Solar Tubes: What You Should Know Before Installing Them

mares_dow_commercial_skylights_velux_sun tunnel

As part of your home or office remodeling plan, you might increase your interior’s exposure to natural light by installing a skylight or solar tube. Skylight contractors can help you decide which is best for your needs, but if you’re leaning toward solar tubes or sun tunnels for whatever reason—whether functionality or cost—you should fully understand what they are, how they work, and how they differ from traditional skylights.

What are solar tubes?

A solar tube is a polycarbonate or acrylic dome that protrudes from a roof, capturing sunlight into a highly-reflective sheet metal tube that has a light diffuser at its end. The light diffuser looks like a porthole that glows pure white, and the smallest diameter (10 in) can diffuse light up to 200 square feet, which is the equivalent of three 100-watt light bulbs. They can range up to 21 in in diameter, making them a versatile lighting source.

How are they different from skylights?

Here are the main differences between solar tubes and skylights:

  • Solar tubes cost less than skylights with the average installation totalling $500-$1,000, as opposed to skylights running a total bill averaging $1,250-$3,500+.
  • Solar tubes are easier to install because they require less carpentry
  • Solar tubes block UV rays, but skylights need a window film to block 99% of UV rays
  • Solar tubes don’t have a view of the sky, and can pass for a regular light fixture
  • Solar tubes are more energy efficient because they don’t allow the heat gain of direct sunlight, but provide far more light than a skylight

Where are the best places to install solar tubes?

Solar tubes can be installed anywhere your roof can support them. Your roof should have a slope between 15-60 degrees, and standard rafters that are sparse 16 in on-center with a gap big enough for a 10-14 in tube. Certain areas of your home or office might not have the appropriate roof layout, while others might be perfect.

The best places to install solar tubes include rooms that don’t receive much sunlight from windows. Popular places include walk-in closets, bathrooms, living rooms, and bedrooms if you don’t mind waking with the sun. They can make a small home feel less stuffy and more spacious. Solar tubes, especially VELUX Sun Tunnels, are also great for rooms that can’t accommodate a skylight, but might be able to fit a small solar tube. Though you won’t get the views of a skylight, you’ll get powerful and UV-filtered lighting.

Mares & Dow — Bay Area and Concord Skylight Contractors

Contact the skylight contractors at Mares & Dow Construction and Skylights today to learn about the latest skylight or solar tube models. We’ll help you understand the similarities and differences, then help you determine the best fit for your home or office. With over 37 years of experience, we offer the best in residential and commercial skylight installation.

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