As more homeowners are going green and trying to establish eco-friendly lighting schemes, a relatively new design feature called solar tubes is gaining widespread popularity.
The technology for these tubes actually goes back far in time; tubes have been used to bring sunlight in for centuries. Today, the standard solar tube is a cylinder that is usually installed in a roof to take the place of an electric light and bring more light in than a standard sky light due to the relay of more concentrated light.
Solar tubes are also called sun pipes, sun scopes, daylight pipes or light tubes. By any name, they are a cool addition to a home. Reflective material from inside the tube amplifies the light with a neat effect. When the tube is short and straight, the light can come in at its most powerful. Other solar tubes have bends or curves in them to bring light into a home.
How solar light tubes work (image source: Wikipedia, author: Stefan Kühn)
Here is a look at a few of the pros and cons for using solar tubes:
- Much more energy efficient than lights
- Better insulated than skylights or windows
- Can bring light to interior rooms that do not have outside walls
- More secure than standard windows. No thief can break into your home through a solar tube
- Can be installed in wet areas such as bathrooms and indoor pools because they don’t draw on any electricity. They work well in closets, too.
- Much less expensive than skylights
- Can be installed by DIYers
- Can produce tax breaks and credits
- You can’t see the outdoors through a solar tube
- Of limited value if you don’t live in a sunny climate
- Condensation can form if you live in a humid area
- If they are not straight, the effect is compromised
- Add-ons such as dimmers and fans can jack up the cost quickly
Prices vary greatly depending on where you live, what type of roof you have and what features you want in your solar tube. They are sometimes sold in combination with exhaust kits for the bathroom or with a dimmer (imagine turning sunlight “off”!).
Solar tubes can be purchased for $200-$500, with installation costing another $100-$200 if necessary. You might be pleasantly surprised by the powerful light that these tubes can produce. They act as a true light that can be turned off and dimmed.