Best Solar Tube
Solar tube lighting is a highly innovative means of providing indoor illumination and the wider benefits of the sun’s rays in general anywhere of your choosing within a building. Where it differs from traditional window lighting is that it uses a through-the-roof design. This means that areas once inaccessible to window light can then benefit from daytime illumination without the need for additional electricity.
Today’s aim is to make you aware of the many benefits available with these tube installations and give you a full rundown of how they work as well as weighing up the pros and cons of using them in your home or workplace.
What Are Solar Tubes?
What makes a solar tube so effective as both a light source and a long-term cost-saving complement to your home is the fact that it relies on the sun’s rays to provide light. The top “cap” of these tubes is placed on the exterior of a building and is primed for maximum photon ray absorption before the light is then sent down the central tube for reflection within your interior space.
Enhanced efficiency comes from the interior tube coating, which has been specially designed to efficiently disperse light and provide optimum brightness. This means that a solar light tube is not going to cost you a penny after installation because it is a completely self-sustaining source of illumination thanks to its exclusive reliance on the sun.
There are other benefits besides illumination here too. They come in the form of additional natural heat thanks to the concentration of the sun’s rays and the ability of the body to create vitamin D without being exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time. All in all, this makes solar tube lighting an incredibly sought after utility option that thousands of homeowners are already enjoying on a daily basis.
Things to Consider Before Buying Solar Tubes
Even though solar tubes will prove highly effective for many, there are still several areas that you need to review before you commit to buying a set. Unlike other sun-powered products, installing this item leads to the permanent alteration of your roof structure. Or that is to say, it is very hard to effectively restore your roof back to its original state should one of these tubes be removed.
As a result, you need to make absolutely sure that it is going to be the right option for you going forward. Comparing the following key areas and determining whether or not they are relevant to your situation will help you to simplify the decision-making process.
A solar tube or a skylight?
Although they may seem similar, there is a significant difference between these two lighting options especially when it comes to cost and installation.
First, solar tubing can be woven into the structure of a roof with fairly minimal interruption to its design. A skylight, on the other hand, is a very large feature that requires a sizeable gap to be created in your roof in order to achieve successful implementation.
Whereas tubing can offer lighting levels that are likely to be more than adequate for the majority of people’s needs, a skylight differs by offering a fairly expansive window that will bring in a higher level of light. More is not always better though, as you might get more illumination than you need.
Solar tube installation cannot be summed up in one set of steps because the process is slightly different depending on the type of building you have. It is all about your roof type and, therefore, the shape and sometimes materials of the product you are going to need.
It probably goes without saying that a flat roof is very different from a slanted roof just as an asphalt roof is significantly different from a shingle roof. As a result, there are a variety of models available to cater to the needs of any and all homeowners.
You are going to have to pay very close attention to the specifications of your desired product. If you can, try to view the related manual online before making a purchase so that you are fully aware of what to expect.
Realistically, it is actually very difficult to damage a sun tunnel (as they are sometimes called) due to its mostly concealed infrastructure. But where this aspect can and rarely does go wrong, is with the exterior cap.
You will have a variety of options at your disposal when it comes to material choices, but the most durable tunnel covers are typically made out of impact-resistant glass. This makes them very resistant to force and weather damage. It is important that you buy the right solar tube to prepare for the risks posed in your specific location.
Although you are not likely to encounter any tampering from other people due to the tubes’ inaccessible location, curious critters are still likely to find their way onto your roof. Your tube caps need to be sturdy enough to withstand everything from clawing to nibbling.
What is the warranty like?
A warranty might not be the first thing on your mind when you are shopping for most solar tube products because of the low price and lack of major real-world disruption possibilities. When you are installing something within the structure of your house though, peace of mind is paramount.
Some models carry up to a 25-year warranty, meaning that, in most cases, you will probably be covered for the entire duration of your stay in one particular home. Alternatively, some have a significantly shorter warranty and may be less durable.
Tube size and brightness
Tube size is typically measured in inches, and you can get a reasonably good idea about how much light is going to be produced based on the wattage capacity of the tube. The range is usually anywhere from 300 watts to as much as 1500 for larger options.
If you are looking to light a bigger area, a bigger tube is required. For a smaller area, it is going to require a smaller tube. Gauge your options based on your exact needs. Once the tubing is in place, removal or replacement would be a very difficult undertaking.
Sometimes, it is best to go with a well-established brand rather than trying to scour the market and review every available option. For those who want to make a fairly quick but still assured decision when purchasing a product within this category, the following manufacturers are known to produce high-calibre items: Velux, Solar Blaster, Radiant, ODL, and Natural Light.
Since this is a niche market, there are not an overwhelming number of manufacturers to choose from. But this is not necessarily a bad thing because those available have been able to focus on being specialists in their area for a considerable amount of time.
Top 3 Best Solar Tubes
In this section, we are going to highlight what we feel are three of the best solar tube lights available on the market at the moment to help you come to a fast and reliable decision. We have included an option for every roof type. Regardless of your requirements, you still have an option to work with.
3. ODL Tubular Skylight Kit
For those who want a light that will shine over a large area, this kit offers the perfect solution and an incredibly durable and easy-to-install design. Although the pipe itself is constructed out of solid metal materials, it features adjustable elements that will allow the installer to manipulate the housing to fit around obstacles effectively and reach the roof’s surface uninterrupted.
Patented optics have been installed into the glass cap to ensure that there is no unwanted internal glare, and the entire design from cap to base is weatherproof to withstand almost any risk posed by the elements. The maximum output is equivalent to 300 watts, which can cover a 300-foot area thanks to the optimum efficiency of this design.
- Excellent durable weatherproof build quality
- Is easy to install thanks to a flexible design
- Glass cap with patented optics for maximum light distribution
- 300-watt with 300-foot range, making it among the best on the market
- Unclear warranty information, which will not be reassuring for some
- Best used with an asphalt roof, creating a more difficult installation experience for those with other types of roofs
2. 10 Inch Tubular Skylight Kit for Flat Roof
Although this option is not the largest available on the market, its rigid design, use of high-quality materials, and 25-year warranty make it an excellent option for those seeking something highly reliable and safe that still offers exceptional efficiency.
The 10-inch tube can provide up to 300 watts of brightness, which is going to be more than adequate to meet the needs of those who want to cover a relatively small area. You will need something bigger for a large room, but generally, there is enough illumination here to please most. This is especially true when you consider that this wattage can be projected up to 150 feet.
It is one of the few options that has been hurricane tested and offers an excellent warranty length. You have no reason to be concerned once your initial installation has been completed. This tubing system is very unlikely to be damaged, and if it is, you are covered.
- One of the most durable options available on the market
- Great lighting capacity with a 150-foot range to cater to most people’s needs
- Hurricane tested
- 25-year warranty, which is one of the best available for any sun tunnel product
- Larger models available that provide more light
- Not suitable for those with slanted roofing
1. 14 in. Sun Tunnel Tubular Skylight Acrylic Dome
For those who are not totally confident about installation, this model is going to offer some much-needed peace of mind thanks to the flexible ribbed tube design that allows for maximum flexibility and optimum placement. So accessible is this model, in fact, that it only takes 2 hours to install on average.
The cap is made from a flat glass plate, meaning that you are unlikely to encounter any serious external or internal damage. The size of the tube is 14 inches. This gives way to an impressive level of internal light concentration and will meet most people’s visibility requirements.
If you are confident that you know exactly what type of roof you are working with and have minimal obstructions within the roof, you can also opt for a rigid-tube model. However, the level of tube flexibility is slightly diminished with this variant, which may make placement harder.
- Very easy to install compared to other options
- Excellent light output from 14-inch head
- Durable glass cap with protection from external elements
- Sufficient 20-year warranty
- Will only work with a slanted roof type
- Rigid version not as flexible or easy to install as the soft-tunnel variety
Pros and Cons of Solar Tubes
Before we leave you to shop, let’s first summarise the reasons for and against making use of this particular solar technology.
- Very, very cost effective and no financial outlay after initial installation
- Cheaper to buy than windowed light access
- DIY installation without labour costs
- Not as disruptive as windows or skylights and much easier to install
- Not as invasive to your home’s exterior appearance as a skylight
- Minimal construction interruption
- Some areas suitable for tube installation that are not options for windows, which opens up enhanced indoor lighting opportunities
- Not likely to provide as much illumination as a window or skylight
- Potentially not as durable as a window or skylight unit
- Less cost savings if you are using contractors rather than completing the installation yourself
- Arguably not as attractive or complementary to an exterior design as a well-designed skylight
- Unlikely to get the level of indoor brightness you might prefer during the middle of winter because these units rely on sun access
Overall, these are the main points to consider before you enter the world of solar tube lighting. This is a big decision to make due to the disruptive nature of the installation, so you need to be sure that it is the right one for you.
You should now have a significantly better understanding of precisely what solar tubing is and how it can effectively serve your lighting needs in an economic and highly efficient fashion. For those handy individuals out there looking for a reliable light source, installation is going to be easy, and satisfaction will be high.
However, if you are not adept at DIY projects and need to make use of a contractor, it is important to carefully weigh real savings potential compared to window or skylight installation. If you think you will get the brightness you need and save a significant amount of money, it is still worth choosing solar tube lighting.
Regardless of your final reason for choosing to make use of this technology or not, it is without a doubt one of the most effective out there in terms of functionality, practicality, and minimal economic impact.