solar tube

What Is A Solar Tube? Pros And Cons

9 minutes, 30 seconds Read

Solar tubes are a cheap alternative to skylights if you want more natural light in your home but find them to be too large, expensive, or difficult to maintain. Solar tubes also referred to as sun tubes or tubular skylights, can help to permanently light your home without using additional energy or raising your electricity bill.

However, there are some important benefits to solar tubes to take into account, particularly their lower installation costs, energy efficiency, and installation simplicity. 

We’ll describe what is a solar tube, how solar tubes work, contrast them with skylights and share our top picks for solar tubes for the home in this blog. 

What Are Solar Tubes?

They perform the same functions as skylights but come in different shapes and are also referred to as light tubes, sun tunnels, daylight pipes, sun scopes, and tubular skylights. As periscopes from your room to your roof, imagine them. Solar tubes are pipes that run through the ceiling of your home, bringing light from the roof into your room. These tubes are typically between 10 and 22 inches in diameter.

There is a transparent, acrylic, or plastic dome at the top that is weatherproof and lets light in. The interior of the sheet metal pipe is frequently polished or is lined with a material that reflects light and makes it brighter as it passes through. The dome may be transparent or opaque.

The light is dispersed by a diffuser at the bottom of the unit, where the sun tunnel enters your home. This enables it to spread out and fill the space with an incredibly potent, bright glow. They actually offer more light than even a skylight that is significantly bigger thanks to their clever design.

How Do Solar Tubes Function?

Optical engineering is used to design solar tube heads, which range in size from about 1 to 2 feet in diameter and are optically engineered to direct as much light as possible into the tunnel below. Usually, a transparent, weatherproof acrylic dome serves to protect them. 

The tube skylight piping length is adjustable and lined with a highly reflective “continuous mirror” coating to magnify the direct sunlight as it enters the intended area. 

The majority of models come with low-profile, flexible tubing, which eliminates the hassle of cutting and fitting sheet metal, which is required for models with rigid solar tubes. 

The most well-known producer of solar tubes is Velux. Instead of being large domes, their solar tube models resemble tiny skylights embedded into the face of your roof. If you value sleeker aesthetics, give them careful thought.  

Most sun tubes include a UV ray protection system, either in the light diffuser at the tube’s end or at the roof’s source of sunlight. By doing this, you can be certain that the sunlight that enters your home won’t harm your health or harm surfaces or paintings.

Cost Of Solar Tubes Compared To Conventional Skylights

Skylights are more expensive to install than solar tubes. Solar tubes that are installed by a professional typically cost around $750 each. Skylights cost, on average, $1500 to $2500, depending on their size and degree of installation difficulty. 

You can buy a DIY solar tube kit for about $300 and install them yourself if you have the necessary knowledge, self-assurance, and time. Verify with your roofing installer to see if you still have a valid roofing warranty. You risk nullifying a warranty if you attempt to install a solar tube yourself. 

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

Although adapters are easily accessible and installation on wood, metal, or tile roof types is simple, most solar tube kits are made for asphalt shingle roofing material.  

Pros Of Solar Tube

You don’t need to spend money installing skylights or changing the aesthetic of your rooms to light your home for free with solar tubes.

Free lighting – One 10-inch solar tube produces about the same amount of light as three 100-watt bulbs on a sunny day. A 200-square-foot area can be lit with that. ft. room well enough for office work or light a 300 sq. ft. room enough for less visual activities such as taking a shower or folding the laundry. You won’t need an electric light any longer on sunny or even partly cloudy days thanks to this amount of light. While saving money, you’ll gain additional convenience. Select a solar tube model with an electric light if you also need light at night.

Design flexibility – Skylights are noticeable when you walk into a room because of their size. While adding light without drawing attention to themselves, solar tubes are a subtler type of design element. Solar tubes enable you to increase the amount of light in your living or sleeping areas without making structural changes to the space. They are a useful way to light up a small, dark hallway or pantry because they are smaller than conventional skylights and can fit into smaller spaces.

Lower risk of leaks – Traditional skylights is notorious for leaking. The way they gather debris, such as leaves, which blocks the roof’s ability to drain off rain and snow melt, is a major factor in this. The accumulated water then makes its way to your ceiling by passing through the roofing material. Given that water can drain around them, solar tubes are less likely to leak thanks to their small, flat dome.

Budget-friendly installation – Even though solar tubes appear to be a luxurious feature, they don’t require a sizable financial commitment. The tubes themselves are less expensive than skylights, and because they don’t require any modifications to your drywall or framing, installation costs are also less expensive. Most of the country’s major cities have professional installation costs of under $1000.

With a kit that costs less than $500, you can install your solar tubes yourself and further reduce costs. In some more challenging situations, however, where installation necessitates fitting the tube around wiring, pipes, or air ducts, a professional will produce better results.

Cons Of Solar Tube

Due to their diminutive size, solar tubes don’t add much to the architectural appeal of your house and give you fewer options for regulating the amount of light that enters the room.

Fewer options for control – With skylights, you can have more control over the type of light you let in. Similar to window treatments, skylight shades can be used to control the amount of light that enters a room, and there are many different skylight diffusers available on the market. The UV light that can fade your furniture and rugs can be diminished by adding film. With a vented skylight, you can even enjoy some fresh air along with the sunlight by simply opening the skylight like an awning window.

Sunscreen and ventilation aren’t really options with solar tubes. While diffusers and window film are options, your selection will be more constrained than it is for skylights.

Little design improvement – Skylights are a unique architectural feature that gives you an ever-changing view of the passing clouds and enlarges and airs out the space. They enhance the environment by bringing a sense of serenity and luxury. However, the majority of solar tubes are too small to do anything other than let light into the room and they don’t give you a great deal of outdoor visibility.

Not equally suited to every home – It might not be possible to install solar tubes due to the type of roof you have. For roofs with a slope between 15 and 60 degrees, the majority of solar tubes are made. You must look for tubular skylight models made specifically for flat roofs if you have a flat room. Installation might not be feasible at all on a steeply pitched roof, like an A-frame. For roofs with wood or asphalt shingles, most DIY solar tube kits are available. You will require an adapter if your roof is made of tiles or metal.

Condensation inside the tube is a frequent issue in areas with high humidity levels. By insulating the tube with R-15 batts before installation, you can reduce this.

Solar tubes are an affordable option if your home could use a little more light, especially in smaller rooms. On the other hand, you might want to stick with conventional skylights if you want to have a significant impact on a room’s appearance and you’re willing to pay for it.

The Positive Health Effects Of Solar Tubes And Skylights

42% of Americans lack enough vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Your skin can produce more Vitamin D through the use of every additional photon of natural sunlight that enters your home, which supports the health of your musculoskeletal system, immune system, and mood. 

SAD is a serious condition that should not be ignored. Being in a space with more sunlight can help with depression symptoms, 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 receive more natural sunlight, which has many positive effects on your health. 

Which Solar Tubes Are The Best For My House?

Several factors must be taken into consideration when choosing the best solar tube for your home. 

If you need to upgrade your roof and have multiple levels of your home that you want to brighten with more than one fixture per room, we’d suggest Velux’s larger, Energy Star-rated Sun Tunnel offerings. They use heavy-duty metal materials and have a 20-year warranty. Each tube outlet on its rigid, 14-inch diameter model can replace about 300 watts of light. Three 100-watt bulbs would be needed to replace that.

Even solar nightlight bulbs are built into the tubes of some Velux models. Despite being more expensive, night LED light solar tubes are eligible for the federal 26% solar energy tax credit because they contain a small solar panel. These models can be installed at significant cost savings while also adding more evening light as a bonus. 

Look into the affordable and easy-to-install Natural Light 10-inch tubular skylight, available from Amazon, if you simply need to brighten up a dark space with a smaller footprint. It comes with instructions and flashing suggestions based on the composition of your roof. 

It should be noted that Solotube was a market pioneer for sun tunnels. Their goods have been available for more than 20 years. Until recently, their engineering team paid less attention to issues like aesthetics and the quality of light delivered because they were so preoccupied with how much light their product could capture.

They have focused more effort on diffuser lenses to address that, but if you prefer a warmer, more elegant light, think about installing Velux sun tunnels. 


How Are Solar Tubes Operated?

A solar tube’s basic operation is to allow natural sunlight to enter your building through a tube that is mounted in your room. The components of a solar tube are a dome to collect sunlight, a reflective tube to transmit the light to the diffuser, and a diffuser to change the light’s color, intensity, or both.

What Are the Prices of Solar Tubes?

In 2021, the average price of a solar tube will be around $750, with professional installation costing between $500 and $1,000.

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