Is Solar Tube Lighting Eco-Friendly?

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Is solar tube lighting eco-friendly? That’s the question my father-in-law barked down the phone at me a few months ago!

He was building a garden office and wanted my advice on eco-friendly lighting.

Solar tubes use natural sunlight to light your home, which means you can reduce your reliance on traditional electricity.

But before you make the switch, it’s essential to understand whether or not solar tube lighting is actually eco-friendly.

In this article, I’ll examine the pros and cons of using solar tubes to light your home.

I’ll also explore some of the environmental benefits of using solar tube lighting over traditional lighting methods.

So, grab yourself a cup of plastic-free tea and settle down to learn more about the environmental advantages of solar tube lighting!

What Is Solar Tube Lighting?

Solar tube lighting (also known as solar tubes, sun pipes, sun tunnels, light tubes, or daylight pipes) is a form of natural lighting for your home.

It uses reflective tubing to bring direct sunlight into your home, illuminating the space with free and renewable energy.

The Upside Of Solar Tube Lighting Systems

  • Environmental Impact: One of the most significant advantages of using solar tubes is their environmental impact. By harnessing natural sunlight, you can reduce your reliance on traditional electricity and lower your carbon footprint.
  • Reduced Light Pollution: Solar tubes also help reduce light pollution, as they only emit sunlight rather than artificial light. This can be particularly beneficial for those living in urban areas or near sensitive ecosystems.
  • Zero Running Costs: Solar tube lighting systems have zero running costs because they’re powered by free and renewable energy from the sun.
  • Improved Light Quality: Solar tubes provide bright, natural lighting, which can improve the overall ambiance of a room. Exposure to as much natural light as possible can help you sleep better and feel less stressed.
  • Zero Maintenance: Solar tubes require very little (or even zero) maintenance, as they have no moving parts and are sealed units. Once you install solar tubes, you can pretty much forget about them.
  • Long Life: Solar tubes have a longer lifespan than traditional light bulbs, resulting in less waste and a lower environmental impact.
  • High Efficiency: Solar tubes are energy efficient. They don’t waste energy through heat loss like traditional light bulbs do.

The Downside Of Solar Tube Lighting Systems

  • Night And Clouds: One downside is that solar tubes can’t be used at night or on cloudy days, as they rely on sunlight. You may need a backup source of artificial lighting in bad weather.
  • Install Costs: Solar tube lighting can also have a higher initial installation cost than traditional lighting. However, these costs may be offset by long-term savings on energy bills.
  • Install Issues: Solar tubes are not always suitable for every roof or building structure type. For example, most solar tubes need a gap of no more than 20ft between the ceiling and the roof. This is why most solar tube lighting is found on the top floor or in single-story buildings. Also, flat roofs aren’t ideal for solar tubes (a slope of 15 - 65 degrees is preferable).
  • Lack Of Aesthetic Options: Another downside is the lack of aesthetic options for solar tube lighting, as they are usually limited to round or rectangular shapes. Traditional lighting often offers more variety in terms of design and style.
  • Extreme Temperature Issues: Some solar tubes (usually those at the cheaper end of the market) can be susceptible to extreme temperature changes, causing the acrylic tubing to crack.

Solar Tube Lighting Types

There are two main types of solar tube lighting, rigid and flexible:

  • Rigid Solar Tubes: Rigid solar tube models are made from metal or plastic and have a reflective coating on the inside. They typically come in round or rectangular shapes and can be installed through roofs or, less commonly, walls.
  • Flexible Solar Tubes: These work in the same principle, but the tube is flexible. Ideal for getting around obstacles in the roof space. However, this flexibility comes at the expense of efficiency, and some light is lost.

Solar Tube Lighting Sizes

Solar tube heads (the part that sticks out of your roof) come in various sizes, usually ranging from 250mm to 500mm in diameter.

The size you choose will depend on the amount of light needed for your space and the layout and structure of your roof.

A professional can help you determine the best size for your particular needs. However, as a general guide, I’d say you need the following:

  • Room Size Up To 10M²: For small spaces (such as small bathrooms and hallways), a small solar tube (250mm) should be enough.
  • Room Size 10M² - 15M²: For larger spaces (such as family bathrooms and stairwells), a 400mm tube should do the job.
  • Room Size 15M²+: For even bigger spaces (such as bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, etc.), a 500mm tube will be needed.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that you can use multiple solar tube lights in the same room to get as much light as you need.

This makes them suitable for eco-friendly bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, or living rooms of virtually any shape or size.

Solar Tube Lighting Vs. Skylights

Solar tube lighting and skylights are similar; they both use natural light to illuminate your home. However, there are also crucial differences between the two options.

Skylights are typically larger and can be used for light and ventilation, whereas solar tubes are smaller and only provide light. Skylights can also be opened to allow for fresh air circulation, whereas solar tubes are sealed units.

Solar tubes may offer a more cost-effective option and can be installed on any roof surface, whereas skylights can only be installed on flat roofs and may have higher installation costs.

In terms of their environmental impact, both solar tube lights and skylights can help reduce your reliance on traditional electricity and lower your carbon footprint.

Ultimately, the choice between solar tube lighting and skylights will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Powerful Are Solar Tube Lights?

This depends on various factors. However, as a general rule of thumb, on a sunny day, a 10” solar tube can produce natural light with a brightness of around 300W light bulbs.

How Much Does Solar Tube Lighting Cost Compared To Skylights?

This again depends on various factors, such as the size and type. However, in general, solar tube lighting has a lower initial installation cost compared to skylights.

In my experience, an entry-level solar tube installation would set you back around $750, whereas a comparable skylight would be double that.

Are Solar Power Tubes Safe?

Yes, solar tubes are safe when properly installed by a professional or competent DIYer. They have no moving parts or electrical wiring, making them safer than traditional lighting.

Can Light Tubes Heat My Home?

There are no real interior heat gains when using light tubes.

Do Solar Tubes Work In Winter?

Yes, solar tubes will still work in winter, although they will not be as efficient due to reduced sunlight.

However, they can still provide natural light and help reduce your reliance on traditional lighting and electricity during the winter months.

Are Solar Tubes Good For Plants?

Yes, solar tubes can provide natural light for indoor plants and help them thrive.

However, it’s worth noting that solar tubes do not provide the same level of intensity as traditional grow lights or direct sunlight. Also, if you’re looking to boost your plant’s growing power, don’t forget the coffee grounds!

Can Solar Tubes Be Closed?

Solar tubes, unlike conventional skylights, are not usually coverable. To help diffuse light, you can apply a film to the surface, but you can’t use shades as you would with a skylight.

Are Solar Tubes Noisy?

No, solar tubes are not noisy. They don’t have any moving parts and are completely silent.

The Final Word

Solar tube lighting is a great eco-friendly option for your home.

Using sunlight to light your home and reducing your reliance on traditional electricity has to be a good thing.

However, you also need to consider the manufacturing process. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What materials were used?
  • How were the people treated in the supply chain?
  • Does the manufacturer or retailer carry any eco-friendly certifications?

My advice would be to buy a product made in the U.S. and avoid imports from countries with lower quality and ethical standards.

Ultimately, whether or not solar tube lighting is eco-friendly depends on your individual usage and circumstances.

But for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint and embrace renewable energy, they can be a great choice.

Do your research, consult with professionals, ask me questions, and weigh the pros and cons before switching to solar tube lighting in your home.

Do it right, and it may just bring some much-needed sunshine into your eco-friendly lifestyle!

Get In Touch

Do you use solar tube lighting? Or do you have another ingenious way of getting more natural light into your home? Drop me a line and let me know.

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James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.

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