Drawbacks to Solar Tube Lighting (And why they may be unsuitable for your home)
Solar light tubes, also known as sun tubes or light tunnels are an innovative way of channeling natural light to brighten dark indoor spaces. Their primary strength is cost-cutting. Installation is significantly cheaper than competing options so you do end up making notable savings.
That said, there are more than a few shortcomings to think about before you rush to install one.
Key shortcomings to solar tube lighting are that you are heavily dependent on an unpredictable light source, there is no way to control light and your roof may be unsuitable for it. You will not be able to do any star gazing or enjoy any extra ventilation. Depending on the kind of roof you have, it may be impossible to install the system.
Drawbacks to Solar Tube Lighting
|Predictability||Dependent on unpredictable weather|
|View||No view of sky|
|Control options||No light control options|
|Aesthetics||No aesthetic personalization|
|Suitability||May be unsuitable for some homes|
|Ventilation||Can’t be opened for ventilation|
Unpredictable Energy Source
Solar tube lighting is wholly dependent on the sun. It works great on bright sunny days when there is more than ample light but can be problematic when sunlight is insufficient.
Weather can be unpredictable. Sometimes it is hard to know when it is going to be a dull day, in which case you may have insufficient light for the solar lit room.
If the room has insufficient or no windows, dull-weather months will have you dependent on a secondary, artificial light source, even during the day.
No View of the Sky
The best part about a skylight is that exhilarating feeling you get from looking at the sky. Nothing beats lying on the couch at home and gazing into the sky.
On top of that there is the host of health benefits associated with exposure to natural light. From vitamin D production to development of regular sleep cycles. Natural light is also said to boost the immune system.
This is what you miss with solar tube lighting. Even on the brightest days, you can only enjoy light but never have a view of the sky.
Limited Aesthetic Impact
‘Unobtrusive.’ This is a term used when describing one of the main advantages of solar tube lighting. It doesn’t interfere with existing fixtures or furniture in the room. On the other hand, this feature could be seen as a demerit.
Unlike other lighting solutions, this form does not add to the aesthetics of a room. There are no elements of color and there isn’t much that could be said to be blending with the décor.
If you are looking for a lighting solution which adds some aesthetic personality to the room, you may want to consider something else.
Limited Control Options
Solar tubes give you little control over the quality of light which flows into the room. While we cannot overlook the value of diffusers, these merely help to spread the light but not create any kind of variation.
Unlike solar light tubes, skylights work much like regular windows in terms of how they let light into a room. This means you have options like adding film to reduce UV light which is not only harmful to skin but will also fades furniture and rugs.
Not Universally Suitable
These systems are only suitable for certain types of roofing material. It also needs to be installed at a spot where there is 6 meters or less between the ceiling and the roof.
Roof design is another factor to consider. Most solar tubes in the market are designed for roofs sloped between 15 and 60 degrees. If yours is a flat roof, you will need different tubular models which are specifically designed for flat roofs. On A-frame roofs which are steeply pitched, installation may be impossible.
If you opt for a DIY solar tube kit, keep in mind that these work best on asphalt or wood. For a tile or metal roof, you will need to include an adapter to your purchase.
No Option for Ventilation
As mentioned, skylights work much like windows. Vented skylights allow you to enjoy fresh air along with sunlight by opening it just like you would a window. This works well during warm summer months when cooling is essential. Sometimes enjoying a light cool breeze from the comfort of your couch and not outdoors is a treat.
You don’t have this luxury with solar light tubes because it doesn’t let in any air from the outside. If this lighting system is used in a room with insufficient windows, you will need to have a fan for cooling during extremely warm months and have no choice but to step outside for that cool breeze.
Water Condensation Challenges
Problems with water condensation in solar lighting tubes are common in high-humidity areas. The pipes are made from aluminum which is an ideal material for heat conduction. The trouble is that moist air finds its way into the tube and then condenses when temperatures drop. Condensed water accumulates at the dome and this dramatically shortens its lifespan.
When this happens over a long period of time, accumulated water finds its way into the lit room. It could then destroy the ceiling, walls and damage paint.
In high-humidity areas, experts wrap the pipe in R-15 batt insulation when installing the system to deal with condensation problems.
Solar tube lighting is no doubt a great way to light a room naturally and at minimal cost. It can be tempting to rush onto the investment but it is necessary to examine some of the drawbacks in order to understand some of the challenges or inconveniences you may have to deal with once the system is installed.
It would also be useful to gather information on available alternatives, understand related cost implications and consider potential short and long term savings.
Does solar tube lighting provide light at night?
Standard systems cannot provide lighting at night because they depend solely on daylight. However, newer models are equipped with solar power systems which provide solar electricity. Included solar panels charge during the day and are used to power artificial lights at night.
Why are solar light tubes so much cheaper than skylights?
Solar tube lighting is a lot cheaper than skylights because the former don’t require any drywall or framing.