These simple technologies offer an inexpensive, eco-friendly solution for your home’s lighting needs.

The cost of turning on the lights has increased due to the recent high rate of inflation, which has also resulted in sharp rises in power bills.

Although they are pricey, solar panels are one method to reduce your electricity costs. Thankfully, there’s a far less expensive option to light up your house during the day without having to deal with the glare of bright window lights or the continuous expense of operating an electric light.

Introducing the Solar Tube.

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The popularity of this energy-efficient, natural solution to increase the amount of natural light in your home is rising. But does it suit your house well enough?

This article will explain solar tubes, their benefits and drawbacks, and how they compare to other options such as solar panels and skylights

the image illustrating the concept of solar tubes on a roof

What Are Solar Tubes?

Solar tubes, also called tubular skylights, sun tubes, sun scopes, or light tubes, are composed of shiny metal with a polished interior. Although their diameter can vary from 10 to 22 inches, it usually measures 10 or 14 inches.

The solar tube finishes in a diffuser that looks like a window in the room’s ceiling and is topped by a plastic globe on the roof. The solar tube shields you from UV radiation and collects daylight that enters via the globe from the outside. The light is channeled and diffused into your home by the tubes on the interior, creating a dramatic, sheer glow.

According to Krupa Patel, a senior energy and sustainability engineer at Buro Happold, an engineering and design consultancy company, a solar tube may initially appear to be no more than a flat-mounted ceiling light. “However, the tubes often have bends, so the light is evenly diffused.”

Installing a solar tube can range from $600 to $1,000, but if you do it yourself, the cost may be less. However, the cost of your roof may increase if it is composed of a material other than asphalt, such as tile, metal, or wood, and you will have to pay for adapters.

the image depicting the pros and cons of solar tubes

Pros and Cons of Solar Tubes

Adopting solar tubes in your house has some clear advantages, but there are also some small things to think about. By utilizing natural light, these cutting-edge gadgets reduce energy costs and brighten interior spaces. The expense of installation and sporadic maintenance, however, are negligible compromises. Overall, solar tubes are a smart purchase for any household due to their eco-friendliness and long-term savings.

Pros

More sunlight: One excellent way to get solar lighting is by using solar tubes. Both the vitamin D from sunlight and the natural cycle of sunlight in your home can enhance your health and well-being. “It should help someone tuned to their circadian rhythm, and follow natural daylight patterns,” Patel stated. “It can really help your body sync with nature.”

Fewer reflections: “Because the solar tube is diffusing, there is significantly less glare compared to windows or skylights,” Patel stated.

Minimal installation costs: The cost of installing solar tubes is comparatively low. They don’t require any adjustments to your walls or framework, and they are less expensive than solar panels or skylights.

Design flexibility: Compared to skylights, solar tubes are less conspicuous due to their size.

Environmentally friendly: You don’t have to worry about increasing your carbon footprint or adding to carbon emissions when you leave your home lit during the day.

Reduced energy expenses: You can also cut your power bill by using natural energy. This is particularly true in the warmer, sunnier summer months.

Cons

Requires backup energy sources: Your home is lit when the sun rises. Your home will not have much or no lighting when there is little or no sun. According to Patel, there is no longer any controllability, hence in those situations a backup light source could be required.

“A homeowner might think that it’s something they could rely on fully all the time,” she added. “They provide light when there is light to be provided. So if it’s nighttime or if it’s a cloudy day, they won’t do that.”

Problems with condensation and thermal bridging: You may need to deal with the effects of weather or extreme environments on the system because solar tubes are built entirely of metal, according to Patel. For instance, thermal bridging may result in problems with energy efficiency and comfort, or condensation may cause mold growth or wall damage. 

Limited design options: Skylights give a greater range of alternatives in terms of aesthetics and design adaptability than solar tubes. 

Lack of control: You have no control over the amount of light that enters your room because solar tubes depend on the presence of sunshine. The amount of sun you receive on any particular day or season determines this in big part. 

the image depicts a comparison between solar panels and solar tubes on a residential rooftop.

Solar Panels Vs. Solar Tubes

The fact that solar tubes don’t produce renewable energy is one of their main differences from solar panels. Solar kinds diffuse and channel available daylight. On the other hand, solar panels use their photovoltaic cells to absorb sunlight. Electricity flows as a result of the creation of electrical charges.

“Unlike solar panels, they don’t ‘power’ anything — they only give the appearance of providing power, by way of light,” Patel stated. “Solar tubes don’t produce any electricity, and they don’t produce light. A solar tube is just like a passageway to share light, whereas a solar panel actually converts solar heat into energy.” 

Additionally, using solar tubes in the event of cloud cover or rain means you’ll have to rely on backup lights.

Solar panels cost a lot more money to purchase. Once federal solar tax credits are taken into account, the average cost of installing solar panels is about $20,000

the image illustrates a comparison between solar tubes and skylights on a residential roof.

Solar Tubes Vs. Skylights

Skylights come in different sizes, but solar tubes are usually 10 or 14 inches in diameter. Skylight installation is typically more costly; the cost of installing a single skylight can range from $1,000 to $3,000. If desired, skylights can be very large and occupy the majority of your roof, according to Patel. Skylights and solar tubes differ in that the former provides a direct view of the sky, while the latter does not.

“[With a skylight], you look up, you see the outside, you see the sun if it’s shining or raining or cloudy,” Patel explained. “Whereas solar tubes are often not like that. The depths usually have a bend in them, and the intent is to get light through and not necessarily a view.” 

“Solar tubes can be more applicable because they are smaller,” Patel stated. “They can fit into a few more places and you might not have a ton of rooftops available.”

Numerous considerations, including your budget, your home’s lighting requirements, your location, and your taste in style and design, will determine which natural lighting solution is best for you.

Conclusion

In the pursuit of sustainable living, solar tubes stand out as a pragmatic choice, offering an eco-conscious approach to interior lighting. By leveraging natural sunlight, they not only reduce energy consumption but also foster a more comfortable and inviting indoor environment. While considerations such as backup lighting and maintenance exist, the overall advantages make solar tubes an attractive option for homeowners looking to minimize their environmental footprint and maximize energy efficiency. Embrace the illuminating power of solar tubes and embark on a brighter, more sustainable future for your home.

FAQs about How Solar Tubes Increase Interior Natural Light

1. How do solar tubes work to increase natural light indoors?

  • Solar tubes capture sunlight through rooftop domes, channel it through reflective tubing, and diffuse it into interior spaces through ceiling-mounted fixtures.

2. What are the benefits of installing solar tubes for interior lighting?

  • Installing solar tubes reduces reliance on electric lighting, lowers energy bills, enhances indoor brightness, and offers a sustainable solution, reducing carbon footprint.

3. Are solar tubes suitable for all types of homes and roofs?

  • Solar tubes are generally suitable for most homes with accessible roofs, regardless of the roof type. However, a professional assessment may be necessary for complex roof structures.

4. What are the typical installation costs and considerations associated with solar tubes?

  • Installation costs typically range from $600 to $1,000 per tube, depending on factors such as roof material and accessibility. Considerations may include roof adapters and potential structural modifications.

5. Can solar tubes effectively replace traditional electric lighting in homes?

  • Solar tubes can effectively supplement or replace traditional electric lighting during daylight hours. However, backup lighting sources may be necessary for periods of low sunlight, such as nighttime or overcast days.