Skylights are commonly used by property owners to give natural light to their house or company.
There are, however, alternative possibilities; if you’re searching for a dependable and cost-effective approach to bring additional sunshine to your home, solar tubes may be the way to go.
The number of solar tube lights manufactured each year is steadily increasing. Solar tube light output has increased by more than 200 percent in the last year, with around 10 million sold per year.
However, before you go out and buy a solar tube, read this article to learn as much as you can about them so that you can make an informed decision based on the benefits and cons of solar tube lighting.
What Are Solar Tubes?
The sun tube, sun tunnel, light tube, tubular skylight, and daylight pipe are all names for the solar tube. It resembles a tube, hence the name.
Metal is used to construct a solar tube. The dome is the end of the tube that receives sunlight and is composed of a transparent, weather-resistant material. A diffuser covers the opposite end, dissipating sunlight into the inner space.
The inside of the solar tube is coated with a super-reflective coating, which magnifies sunlight as it passes through the tube to the other end.
Its purpose is similar to that of a skylight in that it allows natural light to enter an interior place, such as basements, gloomy hallways, and restrooms, through a roof. The area might be directly beneath a roof or a few stories below.
Because solar tubes are very tiny, they may be fitted between roof rafters without jeopardizing the roof’s structural integrity.
Many individuals use solar tubes to permanently illuminate interiors, which has helped them save money on their power costs throughout the day.
The solar tube is frequently marketed with accessories that aid in its installation on various types of roofs.
Solar tubes are already used to illuminate several structures, including the University of Stockholm, Kastrup Airport, and The University of Arizona, as well as one Berlin Metro Station.
They were even utilized to illuminate the whole Handball venue at the London Olympics in 2012.
How Do Solar Tubes Work?
Solar tube illumination consists of two tubes linked to housing, consisting of a positive or collection tube and a negative or emitter tube.
The light generated in the housing is transformed into light in the emitter tube. The solar tube’s light is gathered in the housing and used as a standard light fixture.
Solar tube heads are meant to direct a large amount of light to the tunnel below. It is available in a variety of diameters ranging from one to two feet in diameter. A transparent, weather-resistant acrylic dome can also be used to protect this item.
A translucent waterproof plastic dome at the top allows sunshine to enter. The pipe’s inside is frequently polished, or it is coated with highly reflecting materials that magnify direct sunlight as it passes past its target.
A diffuser beneath the solar tube spreads out the light, filling your home with a distinct brilliant glow.
Surprisingly, because of their distinctive patterns, they provide more light than a larger skylight.
Most types of this equipment have a low-profile flexible tubing, which lowers the stress of cutting and fitting sheet metals.
The Different Types Of Solar Tubes
There are different varieties of solar tubes out there which have slightly different ways of working but they pretty much deliver the same result.
Light Tube With Reflective Material
This is the traditional solar tube design, with a highly reflecting surface inside the tube. When there is a cupola to properly focus light rays within the tube, light is captured more efficiently on the outside of the tube.
Infrared Light Tubes
Infrared light (also known as IR light) is a form of light wavelength that extends beyond the visible range of the human eye. However, in terms of applications, IR light may be quite beneficial because it is ideal for heating and drying.
The inside of this tube is covered with extremely reflective gold. There are also portions of a special black coating inside the tube to absorb some of the brightness when there is too much light.
Light is sent through an optical fiber from a close yet remote place, where it is collected and then transferred to the tube. So it functions similarly to a light bulb but is fuelled by sunlight. Its light is therefore very bright.
Two fluorescent polymers are in charge of catching short-wave sunlight, which is often in the form of UV radiation.
They convert it to green/red light, which is led to the end of the tube and combined with artificial blue light to form white light, which is fully UV or IR free and considered to be good for human skin.
Transparent Hollow Light Guides
This light is hollow in design, allowing light particles to flow through the air and emerge on the other side.
This is also one of the most frequent types of tubes because the reflecting surface within the tube receives a large quantity of light while retaining virtually all of its intensity.
Solar Tube Lighting Advantages
The advantages that solar tubes have will make you wonder why you haven’t installed one already.
Reduces Electricity Bills
The major advantage of solar tube lighting is that it eliminates the need for electrical illumination throughout the day.
Because of its efficiency in channeling sunlight into your space, it will be able to produce the same amount of light as an electric table lamp would.
Lots Of Natural Light
A solar tube will provide consistent natural light anytime you need it. Using natural lighting in your house has additional health benefits too.
They offer vitamin D, increase physical and mental well-being, lower blood pressure, and boost performance and focus.
Easy To Install
Installing a solar tube in your home is a quick, basic, and straightforward procedure. The solar tubes are subtle and would fit in nicely with the decor of your home. In less than three hours, you will be able to install a solar tube.
Solar tubes, as a source of solar energy, produce no harmful emissions. It is a clean, environmentally beneficial renewable energy source.
Using a solar tube to power your home’s lighting would assist your community to achieve energy sustainability and efficiency.
ltraviolet rays are filtered and prevented from entering the tube by the weather-resistant dome.
Every second you save by not using power benefits the environment. A 10-inch tube can produce around 100 watts of light, which is sufficient to illuminate the space.
Solar tube lighting takes up far less area than a window-style skylight. Its reflective tubular inside allows for significantly more efficient sunlight transmission into your home.
Purchasing and installing the tubes may turn out to be the most expensive part of the operation. After that, you´re free to enjoy warm sunlight for years. These tubes require relatively little maintenance, making it a $500–$1000 one-time investment.
Solar Tube Lighting Drawbacks
Here are some things that you may not find desirable when it comes to having solar tube lighting in your home.
Not Always Compatible
Because of the kind of roof on your property, solar tube installation may not be optimal. Most solar tubes are suited for typical roofs with slopes ranging from 15 to 60 degrees. If your roof is steeply sloped or flat, installing the solar tube may be difficult.
In addition, your roof’s material may require an adaptor during installation, which might be difficult.
Because solar tube lighting systems can only be put on the roof, they will not operate effectively in regions on the bottom level of a two-story structure, necessitating the use of longer tubes to channel the sunlight.
With some solar tube models, their dome can make a bit of noise when it is particularly windy. This is due to the aluminum reflectors that are installed to catch more sunlight.
Vulnerable To Damage
When exposed to excessively hot or cold conditions, the outside-facing end of a solar tube is frequently an acrylic dome, which is more readily damaged or broken.
Given the endurance of the glass, a skylight may be a preferable choice if you live in a location where summers are particularly hot or winters are particularly cold.
Not A Lot Of Design Variety
The design of Solar Tube lighting systems is restricted. Solar tubes are too tiny and will have little effect on the appearance of your space other than to provide natural light. Solar tubes will not allow you to view what is going on outside.
Furthermore, solar tube systems provide few alternatives for controlling the amount of light entering space.
Can Let Out Heat
Aluminum is a great heat conductor which is why the majority of solar tube designs are made with this material. It works extremely well on sunny days, but when winter rolls around it can lead to heat leaking from the interior pipes.
Not Guaranteed To Work
Because solar tubes rely on sunshine, it is foolish to invest in them in areas where the sun sets in the early afternoon for more than half of the year. Furthermore, if you reside in a place where it rains all year, this might be a problem.
How Do Solar Tubes Compare To Skylights?
Skylights are glass windows that are installed on the roof so that they are facing the sky which allows them to let in a lot of light – similar to a solar tube.
This is what puts them head-to-head with one another as people can find it difficult to decide which one is better. That is why we have put this section in so that you can see how the solar tube performs next to its biggest competitor.
Installing a skylight is more complicated and time-consuming, typically necessitating the assistance of a professional. They are notorious for leaking, owing to faulty installation.
To avoid these leaks, flashing will be required. In addition, double rafters will be required. All of these treatments wind up taking a long time.
Solar tube installation, on the other hand, is rather simple. After the dome has been built, the tube is stretched to the room’s ceiling. The diffuser is then installed with minimum finishing work required.
Because the top of a solar tube is domed, trash cannot adhere to it. In general, relatively little cleaning or maintenance is required because it is uncommon for anything other than snow or other short-term accumulations to impede sunlight from entering.
While solar tubes are unlikely to leak, water condensation may form on the interior of a tube, particularly in high-humidity environments or facilities like laundry rooms.
This may be avoided by covering the tunnel with R-15 or R-19 insulation, and some versions even have a condensate release. Ignoring moisture might result in mold issues or long-term damage to the solar tube.
Skylights are significantly more prone to debris, which can range from bird excrement to leaves and everything in between. This might not only obscure sunlight but also make the skylights less appealing to gaze through.
Debris that accumulates over time can also increase the probability of leaks, which are rather common with skylights.
As a result, they may require some maintenance and cleaning. Skylights can also collect water condensation, primarily on the interior of the surface; protection in this scenario usually entails treating the air with a dehumidifier.
Solar tubes are more energy-efficient than skylights. Light is caught and readily dispersed by solar tubes, illuminating your room or corridor. Skylights lose energy due to heat gain since they allow in more direct light than normal windows.
Solar tubes are especially useful in areas that lack wall windows and get little natural light, as they diffuse natural light across an interior space.
They may produce the same amount of light as numerous ordinary light bulbs on a bright day, reducing the need for power.
Solar tubes also prevent heat energy from entering, allowing them to accomplish their function without increasing the expense of air conditioning.
Skylights, on the other hand, emit more concentrated light, which can also heat up the home. Heat energy is also transmitted unless specific precautions or coverings are used.
During the summer, when sunshine is at its longest, this might enhance air conditioning bills. This is especially important in hotter climates.
While a lack of heat in a space can be beneficial in the summer, it is less beneficial throughout the winter. Even if the daylighting hours are reduced in the winter, the diffusion of free sunlight is still important.
In the winter, passive solar heating from a skylight may be quite beneficial.
Sunlight can beam from the low winter sun via a carefully placed, southern-facing skylight, maximizing its influence to save heating costs. This may make a significant impact on a property in colder climatic zones.
Quality Of Light
The sort of light energy that passes via solar tubes is controlled. The acrylic dome on the ceiling, in particular, often shields UV radiation before they enter the tube itself.
This implies that any light spread throughout the home will not induce sunburns or other dangerous UV ray-related impacts.
Skylights often do not filter UV light at the source in the same way as solar tubes do. While a filter coating can be used to limit penetration, some will still pass through.
UV radiation may cause furniture and décor to fade over time, in addition to the possible long-term health implications.
There is no off and on switch on a solar tube, so once a tube is built, the sun penetrates down and evenly distributes light throughout the day. If necessary, it would be difficult to prevent or manage such lights.
A skylight may be adjusted with coverings that can either block or allow sunlight to pass through. Some skylights are even ventilated, allowing them to be opened and closed like windows.
The cost of installing a solar tube is quite modest since it involves a straightforward installation with no substantial effects on the ceiling’s drywall or the roof’s framework.
The price of a tube can vary greatly depending on prospective add-ons; for example, certain items may have an LED kit incorporated into the diffuser to provide illumination at night.
Finally, the average cost of solar tubes is less than $1,000, including materials and skilled installation. Another advantage is that many models are Energy Star certified, making them eligible for a 26% tax credit.
The cost of a skylight might also vary, depending on options such as UV-protection coatings.
The cost of installation is primarily determined by the size and condition of the roof, as well as the roofing material used, but it is often more involved and costly than that of a solar tube.
The entire cost of supplies and installation might range from a few hundred dollars to two thousand dollars.
Installing a skylight is a no-brainer if you want a greater view of the surroundings beyond your window. Choose a large skylight or many skylights and place them on your roof to take in the greatest views.
The purpose of solar tubes is not to offer a glimpse of the outside world. When you gaze up into a solar tube, all you see is diffused sunshine.
Skylights may provide more than simply light into your house; the windows can also add to the decor of your home, both inside and out. Skylights come in a range of sizes, forms, and materials to match the other features in your house.
As an intended design feature, some homeowners put at least two and sometimes more skylights side by side.
Because solar tubes are often smaller, they do not have the same architectural impact as skylights. From the inside, a solar tube seems to be a recessed light fixture in your ceiling, practically concealing its presence.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Light Is Generated By Solar Tubes?
The smallest size offered is the 10-inch solar tube. It produces enough light to illuminate a space of approximately 200 square feet with three 100-watt bulbs. A larger 14-inch tube can light up a 300-square-foot space.
How Much Do Solar Tubes Cost?
Solar tubes may wind up costing less than skylights due to their ease of installation and reduced material prices. A solar tube installation should cost around half as much as a skylight installation.
A solar tube, for example, may cost between $500 and $1000, but a skylight may cost closer to $2000.
Do You Insulate A Solar Tube?
Some solar tubes must be insulated to prevent them from overheating and eventually burning out in the sun.
This is accomplished by insulating the tubes and sealing the vents. Insulating your solar tube is one of the easiest ways to improve the effectiveness of your solar thermal system. Insulating your solar tubes can cut heat loss by up to 60%.
How Do You Clean A Solar Tube?
Start off by leaning a sturdy ladder against the wall.
Gather all of the required cleaning supplies. Remove the diffuser gently and release the screws that keep the dome in place. Remove the flashing with care.
Gently clean the tube, dome, ceiling, ring, and flashing with a bucket of soapy water. After that, rinse with clean water and set them in an open area to dry.
Remove any dust or dirt from the ceiling joints and roof rafters using a brush. Then clean the skylight tube with a moist towel.
After all of the components have dried, insert the tube and screw the flashing into place. Put the dome back on then replace the diffuser as the final step.
How Long Does A Solar Tube Last?
Solar tube illumination is not like a light bulb, which typically lasts between 2-3,000 hours before it begins to deteriorate. The answer to how long solar tubes endure is rather short. They’ll only live a few years at best.
In the best-case situation, they might endure up to 25 years. When calculating the initial expenditures of solar tube lighting, keep in mind that you’ll need to replace them every few years.
Can You Install Solar Tubes In A Home With Multiple Floors?
Even if you live in a house with multiple floors, you are able to install solar tubes to illuminate the first level of a two-story house. You could run the tube via a closet or a motorized chase to channel it all the way down.
Now that we have gone through all of the advantages and drawbacks that come with using solar tube lighting, it is clear that they are a great addition to any home.
They are affordable, easy to maintain, and last for a long time. As well as this, you can have peace of mind that you are helping the environment by keeping your footprint nice and small.
Solar tubes do a great job at lighting up any room and you do not have to be an experienced handyman (or woman) to be able to install one yourself.
However, it is likely that you do not want every room in your home to be illuminated by light all throughout the day. In this case, you may be better off installing a skylight or using good old-fashioned electricity for these rooms.