What Is a Solar Tube?
A solar tube is a cylinder that brings sunlight into a room by collecting natural light from the roof and reflecting it into the house. Light is gathered at the top of the solar tube and “sent” down into the room, where it’s dispersed evenly.
The light from a solar tube looks similar to an electric light, but it has the full benefits of natural sunlight.
Solar tubes can vary in size, but most are about as relatively small as they are designed to maximize light. Larger designs also exist, but most people prefer to use multiple solar tubes in rooms that a single regular-sized one can’t adequately light.
Are Solar Tubes Skylights?
Although solar tubes are often called tube skylights or tubular skylights, a solar tube is not a skylight. A skylight is a type of window or structure on a ceiling or roof that lets natural light flow through it. As the name implies, you can typically see the sky through a skylight. On the other hand, solar tubes capture light and then reflect it through a tube before diffusing it into a room. This makes solar tubes more efficient than skylights. However, you cannot see the sky with a solar tube.
How Do Solar Tubes Work?
A solar tube gathers sunlight at the top using a dome that concentrates light inwards. After that, light travels down the tube via reflective surfaces until it reaches the bottom. At the bottom, a disperser spreads the light evenly throughout the room.
Solar tubes can be very effective at gathering and concentrating sunlight. They can provide a lot of brightness in a medium or even large-sized room and cost nothing to operate. They are also very secure, requiring little maintenance.
However, solar tubes do have some downsides compared to skylights.
Solar Tubes vs Skylights
While they both accomplish the same goal, solar tubes are very different from skylights. Solar tubes can be installed more quickly as they don’t require significant structural work, unlike a skylight which may often require a complete rework of the roof and ceiling.
Both solar tubes and skylights are environmentally friendly as they rely on natural light and don’t use electricity. However, solar tubes are better at lighting up a room as they concentrate and disperse light. A skylight lets light pass through without affecting it in any manner. This can still be useful if the skylight is large enough and placed in an appropriate location, but a solar light is almost always more efficient. Another advantage of solar tubes is that they can transport light into any room, even basements.
On the downside, a solar tube is permanently closed. Unlike some skylights, it can’t be opened, so it has no benefits when it comes to ventilation. One major benefit of skylights is that they can help properly ventilate a room. You also don’t get to look at the sky and only see a bright white spot instead.
Finally, solar tubes are typically more expensive than skylights. Even though their installation is simpler, their materials and installation work still cost more. This makes them unsuitable for budget-oriented renovation projects.
Solar Tube Advantages
- Very bright and efficient for lighting a room
- Easy to fit into most existing structures
- Requires almost no maintenance
Solar Tube Drawbacks
- Can’t see the sky
- May need several tubes to light up a larger room
- More expensive than skylights
Solar Tubes Bottom Line
Solar tube skylights are a great way to add some flair to a room and improve its aesthetics. They might cost a bit more than a skylight with similar properties, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you want to make your home as appealing as possible. In addition, solar tubes are great for homeowners who wish to minimize the work required to maintain their property.