Window suppliers have long offered a wide selection of skylights, with a host of features. But what if you want natural light in a part of your home where a skylight isn’t an option, like a narrow hallway, stairwell, or small bathroom? One excellent alternative is the solar tube, or sun tube.
What’s a Solar Tube?
A Solar tube is a system that brings sunlight into your home without heat gain or sun damage to your home and furnishings. A durable, weather-proof plastic half-dome is mounted on the roof, to let sunlight into the tube. The light is reflected inside the tube, and enters your living space through a diffuser, so you get a nice, bright expanse of light, not a spotlight effect.
How Much Light Can a Solar Tube Bring in?
Solar tubes range in size from 10-inch diameter to 14-inch diameter. A 10-inch tube brings the equivalent of three 100-watt light bulbs into your space. That’s enough light to cover about 200 square feet of open space in your home. The 14-inch tubes can illuminate about 300 square feet of unobstructed space.
What Other Advantages do Solar Tubes Offer?
- Lower cost – Solar tubes cost less than skylights, by about half.
- Easier Installation – Installing solar tubes is generally less complicated and less destructive than installing skylights: Less time, less intrusion, less mess.
- Smaller Exterior Seal – The roof seal around a solar tube is tiny compared to that of a skylight: Less exposed material means less chance of leaks, and less cost when it’s time to replace.
- Less Vulnerable to Damage – Domed surfaces are more resistant to impact damage, and less surface area means less likelihood that your solar tube will be hit in the first place.
What’s the Catch?
There are some circumstances where installing solar tubes might require extra work, or may not be the right choice at all. It’s important to evaluate whether your home is ideal for solar tubes. Some of the considerations include:
- Roof Slope – Solar tubes can be installed on roofs with slopes between 15- and 60-degrees.
- Rafter Spacing – Standard rafter spacing of 16-inches, on-center is perfect for both 10- and 14-inch tube installation. Non-standard rafter spacing may require extra preparation. In some cases, homes are built with 24-in spacing, which could accommodate a custom, extra-large tube, for even more light.
- Roof Material – If your home’s roof is tile or metal, you’ll need an adaptor for the tube’s flashing.
- Dome Position – Solar tubes perform best when their dome is mounted on a southwest-facing roof surface, with the interior end of the tube no more than 14 feet away. Each bend the tube has to make slightly reduces the amount of reflected light that will reach your interior space, so it’s best to have as straight a run as possible.
How do I Get Solar Tubes?
Consult with a reputable window supplier like Rocky Mountain Windows and Doors to discuss your ideas and what will work best in your home.