY STAR certified models in particular help lower home energy costs through efficiency – a growing priority for buyers.

Well-selected overhead daylighting shows homeowners invested in livability and performance – things buyers look for that translate into higher property valuation at resale.

Are there any safety considerations for roof windows and skylights?

Yes, UK weather conditions and architectural trends prompt several special considerations for slate roofing, such as selecting local British slate tailored for rainy and cold climates, considering adding breathable underlay for moisture control, incorporating heat tape or insulation for additional protection in harsh winters, choosing slate color and style that complements the surrounding design aesthetics, ensuring slate thickness falls within the range of 7-10mm for UK spans, accounting for the extra weight load on structures, and utilizing reputable regional installers experienced with UK slate.

If installed to manufacturers’ guidelines for safe accessibility and glazing standards, both roof windows and skylights offer reliable protection along with all their aesthetic and functional benefits safe, durable daylighting performance for years to come.

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