Both roof lanterns and skylights can be a wonderful addition to any home, offering a great view and lots of light. But a lot of people seem to be struggling with determining which one will fit their properties more efficiently. So, what's the difference essentially?

In order to understand in what situation one is better than the other, you need to learn more about their upsides and downsides. Here we offer a glut of information about both types of windows hoping you will be able to make an adequate decision about them. Continue scrolling down the paragraphs to get all the details.

Key Takeaways about the Difference between a Roof Skylight and a Roof Lantern

  • Roof lanterns take up a lot of space and provide a large amount of light indoors
  • A rooflight or skylight is a flat window set into the roof that offers less light than roof lanterns but they are still better than traditional windows
  • Both types of windows can be installed under permitted development rights, so they don’t usually require a planning permit, with a few exceptions that is
  • All roofs can take the weight of a skylight but not all can do roof lanterns
  • The majority of roof lanterns can be vented but not opened unlike skylights that have plenty of opening options

What is a Roof Lantern?

This is not as light a structure as the name suggests. It is a daylighting architectural element to the building that requires a bigger roof to be placed upon. It allows more natural light than any other type of window. If you choose these, they will become an integral part of your home. It’s worth noting lanterns are quite extravagant and theatrical, both internally and externally.

What are the benefits of roof lanterns vs flat skylight?

  • No planning permit
  • Added value to the property
  • More light into the rooms
  • Impressive views

Do roof lanterns let in more light?

They do. Roof lanterns are the best way to get the most light to enter your room. They are known to allow three times more light than regular windows and they are also superior to skylights and roof windows in the light department.

Are roof lanterns double glazed?

To comply with current requirements, roof lanterns have to have at least double glazing.

What is a Rooflight: Flat Roof or Pitched Roof Window Extensions?

Skylights are special light-permitting structures installed on a roof that provide plenty of ventilating options. They are usually installed on pitched roofs at the same angle as the roof. It is possible that such units are put on a flat roof but this kind of alteration may require permission and additional development work. They can be opened by a centre-pivot or be top-hung.

Pitched roofs are positioned at an angle and tend to slope downwards. By contrast, flat roof window extensions are almost level with the rest of the building. One key difference is that the former fare better during heavy rain.

An important consideration to make here is that there are skylights for flat and pitched surfaces, whereas roof lanterns are usually made for flat roofs.

What are the benefits of skylights?

  • They are energy efficient
  • In most cases, a planning permit is not required
  • Skylights offer good ventilation
  • You get plenty of natural light plus the benefit of privacy
  • You have access to the roof

Why are rooflights popular?

Rooflights are common among homeowners because of their ability to add lots of natural light and increase energy efficiency in any internal space. Since planning permission is rarely an issue, people tend to choose skylights over normal windows for their added benefits.

What are the Main Aspects to Consider When Comparing Skylights and Roof Lanterns?

  1. Installation. Both lantern windows and skylights come ready to install but some companies offer the latter in a kit form, which means they are not fully assembled. If you are planning to do the installation yourself, this will be a problem. We always advise that you hire an expert for this job to avoid any injuries to your family or damage to the roof. This will also determine the quality of the product, so choose wisely. We recommend you get in touch with our customer service team to receive a free quote and a great service.
  2. Ventilation. Many skylights provide a good ventilation. They offer different opening options depending on the available space that you have and, of course, your personal preferences. There is a hinged opening, electric, manual, and sliding opening, to name a few. Ideally, you want to get fully opening skylights for maximum ventilation. Although roof lanterns can be vented, the majority of them are non-opening.
  3. Potential for heat loss. When two glasses are joined together, there is a potential for heat loss. The more joins used, the bigger that potential. Because hot air rises, skylights and lanterns can lose more heat during the cold weather than normal windows. 
  4. Size and materials. Both roof lanterns and rooflights have many different sizes available and some offer custom sizing. They also use a variety of finishes and materials like hardwood (oak and timber), and aluminium. If you go with a flat rooflight manufactured to internal dimensions, this means it will let 25% more light indoors than other flat counterparts.
  5. Price. Lantern rooflights can be exorbitant due to their size. Skylights may be slightly cheaper per square metre. The price depends on a multitude of factors like features, size, and shape.
  6. Shape. Skylights come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Roof lanterns tend to be mostly rectangular but you can get your hands on wall-abutting, pyramid, and octagonal shapes with some providers.
  7. Cleaning. Maintenance of roof lanterns is an easy job because most of them come with self-cleaning glass. The roof lantern's coating helps to break down dirt and grime when the sun is shining. As it rains, the water washes away everything. In comparison, skylights need to be cleaned more often, at least twice a year.
  8. Light and design. Both rooflights and roof lanterns can be elegant and visually appealing. Roof lanterns take up more space and let floods of light into your home. They are a great choice if you're interested to make the greatest difference in dark rooms and draw the eye to your ceiling. Even though these home extensions have a more intricate design, they can still offer a traditional timber look if that's what you're after.

Direction of the Room When Buying a Roof Light or Installing a Roof Lantern

If the room is facing south or southwest, a pitched or flat roof window will let more sun rays in, which may lead to a build-up of heat. Therefore, you've got to ensure adequate ventilation by opening the skylight frequently. You should also think about how you can minimise the damage to your furniture from UV rays.

For instance, some types of glass can reduce the glare and UV rays getting to your internal space without sacrificing the amount of light the room receives. Some types of flat glass also minimise heat build-up, so that's something to consider. For exceptional performance, you can use 4-16-4 toughened panes filled with argon gas. It will still let light in.

Do I Need Planning Permission For A Roof Lantern or Skylight?

Many roof alterations are classified as permitted development. In most cases, skylights don’t need a planning permit.

When it comes to a lantern rooflight, the same rule applies as long as the following rules are in place: 

  1. The unit must not be higher than the highest part of the roof;
  2. The unit must not extend more than 150mm above the sloping plane of the roof;
  3. Unless there is 1.7 m of height above the floor, no roof openings are allowed; and
  4. If slide elevation roof slope is obtained with a roof lantern, obscure glazing must be used.

On that note, if you plan to make bigger alterations than that, you will have to ask your local authorities regarding building regulations in the area.

Also, if you live in a conservation area, you should be aware that different rules apply and permission is required for almost any kind of change you make. Choose a company to help you with that.

For more information, check out the government’s official website about permits.

Roof Lantern vs Skylight - What’s the Right Choice for You?

There is no denying that roof lanterns and skylights have their benefits. They can add beauty and glamour to any home, not to mention they are practical. So, choosing between these two is often a matter of personal preference and home improvement goals.

Since rooflights and roof lanterns allow light into your space, the biggest difference between them is aesthetics. If you like luxury and opulence while also striving to get a more spacious environment, roof lanterns tick all the boxes. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more discreet solution, skylights and flat rooflights are your best option.

If you found this article interesting, you may find this one interesting as well: Skylight vs Sun tunnel - What's the difference and which to choose?

Another article that can interest you is what is a skylight.

FAQ about Roof Lantern vs Rooflight

Is the roof strong enough for a skylight or roof lantern?

When it comes to picking a type of window based on the roof you have, strength is of the essence. As far as skylights are concerned, their weight is not an issue for a normal house roof but the same may not always be true for roof lanterns. Single-storey extensions will not be able to support the weight of such construction work. Before you decide to make such changes, do consult with a specialist on what to do.

Bottom Line on Rooflights vs Roof Lanterns

At the end of the day, who is the winner? Truth be told, there are no winners, as both options will be a fantastic addition to your home if you are aspiring to get more light. Whether you choose a flat rooflight or a lantern depends largely on your preferences, budget, and if your roof allows for such extensions. Skylights work for many homes but lanterns don't.

For more information or if you'd like to enquire about our skylights and what is the best choice for your case, don't hesitate to get in touch with us.