Solar tubes are cylindrical tubes that lead sunlight from a roof opening into the surrounding home. The older name of solar tubes, sun tunnels, is a better description because they aren’t necessarily attached to the ceiling. They can be tilted against walls or mounted horizontally. Sun tunnels are great at adding natural light to home offices and small bedrooms where it’s hard to add windows due to limited space in these rooms. I personally have 3 solar tubes in my home office which have allowed me to grow plants inside and greatly improved my productivity.
Solar tubes are often overlooked by homeowners, but they are a great way to add more natural light to rooms without taking up floor space or compromising indoor air quality.
What’s Great About Them?
It’s Free Light!
One 10-inch solar tube in a bedroom gives enough light for basic bathroom activities, such as shaving or brushing your teeth. Three 10-inch solar tubes provide enough light for basic office activities, such as answering correspondence or reading documents. You’ll enjoy extra convenience and money-saving energy while you’ll save time for going to the socket. This also reduces light pollution, making your night no more harmful than your day.
With the rising costs of energy over the past decade, there has been a commensurate effort to find alternative ways to save costs on electrical bills. And since solar tubes are not subject to fluctuations in the cost of energy and keep your house at a stable temperature throughout the winter, they are the most reliable and economical source of light you can find.
Skylights are great for spreading sunlight over large areas. Solar tubes are a subtle design element that can be used to replicate the natural light available in large areas like churches, auditoriums, and other spaces with high ceilings. Skylights and solar tubes are both effective ways of adding natural light to a room or building. Where skylights are an excellent choice for adding illumination to large areas, solar tubes are best suited to smaller rooms and hallways.
If you want to bring more light into your living room or bedroom without altering the room’s architecture, solar tubes let you do it. They also fit into smaller spaces than traditional skylights, making them a practical way to brighten up a small, dim hallway or pantry.
Solar tube lighting is a cost-effective way to brighten interior spaces. Not only are the tubes cheaper than skylights, but they won’t require you to tear out any drywall or frame in your ceilings. They can be professionally installed for less than $1000 in most areas of the U.S.
To save more, you can install fiber-optic solar tubes yourself with a kit that costs less than $500. That said, in certain more complicated cases where the installation requires fitting the tube around wiring, pipes or air ducts, you’ll get better results by hiring a professional.
Given their history of leakage, traditional skylights require an increased level of maintenance. The traditional dome-like shape of skylights causes water to collect, find its way through the roofing material, and reach your ceiling.
Solar tubes are designed to stand up to high winds and severe weather. They do not accumulate snow or leaves; therefore, they are less likely to leak than traditional skylights.
What’s Not So Great?
Solar tubes are limited solutions that give you few choices for controlling the light entering the room and have little impact on your home’s overall décor.
Skylights provide you with control over the quality of light you want in your home. Skylight shades are like window shades, but they’re more versatile. Options for distributing the light in a room include glazing, transoms, and venting systems. Reflecting sunlight and reducing heat, rugs, and furniture can last longer in your home. Vented skylights use the same technology as outdoor awning windows to let you bring the outdoors in while increasing ventilation without increasing dust.
While skylights do have their drawbacks, these are just minor setbacks compared to the benefits of having this type of window in your design.
No Aesthetic Addition
Skylights are a popular architectural feature used in residential and commercial buildings. They are valued for their ability to increase the perceived size of a room while also providing natural light as well as a view of the sky above. Most solar tubes are not effective at bringing in the required amount of daylight while still allowing a clear view of the outdoors.
It May Not Fit Your Home
The slope of your roof might make it impractical to install solar tubes. To ensure you have the best possible installation experience, it may be best to have a tubular skylight model specifically designed for flat roofs. Most solar tube skylights are designed for a roof with a slope between 15 and 60 degrees. Because flat roofs may result in the need to have multiple sources of light, make sure to double-check with the manufacturer regarding the ability to use solar tubes.
Solar tubes can be installed on most roofs. However, not all roofing materials and roofing pitches are compatible with the solar tube system. Asphalt shingles on a steeply pitched roof, metal or tile roofing, or a flat roof are not recommended for solar tube installation. Installation might not be possible if you have a steeply-pitched roof, such as an A-frame roof. Most DIY kits are designed for asphalt or wood-shingled roofs; if you have tiles or a metal roof, you will need to get an adapter.
Indirect sunlight will not be as bright as direct sunlight, and if your roof is shaded through the day you might only get a weakened light.
In high-humidity climates, condensation on the inside of the tube is a common problem. Minimize this by wrapping the tube in R-15 batt insulation before you install it.
If you feel that your room needs more natural sunlight without disrupting the overall look of your home, Skylights can be a reliable solution. On the other hand, if you want to bring in an abundance of natural light without making substantial renovations to your home, solar tubes can provide the proper amount of light and are more cost-effective than traditional skylights.
So What’s The Verdict?
If you have indoor space that could benefit from the addition of a natural lighting source you may want to consider the addition of either a skylight or solar tube option. A solar tube is a stationary light that can add brightness to any room in your home creating an airy, energizing atmosphere throughout your home or office.
It is important to understand that while both skylights and solar tube lights have benefits, they also come with some drawbacks. If you have either of these installed, we’d love to hear what you love about them, as well as what you wish was better overall about the designs.