Today I would like to tell you about a really cool way to light up your home that won’t cost you a penny on your electric bill. More specifically what I’m talking about is using solar tubes for indoor lighting. These devices are absolutely amazing!
It’s important that you don’t confuse solar tube skylights for vacuum solar tubes that are used for heating water. I’ll talk about those little wonders of technology in an upcoming article but for now we’re simply talking about using a gadget called a solar tube skylight for lighting up your living areas.
I was first introduced to a version of them several years ago when one of my neighbors had this crazy underground house. I was always quite intrigued by the design but thought that it must cost an awful lot to keep the place from feeling dark and dingy. One day I got the opportunity to ask the old man who lived in the house how much his light bill was and he told me that they never had to turn the lights on during the day at all.
This didn’t make any sense at all to me because his home was underground and I couldn’t see any windows. He then invited my husband and me inside for the grand tour of his home and I was blown away when I found out that he had concocted some strange homemade solar tubes for basements that lit the place up like it was a glass house.
He was quite a clever old man and had designed some very clever periscope like devices that captured light from the roof and delivered it down through a homemade reflective tube and into their living areas.
One of the most cost effective ways to light up a room during the day is with a solar tube for indoor lighting. These devices are also commonly referred to as “tubular skylights” and the large models can put out as much light as twelve 100 watt incandescent light bulbs!
How Do Solar Tubes Work?
A solar light tube is essentially made up of three pieces. There is a top dome that is used to collect light from the sun, there is a reflective tube called a “tunnel” that is used to channel that light through the attic space, and there is a diffuser lens that usually mounts flush with the ceiling on the inside of the room to evenly distribute the light.
What’s The Difference Between a “Solar Tube” and a “Solatube”?
Actually there isn’t a difference. As a matter of fact, the term “solar tube” is protected under a trademark that is owned by Solatube International. I’ve been in touch with Krista Roschek, a member of their PR team and she informed me that there’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace with people using the term “solar tube” as a general way of referring to these types of products. She also informed me that in this industry these items are most accurately referred to as “Tubular Daylighting Devices”.
Cost of Solar Light Tubes
Perhaps the most well known solar tube for lighting is manufactured by a company by the name of “Solatube”. I just did a quick search online and was able to find these solar tubes for natural light for between $250 and $420. This of course doesn’t include the cost of installation so let’s take a minute and talk about that now.
Install Solar Light Tubes Video
Take a minute and watch this video and you will see the exact process for installing solar tube skylights for homes. This isn’t exactly a 30 minute job but it’s also not that difficult if you’re at all handy with power tools.
Solar Tubes vs Skylights
If you’re wondering whether or not it makes more sense to install a solar tube or a skylight in your home, let me take a minute and list some of the benefits to using solar lighting tubes.
- They can be installed in smaller areas because they don’t require a large opening to be cut in the top of your roof.
- A skylight pretty much needs to be installed on a roof that does not have an attic space but a solar lighting tube is ideal for homes with attics because the reflective “tunnel” will direct the light through your attic and into your room.
- These devices are more flexible than skylights because the hole in the roof can be in one location and the reflective tunnel can actually be angled so that you can install the diffuser lens where you want the light to come out of your ceiling.
- You can even install these devices so that they will light up your basement. With a little bit of ingenuity, you can also install them so that the light comes right out of the wall as if by magic!
Solar Tubes For The Basement
With the addition of an extra long tunnel section solar light tubes can be quite effective at illuminating a basement. There will be some additional costs when purchasing the unit because an extended tunnel section will be necessary. You will have to be a little bit creative with how you hide the tunnel that connects the light collecting dome on your roof to your basement. I’ve seen people hide these quite well by encasing them in “false beams”. When they do this it actually ends up looking quite nice because they get the appearance of the nice sturdy post supporting the ceiling; similar to the old post and beam construction methods.
How This Technology is Being Used Around The World
Many third world countries are making good use of solar tube light technology by installing a homemade device called a solar bottle bulb in poverty stricken homes. With nothing more than a few inexpensive items that would normally be thrown away anyway, this technology is being used to bring light into the homes of families who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
I encourage you all to follow their example and make use of this source of light that is freely available. It’s much more efficient to install solar light tubes than to generate electricity via alternative energy resources that can be used to power light bulbs. Half the fun of living off the grid and living a green lifestyle is learning to be resourceful and conserving energy instead of just generating power with wind turbines or solar panels.
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If you’re concerned about saving money on lighting, take a minute and read my article called: Save Energy by Installing Occupancy Sensors for Lighting.