Solar Tubes Pros And Cons – Are They Right For Your Home?

Do you want to introduce additional natural light into your space? Opt for solar tubes if you cannot have typical windows. But first, you should know their pros and cons. To help you, we researched its qualities for easier decision-making. Here's what we discovered.

Solar tubes have several pros and cons you have to consider before purchasing. Here are its pros:

  • Easy assembly
  • Minimal installation cost
  • Adjustable for internal roof obstructions
  • Less intrusive dimension
  • Low maintenance
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Cheaper electricity bill

On the other hand, here are its cons:

  • Limited outdoor view
  • Little heat control
  • No ventilation
  • Permanent structural opening
  • Unsuitable for specific roof slope
  • Restricted scope and tube length
  • Vulnerable to water condensation

Natural light is beneficial for your mood, sleep, and health. Thus, we have a detailed discussion on the pros and cons of solar tubes. We will also explore their types, installation, best brands, and maintenance. Keep reading to decide whether they are right for your home.

Dome shaped solar tube skylight on asphalt shingle roof, Solar Tubes Pros And Cons - Are They Right For Your Home?

How Do Solar Tubes Work?

Sunlite light tube system for transporting natural daylight from roof into room. 3D rendered illustration.

In the late 80s, an Australian company revived the mirror reflector system from London. Nowadays, different variants and additional features are available in the market for residential or commercial use of solar tube lighting.

A solar tube is an elongated hollow device made from metal designed for passive lighting aside from windows. For this reason, people also call it the sun tube, sun tunnel, sun scope, light tube, or daylight pipe.

It has two primary parts: a dome and a tube with a diffuser. The former is a translucent opening for receiving natural light, whereas the latter is a reflective pipe responsible for carrying the collected light into the indoor area. Although small, they are energy efficient, illuminating your space without consuming electricity.


Click here to see this rigid solar tube set on Amazon.

Solar tubes work like a continuous reflective mirror. Since the tunnel interior has a reflector element, it captures the sunlight. The light will then bounce towards the lower end, brightening the dark room. Although they work without electricity, they only serve as extensions of the artificial lighting system.

Watch this to gain more insight about solar tube installation and mechanism.

What Are The Pros Of Solar Tube Lighting?

 Explore the advantages that you can reap from sun tunnels. Below are the pros that will entice you to invest in this system.

Easy Assembly

With professional help, it will only take less than two hours. It comprises three steps. Determine and measure the preferred location of the holes. Then, create holes to lay the tunnel films and lens and secure the joints with flashing. Afterward, attach the diffuser and other interior parts.

Minimal Installation Cost

The average price for a solar tube integration is $750. If you are adept with basic construction, you can DIY the installation, helping you recoup even more costs.

Adjustable For Roof Obstructions

You can put them in areas without causing pressure on roof rafters. The tunnels can also be your last resort when typical windows are not a good idea.

Less Intrusive Dimension

Unlike skylights, a solar tube is less intrusive because of the limited space it consumes. Hence, construction is not disruptive to your daily chores. Privacy is also not a concern.

Low Maintenance

The straightforward structure calls for minimal care. Thus, cleaning is the only maintenance you need to do.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Regardless of the number, they still produce a lower carbon footprint because of their materials, sizes, and means of providing luminance.

Cheaper Electricity Bill

If you and your family often forget to switch off the light when not in use, you don't need to worry anymore. You will not waste energy even if the light goes on throughout the day with solar tunnels. As a result, this setup will help you lower your bill in the long run. 

What Are The Cons Of Solar Tube Lighting?

Below are the drawbacks of solar tube lighting that you have to minimize or accept.

Limited Outdoor View

You cannot enjoy the outside view because of the covers, tiny surface area, and elongated form.

Low Heat Control

It is necessary to include thermal break components inside them, like an acrylic panel or a diffuser, to tame the heat and glare from the sun.

Click here to see this flat glass diffuser on Amazon.

No Ventilation

Both ends of the solar tube have opaque or translucent lids. The only moment you can open them is during cleaning time. 

Permanent Structural Opening

Since you need to cut the ceiling, it changes your roof surface permanently. Hence, plan carefully before committing.

Unsuitable For Certain Roofs

Most structures only fit well with a ceiling slope between 15 and 60 degrees. Others are only compatible with asphalt and shingle roof exteriors and flat designs.

Shorter Scope

The tube length plays a crucial role in lighting efficiency. The ideal scope is up to 20 feet only. Hence, sun tunnels go well with one-story houses. Otherwise, the brightness will dim or blur.

Vulnerable To Water Condensation

When the weather changes, the tunnel interior is prone to condensation. Thus, wrap the exterior with at least R-15 insulation to preserve its temperature.

Click here to see this R-15 fiberglass insulation roll on Amazon.

How To Choose The Right Solar Lighting Tubes for Your Home

Dome shaped solar tube skylight on asphalt shingle roof

Apart from its strengths and weaknesses, here is more about the essential qualities to look for when choosing the right solar tube for your home.

Sizes and Brightness

The hole spans from 10 inches to 48 inches in diameter. Meanwhile, the light reflectance varies from 300 watts to 1500 watts.  

Cut the ceiling based on the floor area of the room. The tiniest opening is ideal for compact lavatories and corridors. The medium size is perfect for airy stairwells. Ultimately, try the maximum option for spacious bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens.

Types of Solar Tubes

The exterior of sun scopes can be dome-shaped or flat glass. You can also choose from the three forms based on your roof or attic space and night light capacity:

Simple: The simple ones have a rigid structure, allowing immediate light transmission. It is ideal for areas with access to direct sunlight.

Adjustable: You can opt for flexible sun tunnels with a flat roof. Adjust their length to fit in the small space. However, they have lower light reflectance because of the bending capacity.

Photovoltaic-Integrated: Unlike other types, it has an attached photovoltaic solar panel. Thus, it also provides an artificial glow during gloomy and rainy days. Likewise, it is helpful during nighttime activities.

UV Protection

While daily sunshine is healthy for your well-being, anything excess is problematic. It is best to get a sun tunnel dome with UV protection to counter skin diseases and color fading of furniture and rugs.

Know More About Solar Tubes

Deciding if solar tubes are right for your home? Below is some needed information you may wish to know.

Where Are the Ideal Placements In Your House?

Dome shaped solar tube skylight on asphalt shingle roof

You can place solar tubes anywhere in your house. But, do not go over the maximum depth. Installers typically locate them alongside the roof rafters. Despite that, here are the common areas where you can find them: 

  • Basement
  • Hallways
  • Kitchen
  • Laundry enclosures
  • Stairways
  • Walk-in wardrobes
  • Washrooms

How Many Are Needed?

How many solar tubes you will need depends on your personal preference. A single tunnel is enough to freshen the area, provided it has an appropriate diameter for your room. You can also opt for two at the center of the room for a more promising result.

How To Clean

To clean a solar tube, detach the dome and diffuser. Then, wash each side with a clean rug soaked in soapy water and dry it with a lint-free cloth. Similarly, remove the debris inside the tunnel using a broom. Avoid separating the rubber gasket from the ceiling ring. Remember to perform these steps regularly for better performance.

Are They Plant-Friendly?

Growers use solar tubes for their indoor plants. They work like the sun and grow lights.

What Are The Best Brands?

Sun tunnel in a roof allows more natural light into your home. Acrylic dome to capture the light from sun and illuminate room without power requirement in day time.

Despite the unlimited selection, the best ones should serve their purpose and fit your budget. However, people only trust a handful of them through the years.

Solatube, a pioneer in this field, offers wide-radius tunnels for a brighter room.

Velux is another leading manufacturer of flexible solar tubes. Its models look sleeker, radiate warmer light, and possess solar LED night lamps.

How Long Do They Last? 

You can rely on solar tubes between 10 and 50 years. They will last depending on the material quality and installation process. It is time to replace when there are leakages and discolorations.

Solar Tubes Vs. Skylights

While others call solar tubes tubular skylights, they differ from skylight windows. Even though they both bring natural light, the former offers little to no view and ventilation because of its fixed layout. Unlike the $300 DIY solar tube kit, the skylight installation ranges between $1500 and $2500. 

Do You Need Planning Permission For Solar Tubes?

abstract architecture, long tunnel with circular holes in the ceiling for solar lighting. 3d render

While solar tubes work like a fixed window, you will not need to ask for planning permission before installation. Adding these environment-friendly fixtures is not a structural alteration because they do not change the roof joist or rafter position. However, it is best to consult your contractor to assess the best location for your house.

Final Thoughts

Dome shaped solar tube skylight on asphalt shingle roof, Solar Tubes Pros And Cons - Are They Right For Your Home?

To know whether solar tubes suit your home, you must first weigh the pros and cons. The installation cost, structural changes, efficiency, maintenance, long-term savings, and aesthetics can make or break your experience. In the end, it boils down to your preferences.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, explore these articles about home lighting:

8 Lighting Ideas For Cathedral Ceilings

Best Kitchen Lights For Low Ceiling

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