No one likes a dark and gloomy room. There are plenty of spaces in our homes, which could do with a bit of lighting up. What better way to light up a room than with the sun’s natural light. Sunlight can naturally brighten up a room, unlike any manmade light solution. It brings the outdoors to the indoors and makes for an excellent way to save up on your energy bills and protect the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. You may be thinking of a skylight at this point. This is where a solar tube can be a great option. So, what is a solar tube?
A solar tube is different from a skylight in many ways, as you will soon learn in this article. For now, let’s discuss what a solar tube is, how its design works, how it is different from a skylight, and what are its pros and cons.
What is a Solar Tube?
Solar tubes are also commonly known as daylight pipes, light tubes, or sun tunnels. They light up indoor spaces by channeling the sunlight from outside to the indoors.
A solar tube is made up of a waterproof, translucent head installed in your roof to expose it to sunlight. The head is connected to a reflective pipe underneath, which carries the incoming sunlight to the desired room underneath.
Unlike a skylight, solar tubes do not provide the luxury of a sky view from the room, and they don’t heat from the sun during winters. However, they are a great cost-effective option for brightening up dark rooms naturally without the need for electricity.
Installation is also fairly easier because of solar tubes’ relatively small size. Placing them between roof rafters is easy, and you do not have to worry about the integrity of your roof the way you may have to with a larger skylight.
Solar tubes are more efficient than skylights at minimizing the heat gains and heat losses of indoor spaces. Their small size makes them the best option to light up smaller spaces in your home, like a hallway, bathroom, closet, or laundry room.
Solar Tube Design
Solar tubes work efficiently because of their compact design and how the parts are designed.
Head and Tube
They are one to two-feet wide and typically have a curved head, made of a transparent, weatherproof acrylic dome, although it is not always a curved dome.
Whether curved or flat, the head is engineered to capture as much sunlight as possible and pass it down the reflective pipe or tube. The tube is an important part of the design because it is lined with a highly reflective, edge-less mirror coating.
This coating constantly bounces the incoming sunlight and increases its intensity to shine brighter indoors. The best part is that the tube length can be as long as you need, and most solar tubes in the market come with flexible tubing to eliminate the need for cutting and fitting turns in the tube.
The tube is not very large, thick, heavy, or fragile, and it is designed to easily be installed in tighter spaces and last a long time. Most models are vacuum sealed and have a condensation release feature that makes for easy maintenance and cleaning.
One excellent feature of most solar tubes is their built-in ultraviolet (UV) light protection system. It is typically installed at the tube’s base or near its head and effectively filters out the harmful UV rays from the sun.
This feature is very important, and you should always consider it when purchasing a solar tube. The UV protection may cost extra, but it will eliminate any health risks and protect your furniture, décor, and surfaces in the room from getting damaged.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Solar Tubes
The closest thing to a solar tube is a skylight, and we will discuss the pros and cons of solar tubes against skylights.
Here are the pros of solar tubes, as compared to a skylight.
Costs and Installations
A solar tube is far less expensive than a skylight because of the relatively low cost of installation. Instead of spending more on installation for a skylight, you can easily get a solar tube installed for a fraction of the cost and get a similar result in terms of sunlight.
Additionally, you cannot install a skylight everywhere, whereas the flexible and compact design of solar tubes means you can install them in the smallest of spaces. The installation is very simple, unlike skylight installation, and you easily plop them between roof rafters without worrying about space or structure.
Similar to a skylight, a solar tube will save you energy costs, especially in dark spaces that need light during the daytime. However, since skylights cost more to install and cannot be installed everywhere, a solar tube is much better at saving you money in both installations and energy bills.
Moreover, skylights bring a lot of heat indoors in the summers, increasing your air conditioner bills; solar tubes do not do this. They release little heat during winters and bring in less heat during summers, reducing your heating and cooling costs throughout the year.
Skylights require regular cleaning, and if you do not get up to your roof to clean them every once in a while, they will quickly accumulate elements and bird feces. In contrast, solar tubes require far less maintenance; they mostly have a dome head, which makes it difficult for elements to settle on it.
Most variants are also vacuum-sealed with condensation release features so you do not have to worry much about maintenance and cleaning, even if you live in a humid area.
Now that you know the pros, let’s look at the cons of solar tubes compared to skylights.
Heat During Winters
Skylights have a distinct advantage of trapping heat from the sunlight during winter days. This is because the heat that enters during the day gets trapped inside your home, much like a greenhouse effect, keeping your indoor spaces warmer for longer and saving your energy bill.
Solar tubes cannot do this because of their smaller size and the lack of direct sunlight entering during the day.
Probably the biggest advantage of a skylight is the amazing views that it offers. There is nothing like lying in your bed at night, staring at the starry night before you sleep. The day views let you know what to expect when you step out for work.
This is something that solar tubes do not offer. However, many argue that the lower price you pay is worth it. However, many also argue that natural views are priceless and worth every penny.
Our Final Thoughts
So, the short answer to “what is a solar tube?” is that they are an ingeniously designed solution for a natural, cost-effective way to light up your indoors. Solar tubes are easy to install, do not take up space or resources, and light up any space effectively for free.
There are a few drawbacks when compared to skylights. However, there are also many benefits, and we think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. If you want to brighten up a dark and gloomy room without increasing your bills, we highly recommend you consider a solar tube.