What you should know about solar tubes

Solar tubes aid in illuminating dim interior environments. They are made up of a reflecting pipe that carries sunlight to its destination inside your home and a translucent waterproof head that is put into your roof membrane.

When compared to skylights, solar tubes have a few disadvantages, such as a limited exterior view and a poor ability to gather heat from the sun during the winter.

Solar tubes do have some important benefits, though, particularly their cheaper installation costs, higher energy efficiency, and simpler installation.

In this article, we’ll describe how solar tubes work, contrast them with skylights, and share our top recommendations for solar tubes for the house.

What are solar tubes?

Sun tunnels, light tubes, and daylight pipes are other names for solar tubes, which bring natural light into your house.

While they don’t offer a pleasant view of the outside world, they do offer an inexpensive, environmentally friendly solution to naturally illuminate dark indoor rooms.

What are solar tubes

Solar tubes fit neatly between roof rafters because of their compact size. That lessens your concern as a homeowner regarding the stability of your roof. Solar tubes limit heat gains and losses when compared to skylights.

They are a wonderful option for adding daylight to dim, compact rooms in your house including closets, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and corridors.

How do solar tubes work?

The optically developed solar tube heads, which range in size from roughly 1 to 2 feet in diameter, are designed to direct as much light as possible into the tunnel below. They are often covered with a transparent, weatherproof acrylic dome.

How do solar tubes work

A super-reflective “continuous mirror” coating is applied to the tube skylight’s piping, which allows it to be extended indefinitely and amplifies the direct sunlight as it enters the intended area.

In contrast to rigid solar tube models, the majority of models provide low-profile, flexible tubing, which eliminates the headache of cutting and fitting sheet metal.

The most well-known producer of solar tubes is Velux. Instead of being obtrusive domes, their solar tube variants resemble tiny skylights integrated into the face of your roof. You should give them great attention if you value sleeker aesthetics.

Most sun tubes include a UV ray protection device, either in the light diffuser at the tube’s end or at the roof’s source of sunshine. By doing this, you can guarantee that the sunshine that enters your home won’t harm your health or deteriorate surfaces or artworks.

How much do solar tubes cost compared to traditional skylights?

Skylights are more expensive to install than solar tubes. Solar tubes that have been installed by an expert typically cost around $750 each. Depending on size and installation difficulty, skylights cost an average of $1500 to $2500.

If you have the necessary knowledge, assurance, and time, you can install solar tubes on your own by purchasing a $300 DIY kit. Make important to verify whether your roofing installer has provided you with a current roofing guarantee. You risk nullifying a warranty if you try to install a solar tube yourself.

Since almost all of the models aren’t designed for flat roofs or extremely steep slopes, you’ll require a roof pitch angle of between 3 x 12 inches and 20 x 12 inches (approximately 14° to 60°).

The majority of solar tube kits are made for asphalt shingle roofs, however it is simple to install solar tubes on wood, metal, or tile roofs thanks to commonly available adapters.

Do solar tubes really work? How do they compare to skylights?

Yes, solar tubes are a great lighting option for indoor rooms with low light levels, such as laundry rooms.

When compared to skylights, solar tubes do have a mix of significant benefits and cons. We’ll talk about them below.

Pros and cons of solar tubes

AffordableLimited views
Easy installationLimited passive solar heat
Energy efficiency 
Little maintenance 
Environmental impact 

Pros of solar tubes vs. skylights

Cost savings

If your house has a large amount of attic space, solar tubes are very useful.

Instead of spending a fortune on new plasterboard, skylights, and header beams, you can pump sunlight via a solar tube to achieve the same lighting effect for a lot less money.

Installation ease 

Installation of solar tubes is comparatively quick and easy.

Solar tubes can be simply inserted into your roof, between rafters, due to their compact footprint. Installing skylights is a more difficult process that calls for careful attention to preserve the stability of the roof structure when a sizable window is embedded in your roofing membrane.

Energy efficiency 

You may compare each solar tube outlet to a light fixture in your house.

By bringing sunlight into a room that is frequently utilized, such as a dim dining room, the need for those lights to be on is eliminated, saving a lot of money on energy costs.

Little maintenance required

It’s hard to miss when your skylights become covered in trash or bird poop.

To maintain a clear view, you’ll need to climb up onto your roof frequently and clean them off. Compared to conventional skylights, the external heads of the solar tube are more difficult for the elements to settle on and block sunlight from because of their curved design.

Vacuum sealing and condensation-release characteristics are common on solar tubes. You should not worry about cleaning as frequently even if you reside in a region with consistently high humidity.

Environmental savings 

A pure, regenerative resource is sunlight. In the summer, solar tubes lessen interior heat gains caused by a skylight letting in a high above sun. In order to chill your home, your air conditioning system won’t have to work as hard.

A little solar tube has a harder difficulty letting heat escape in the winter than a big skylight does. As a result, you can anticipate lower heating expenses.

When you utilize solar tubes, you not only lower your carbon footprint but also save money on your electric bill.

Cons of solar tubes vs. skylights

No wide-angle vision of the world outside
Nothing compares to gazing up into a starry night sky through a large window in your living room or losing yourself in concentration as you observe slowly whirling cloud patterns.

Cons of solar tubes vs. skylights

Solar tubes won’t let you fully appreciate the beauty of our natural surroundings, whereas skylights will in either escape. That is especially true if you can integrate them in a vaulted ceiling.

Limited passive solar heat 

In their potential to incorporate passive solar design into home heating efficiency, skylights offer an advantage over solar tubes.

Low winter sun reaching your home’s interior through southerly-facing windows and skylights produces a small greenhouse effect.

In the winter, passive solar designs can generate a lot more heat than can get through the glass. This effect cannot be produced by solar tubes of sufficient size.

The positive health effects of solar tubes and skylights

The National Institutes of Health estimate that 42% of Americans lack enough vitamin D.

Every additional photon of natural sunlight in your home is a resource that your skin can employ to produce more vitamin D, which supports the health of your musculoskeletal system, immune system, and mood.

The severity of seasonal affective disorder should also not be underestimated. Being around more sunlight can lessen the symptoms of sadness, give you more energy, and make you feel better about yourself, especially during the gloomy winter months.

Both skylights and solar tubes can help your home get more natural sunlight, which has many positive effects on your health.

What are the best solar tubes for my home?

A few aspects must be considered while selecting the best solar tube for your home.

If you need to upgrade your roof and have numerous levels of your home that you want to brighten with more than one fixture per room, we’d choose Velux’s larger, Energy Star-rated Sun Tunnel options. They feature heavy-duty metal components and have a 20-year warranty. About 300 watts of light are replaced by their stiff, 14-inch diameter model at each tube outlet. It’s the same as three 100-watt lights, so.

Even solar night light bulbs are built into some Velux models’ tubes. Even though they are more expensive, night LED light solar tubes are eligible for the federal 30% tax credit for solar energy since they contain a small solar panel. The addition of greater light throughout the evening from the installation of these types can result in significant installation cost savings.

Look into the reasonably priced and straightforward-to-install Natural Light 10-inch tubular skylight, which is available from Amazon, if you simply need to brighten up a dark place with a smaller footprint. It comes with instructions and flashing suggestions based on the type of roof you have.

Solatube deserves special mention because it invented the solar tunnel. Their goods have been available for more than 20 years. Up until recently, their technical team paid little attention to issues like aesthetics and the quality of the light produced since they were so preoccupied with how much light their device could catch.

In order to address that, they have focused more on diffuser lenses, but if you prefer a warmer, more elegant light, you should think about adding Velux sun tunnels.

Final thoughts on solar tubes for your home

Solar tubes are a stylish, effective method to use natural light to illuminate dim sections of your home.

They are much less expensive than skylights and quite simple to install. You are simultaneously lowering your carbon footprint and saving a lot of money on power since you are using natural light where a light fixture would have been.

The more natural light you can bring into your home, the better you’ll feel because it has a positive impact on your health and emotions. While conventional skylights provide an unmatched view of the sky, solar tube lights provide a useful, cost-effective alternative that makes the most of indirect light to give your home a cozier, more natural feel.

Contact one of our partner installers to learn more about how solar tubes can be incorporated into your home.

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