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Solar tubes in modern kitchen

Enjoy Natural Light Anywhere with Solar Tubes

A solar tube, also known as a light tube, sun tunnel or sun tube, is an alternative to a skylight that channels diffused sunlight to a building’s interior by way of a tube made of highly polished metal.

We’ve been installing them in several new custom homes we’re building, especially in bathrooms and other rooms where options for windows may be limited. In fact, we’re using them in green-built projects to help reduce a home’s energy consumption during the day.

Modern bathroom with solar tubes

How Solar Tubes Work

Solar tubes work by channeling sunlight into a metallic tube through a clear covering that protrudes from the roof. The natural light is then channeled into a room or space by a highly reflective, polished sheet metal material that acts as a continuous mirror along the length of the tube. In some cases, the metallic tube has a reflective coating. Unlike skylights, sun tubes allow you direct light to specific locations inside a home to illuminate spaces that don’t normally get natural light.

And yes, because of the mirror-like finish, you can even reflect the sunlight around corners and through curves into any area of your home.

How are solar tubes different from skylights?

While solar tubes and skylights provide spaces with abundant natural light, there are some notable differences between them.

  • Solar tubes are less expensive and easier to install than skylights.
  • Solar tubes allow you to direct the sunlight into any space, as where skylights can only light the space directly underneath it.
  • Solar tubes are more energy efficient than skylights because skylights transfer heat as well as sunlight. Solar tubes do not transfer heat.
  • Skylights provide a view of the sky and offer an architectural element to the space. Solar tubes are more subtle, typically look like a light fixture, and don’t offer a sky view.
  • Unlike solar tubes, skylights can often be opened and closed for ventilation.
  • Skylights are well known for leaking. Sun tubes are less likely to leak because of the smaller, flatter dome that allows water to drain away quickly.

Do solar tubes help reduce electricity bills?

It’s likely that a solar tube will help reduce your electricity consumption and lower your energy bill. On a sunny day, one 10-inch solar tube will give you about the same amount of light as three 100-watt bulbs. That’s enough to illuminate a 200 sq. ft. room well enough for office work or light a 300 sq. ft. room enough for taking a shower or folding the laundry – activities easily completed with diffused light. With so much sunlight, you won’t typically need to turn on the lights until the sun fades.

We love how solar tubes are the perfect means to illuminate any room, especially windowless rooms. They are a very simple, cost-effective lighting option with many benefits, making them a great addition to any home in desperate need of sunlight.

Learn other ways to reduce your carbon footprint on our blog.

If you’re in the market for building a green home, contact us.