Skylights have been around since ancient Rome and have been popular throughout history because they bring bright natural light into rooms. They are still widely used today for various reasons, including their ability to save energy by lighting the room without artificial light and without compromising privacy. The latter benefit is why they are often installed in bathrooms. Skylights are available in many different styles and made with a variety of materials.
The question of skylight glazing can be a tricky one. The main options are glass and acrylic. Which one is right for a home depends on several factors. Here is a look at the glass vs. acrylic comparison when it comes to skylights:
Comparing Skylight Costs
The upfront cost of a glass skylight is higher than that of an acrylic skylight but not necessarily the long-term cost. Potential energy savings should be factored into the cost of glass since a glass skylight can help to make a home more energy-efficient, and most acrylic ones can’t. The right tinted glass can lower a home’s solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), which indicates how much heat a skylight can block. A lower SHGC number means that there is less heat being let into the home. A skylight with a high SHGC number is best for a homeowner who is concerned about cold winters; a homeowner who is mainly concerned with summer heat will want one with a lower number. Low-e coatings on glass skylights can also help to lessen the amount of non-solar heat that gets inside the home. A glass skylight’s durability is also important since the main reason that homeowners prefer them is that they last longer.
One of the key differences between glass and acrylic is the view through them. With glass, the view will be clear, but it may be distorted when seen through acrylic. It may be tinted in some cases, cloudy in others. Over time, acrylic will discolor while glass will not oxidize or undergo any changes that will affect how it looks or its ability to let light in.
How do they compare in terms of durability? As long as they are made with impact-resistant glass, skylights can withstand everything from hail storms to hurricanes. Impact-resistant glass can protect homes from storm debris as well as from intrusion by burglars. It will also ensure that if the skylight does shatter, it doesn’t break up into large pieces that can cause injury. Also, the factory seals in glass skylights have 20-year manufacturer warranties against failure. In comparison, acrylic gets brittle over time and its need to constantly expand and contract will cause wear on the gaskets that hold it to the frame. As a result, those gaskets can break. Acrylic’s inability to handle pressure also poses a problem. Acrylic will not be able to hold as much weight – heavy snow, for example – when compared to glass. Hail can shatter it easily.
Will a skylight cause the homeowner to hear everything going on outside their home? This is a common concern for homeowners who live in high-traffic areas. A glass skylight does a better job of blocking out outside noise than an acrylic one. A glass skylight can insulate from outside noise up to 50 percent better than an acrylic skylight.
Glass skylights often come with a 20-year warranty compared to a five-year one for acrylic.
Skylights are valuable design elements and can last a long time when they are installed correctly and if the right materials are used. A skylight’s glazing is arguably the most important factor in its durability, cost-effectiveness, and aesthetic appeal. Glass skylights are the clear winner over acrylic in all the key areas.