Roof Lanterns vs Skylights: Which is Right for You?

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to introducing some more overhead light into your home with a dizzying number of styles, sizes, and designs readily available to shop. But within this vast range of choices, two tend to stand out ahead of the pack. Those two being the aforementioned skylights (or flat rooflight) and lanterns. A quick look at the two side by side will show the obvious difference in visuals, but there is so much more to consider when picking one for your next project. Read on to find out more.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Each? 

At a fundamental level both lanterns and skylights are designed for the same, singular reason. Sunlight. Of all the ways to introduce a bit more warmth to your interior, they both rank among some of the best – perfect when dealing with stuffy, cold or otherwise dark rooms. Done right, they can also add an extra touch of value for when you look to sell. As much as 10% in a roof lanterns case.

That being said, the differences between the two are varied and distinctive. Enough so, that one can certainly be more suitable than the other depending on the project specs. This goes beyond the obvious you’d expect. Price, shape and the like, and further extends into less obvious factors such as ventilation and maintenance.

 

Skylights

Roof Lanterns

Price

Tending to be on the cheaper side (with an average install cost of £1100). Though this will naturally depend on the size and shape.

On average, the more expensive of the two. Roof Lanterns can cost roughly £800 more into install (approx. £1900).

Light Efficiency

Being flat, skylights let in a large amount of direct light, though this can decrease greatly in low-light conditions during early and late day

Large in scale and more complex in design, Lanterns will more often than not let it lighter. Further to this, the light will protect and spread out further, allowing for greater quantities in the morning and evening.

Maintenance

Though some models offer self-cleaning finishes (ideal for use in pitched roofs), many still need to be cleaned regularly to maintain their effectiveness.

Another benefit of the pyramid design, Roof Lanterns naturally drain water away from their surfaces, making cleaning a far simpler job.

Visuals

Lain flush against your roof, skylights tend to offer little in the way of expressive visuals. However, they are unobtrusive – ideal if you want to keep aesthetics of your roofline as is.

Definitely more noticeable, Lanterns lean into their overtness with complex (and often stunning) designs. There are also a variety of options to suit different styles of building.

Installation

Many skylights are supplied as a full panel, making installation less of a hassle. Some even come supplied with a fixing kit to help DIYers unfamiliar with the process.

Whilst some Lanterns are supplied pre-assembled, many others come in kit form. This adds an extra level of complexity of their installation and can account for some of the added cost when hiring.


For those looking for the cliff notes, whilst roof anterns and skylights offer great (although different) visual appeal, they differ on a number of other key elements. Lanterns do tend to be on the pricier side of the scale (to the tune of around £800), though they make up for this in a big way with their improved low-light efficiency. As you might expect, this can also make them far more difficult for a DIY installation as opposed to the often fully-assembled skylights. Maintenance wise, the gulf is not massive though the lanterns pyramid-shaped design provides natural water runoff.

What's The Right Choice for You?

Knowing the benefits of each type of light are important, there’s no doubt about that. However, all the pros and cons in the world may not help when it comes to picking out the right product for your specific project. Here are just a few tips that can set you on the right track (and hopefully save you more googling time).

Roof Type

Typically, the first question asked when approaching a new roofing job, your rooflight can be determined by whether you are installing it into a pitched or flat build. Ostensibly, skylights can be fitted onto both and as such offer quite a high degree of versatility. However, they are far better suited to the slopes of a pitched roof providing to the rooflines a sleek and unobtrusive appearance.

Needless to say, roof lanterns tend fall in the opposite category. With more complex shapes and designs, they are perfect for flat roofs. Offering what may otherwise be a dull space something to draw the eye in a fresh and interesting way. To say nothing of the more intended benefits of filling your interior with warmth and light.

Visuals

As briefly mentioned above, one of the major draws of a roof lantern are their more intricate and carefully styled designs. Whilst these may contrast with the sleek, minimalist styles of modern homes, Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian decors suit them wonderfully – with some even able to provide a traditional timber look as a cherry on top.

Skylights, being thinner and less ‘loud’, on the other hand are an ideal choice for your 21st century abode. Offering all of the benefits of natural sunlight without any distracting frames or other noticeable design elements.

Budget

How often our ‘ideal’ renovation is curtailed by the cruel reality of budget constraints? Answers, all the time. It is an unfortunate truth of a lot of home improvement projects, but non the less one that must be addressed. As in the aforementioned pros and cons, roof lanterns improved low-light performance is balanced out by a fairly significant price increase. If you are already stretching the linings of your wallet, a skylight may be the best choice, especially so if you have more improvements on the horizon.

Ventilation

As important as lighting or heating, a room can never truly be comfortable without proper ventilation. So much depends on the proper flow of air and without, the consequences can range from minor issues of poor smell to more major ones such as damp and mould growth.

Where this comes into play between your decision of lantern and skylight is as simple as a basic design feature. Roof lanterns, as a natural result of their shape, are far more likely to be fixed whilst opening skylights can quite easily be sourced. If your room needs more fresh air, skylights then, are the way to go.

Lighting

On the flip side, if lighting is your main concern then you can rarely do better than a roof lantern. With a greater volume of light across a longer period of time, they are one of the very best ways to ensure your interiors stay bright and inviting – without having to fork out anything extra on electricity.

Insulation

With ventilation and lighting addressed, we can now move onto heating. Namely, the potential for heat loss each of these rooflights present. As a general rule of thumb, the more joins a piece of glazing work has, the higher this potential. This is one instance then, where the complex design of roof lanterns actually causes issue, with skylights (on the whole) offering greater protection.

That being said, this can depend on the exact brand, shape, size and glazing. Naturally, we would always recommend triple glazing where possible to minimise these differences, but all the same research is key here. Keep an eye out for the lights Uw value so that you can make an informed purchase.

Do You Need Planning for a Roof Lantern or Skylight?

Regardless of whether you are installing a roof lantern or skylight, planning permission isn’t actually required in most cases. Only in instances where the project extends past the permitted development rules. Specifically, if the project extends further than 150mm above your sloping plane, is higher than the highest part of your roof, or has a roof opening lower than 1.7m above the floor. Lights positioned in a side elevation roof slope must also utilise obscure-glazing.

Aside from these standard rules, you should also keep in mind that certain areas do have their permitted development right revoked and as such will require permission regardless. These include buildings with one or more flat roofs, renovations from previous non-residential buildings, or homes NOT build as a ‘New Dwellinghouse’ under permitted development rights.

Have More Questions?

Whether you land on fitting a lantern or skylight, many more questions are likely heading your way. From the specific brand to pick, to the size and installation practices. For these and any other questions you might have, please feel free to get in touch with our award-winning customer service team. You can get in touch by calling 01295 565 565 or using our online chat.