Is Solar Tube Lighting Worth It? Weighing The Pros & Cons

Researched & Written by Craig

Nothing brightens up a room like natural light, but adding new windows or skylights can be costly and disruptive.

Luckily, there’s a way to give your home a bright dose of natural light without an intrusive installation process. Enter: solar tube lighting.

Solar tube lighting is a cost-effective alternative to skylights that offers bright, natural light with a simple installation process. Solar tube lighting is subtle, but it provides bright light. However, it doesn’t give you views of the sky, and it can’t be installed in every home.

The Pros and Cons of Solar Tube Lighting

Solar tube lighting offers a simple way to bring natural light into your home. It works by reflecting light from outside through a metal tube, which directs the light inside. With solar tube lighting, you can save money on electricity and brighten up your space with natural light.

Solar tubes are small and unobtrusive, and they can be installed in many different parts of your home. If you’re looking for a low-cost and energy efficient way to bring natural light into your home, solar tube lighting may just be for you.

However, solar tube lighting isn’t for everyone. If you want to have sweeping views of the outside sky, you’re better off going with skylights. Solar tube lighting also isn’t ideal if you live somewhere either extremely hot or cold, since extreme temperatures can cause damage.

How does Solar Tube Lighting work?

A solar tube is a tube of metal that runs from the roof to the inside of the house. Sunlight streams down from outside and through a metal tube that runs into your home.

The metal tube acts like a long mirror, with light bouncing off of its length until it reaches a window-like fitting on your ceiling. The opening on the ceiling has a diffuser that distributes the light into the room.

Pros

Source of Natural Light

Solar tube lighting allows you to bring natural light into your home without the need to install skylights. With solar tubing, your home will be brighter and more welcoming during the day.

Natural light has all sorts of benefits for your health and wellness. Natural light boosts Vitamin D, improves sleep and reduces health issues associated with fluorescent lighting.

Solar tube lighting saves power and electricity, since it allows you to replace electric light with sunlight. On sunny and even moderately cloudy days, you won’t need to switch on a lightbulb to flood your home with light. Solar tube lighting can help you reduce your ecological footprint, not to mention save on your electricity bill.

If you want your solar tube lighting to also work at night and on extremely cloudy days, you can look for a solar tube light that includes electric lights.

Small Size

Solar tube lights are smaller than skylights, another common option for bringing natural light into your home. While skylights take up lots of space and require a great deal of room, solar tube lighting can be installed in much smaller areas including hallways, pantries and laundry rooms.

Skylight’s look amazing, but are expensive and need lots of space.

Despite its small size, solar tube lighting can give you lots of light. A ten inch tube will give you the equivalent of three 100 watt light bulbs, which is enough to cover a 200 square foot area. If you want to illuminate even more space, you can go with a larger tube.

Due to their small size, solar tube lights are also subtle additions to your living space. While skylights draw a lot of attention and can dominate a room, solar tube lighting is pretty unobtrusive.

Cost-effective

Another benefit of solar tube lighting is that it is a less expensive alternative to skylights. Skylights can cost over $2000 to buy and install, whereas solar tube lighting generally costs between $500 and $1000.

Easy installation

One reason for the low cost of solar tube lighting is that it’s relatively easy to install. Unlike skylights, you don’t need to alter your drywall or framing in order to install solar tubes. As a result, the installation process is usually faster, easier and cheaper.

Unlikely to Leak

Solar tube lighting is also less likely to leak than skylights. Skylights are known to collect water and debris, which can then leak into the home. Solar tube lighting is less likely to leak because their dome-like shape helps prevent water from collecting on top.

Cons

No Outside Views

The main drawback of solar tube lighting compared to skylights is that solar tube lighting doesn’t give you a view of the sky. Since the opening doesn’t lead directly outside, you get outdoor light, but not outdoor views. If you’re after views of the outdoors, a skylight is the better option for you.

Not Distinctive Looking

While some people like that solar tubes are unobtrusive, others see this as a drawback. Solar tubes are typically small, and they look just like any other light. If you’re after something that will change the way that your space looks and feels, you’re better off going with skylights.

Few Customization Options

Solar tube lighting also doesn’t have as many options for customization. While skylights have the option of diffusers, UV films and vents to change the way that the light is let in, solar tubes don’t have as many options for customization.

Durability

Another drawback to solar tube lighting is that it is susceptible to damage in extreme temperatures. When the weather gets really hot or cold, the acrylic dome that’s often on the outside of the solar tube can crack. If you live somewhere that gets extremely hot or cold, a skylight might be a better option, since the glass is more durable.

Won’t Work for Every Home

Solar tube lighting works better for some homes than for others. Solar tube lighting needs to be installed in a spot where there is six metres of space or less between your ceiling and roof.

Usually, solar tube lighting works for roofs with slopes between 15 and 60 degrees. It’s possible to find solar tubes designed for flat roofs, but these are more rare. If your roof is highly sloped, you may not have any luck finding solar tubing that works for you.

How much does Solar Tube Lighting cost?

Typically, solar tube lighting costs between $500 and $1000. This includes the cost of purchase and installation. The reason that solar tube lighting is less expensive than skylights, which typically cost upwards of $2000, is that solar tube lighting doesn’t require any drywall or framing.

If you feel comfortable installing solar tube lighting on your own, kits generally cost between $200 and $400.

Does Solar Tube Lighting work at night?

Your classic solar tube lighting setups won’t work at night, because they simply reflect daylight into your home. However, some newer models have innovative design features that allow them to light your house even when it’s dark out.

Some solar tubes are equipped to produce solar-powered electricity. They can charge up during the day and then power artificial lights in your home when it gets dark. These models of solar tube lighting tend to be more expensive, but you can’t deny how useful they are — you can have consistent light 24 hours a day, without having to install an additional light fixture.

Conclusion

Bright windows change the whole ambience of a room. Natural light makes a space go from feeling dreary, to warm and inviting. If your home doesn’t have many windows and you’re looking to add that extra bit of brightness, solar tube lighting could be for you.

There are many things to consider when thinking about installing solar tube lighting. I hope that this guide has given you an idea of whether solar tube lighting is right for you.

Thank you for reading, and have a great day!