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What is a Solar Tube? – Here’s What You Should Know

What is Solar Tube

Are you looking for a cost-effective way to light up your closet, interior hallways, or even windowless bathrooms? You may ask yourself what is a solar tube, and whether it is a better solution than a skylight. How could this daylight-using technology be the answer to your interior space lighting requirements?

I am glad you are here because we will explore the many wonders of a solar tube and how it can be a cost-effective solution to your home’s interior lighting.

What Is A Solar Tube

If you have a downlight or recessed light in your home, you already have a fair idea of what a solar tube is. The only difference is that canister lights run on electricity, while a solar lighting tube depends on the sun’s rays to bring daylight into your home’s interior.

In many ways, it works like a skylight because it allows the passage of sunlight through the roof and ceiling to illuminate bathrooms, closets, and other windowless house sections.

People call solar tubes many names, including tubular skylights, daylight pipes, sun tubes, light tubes, and sun tunnels. Whatever you wish to call these innovations, they are ingenious energy-saving technologies that bring natural light to the house without requiring electricity.

How Do Sun Tunnels Work

Sun tunnels feature many engineering marvels that can rival sophisticated skylights, despite having a simple design.

For example, the outer glass requires precision optical engineering to direct as much sunlight as possible into the tube or tunnel. It is like the mirror in your elementary chemistry microscope that focuses light into the lens.

Covering this optical glass is a weather-resistant, transparent acrylic dome. Not only does it protect the glass against environmental forces, such as rocks, twigs, wind, dirt, dust, and more, it also contributes to the solar tube’s light transmittance capabilities.

The tunnel’s inside surface features a continuous coat of a super-reflective material. It amplifies light transmittance as it passes through the end of the tunnel at the ceiling opening.

As such, the light you get inside your home through these sun tunnels is as bright as daylight.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of A Solar Tube

solar-tube-installation

Free Home Interior Lighting

The main advantage of solar tubes is free home interior lighting. A 10-inch-diameter sun tunnel can illuminate a room equivalent to three 100-watt lights. It is bright enough for a productive 200-square-foot office space. Meanwhile, a 14-inch tube is enough to light your 300-square-foot laundry room.

The best part of this is that it does not run on electricity. You can allot the savings you get for other more enjoyable activities for the entire family.

Home Design Flexibility

Sun tunnels are no more than two feet in diameter, making them inconspicuous in your home. Their small footprint gives you design flexibility, allowing you to use your creativity to brighten up your living space without making substantial changes to its architecture.

Less Likely to Leak

Compared to skylights, solar tunnels are less likely to leak during a heavy downpour. Their protective dome allows water to drain around the structure instead of pooling on it.

Effortless and Affordable Installation

Installation is also budget-friendly and breezy. Professional solar tube installation can cost you about $1,000. If you want to save more money, you can buy a setup kit for less than half the price.

Unfortunately, not everything looks rosy with sun tunnels. They can also have drawbacks.

Limited Lighting Controls

You cannot control the amount or intensity of light coming into your room. There are no dimming mechanisms or a shade to pull down if you want to tone down the light intensity.

Limited Design Options

If you are a savvy homeowner, you may not like a solar tunnel’s design simplicity. From the outside, they do not add any value to your home. When you look at skylights, these are both aesthetic and architectural pieces you can use to improve your property’s curb appeal.

Only Applicable on Some Homes

Solar tubes are not for every home. They do not work well with houses with steeply pitched roofs with angles greater than 60 degrees. While they are compatible with metal or tiled roofs, you will require an adapter to complete the installation.

Households living in humid locations may not get a solar tunnel’s full light transmittance capabilities. Condensation can form on the tubing’s inside surface, affecting the tubular skylight’s ability to transmit light.

What Are The Different Types Of Solar Tubes

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If you are wondering what types of solar tubes you can get for your home, you have two options: flexible and rigid.

The classification depends on the type of tunnel or tubing the solar tube skylight features. A rigid solar tube features a straight tunnel, offering optimum light transmittance for a brighter home interior. Unfortunately, it tends to be pricier than a flexible type.

While flexible solar tubes are affordable, their light reflectivity is not as efficient as a rigid model. They may be inadequate to light your room. You might want to check the reflective coating of the tubing’s interior and its angling through your roof.

Flexible solar tubes are suitable for short distances between the roof and the ceiling, making them ideal for flat roofs. On the other hand, rigid sun tunnels are perfect for a high ceiling-to-roof space.

Is A Solar Tube Expensive

A solar tube costs anywhere between $500 and $1,000, depending on the type and number of tunnels you want to install. The higher limit already includes professional installation.

Other factors may impact the overall cost. For example, if the space between your ceiling and roof has plenty of ductwork, wirings, and other materials, these can add to the expense.

The tunnel’s length and technology used in the optically engineered glass can also impact a solar tube’s price.

However, it will still come out more affordable than a skylight. A single good-quality skylight measuring two-by-four feet can set you back by $150 to $500. Installing a skylight will add an extra $500 to $3,000 on top of the unit cost.

If you have roof trusses, you might want to hire an engineer to design an alternative framing if the skylight gets in the way of a truss. That is an additional $500 on your budget.

Does It Work At Night

While a sun tunnel can provide your home with free lighting during the day, it will be useless at night. It would be wise to remember that this technology does not include solar panels. In a way, it is similar to creating a hole in your roof and ceiling to let sunlight pass through.

Without the sun, it would be impossible to transmit light inside your home. A full moon can provide you with some luminance, but it will still be dim.

If you want solar tubes to light your rooms even at night, you should get a kit with a built-in light bulb. You can switch it on as soon as darkness sets.

Conclusion

The next time somebody asks you “what is a solar tube?” you will already have the answer. It is a cost-effective way of illuminating some parts of our homes during the day without worrying about electric consumption. It is similar to a skylight but smaller, more affordable, and better resistant to leaks.

If you have small living spaces in your house you want to brighten up during the day, installing several solar tubes is always an excellent idea.