By installing a Solatube product, you’ll get the natural light that skylights provide — but with less cost and less hassle.
If you’ve been thinking of adding more daylight to a kitchen or dark hallway, a tubular skylight may be the way to go. At a fraction of the cost of a skylight, a Solatube product provides plenty of warm, indirect light.
How It Works
Solatube products come in various sizes: One of the most important parts is a 10- or 14-inch-diameter sheet-metal tube with a polished interior made of the highest reflective material in the market (99.8% reflectivity). The interior acts like a continuous mirror, channeling light along its entire length while preserving the light’s intensity. It captures daylight at the roof and delivers it inside the home.
On the roof, the Solatube daylighting system is capped by a weather-proof impact resistant acrylic globe. The tube ends in a porthole-like diffuser in the ceiling of a room below. The globe gathers light from outside; the diffuser spreads the light in a pure white glow without bringing any heat or damaging UV rays. The effect is dramatic: New installations often have homeowners reaching for the light switch as they leave a room.
A Solatube costs about $600 when professionally installed, compared with more than $2,000 for a traditional skylight. If you’re reasonably handy and comfortable working on a roof, you can install a Solatube unit yourself using a DIY kit that costs about $300 to $400. Unlike a skylight, a tubular skylight doesn’t require new drywall, paint, and alterations to framing members and installs in under two hours.
How Much Light?
A 10-inch tube, the smallest option, is the equivalent of three 100-watt bulbs, enough to illuminate up to 200 square feet of floor area; 14-inch tubes can brighten as much as 300 square feet.
Popular locations for a Solatube unit include any areas where constant, indirect light is handy:
- Walk-in closets
- Laundry Rooms
- Living Rooms
Is Your House Right for a Solatube?
Because installation requires no framing alteration, there are few limitations to where you can locate a tubular skylight. Check the attic space above to see if there is room for a straight run. If you find an obstruction, elbow tubing may get around it. It’s relatively easy to install a light tube in a vaulted ceiling because only a foot or so of tubing is required.
Make these evaluations in advance:
Roof slope: Solatube DIY kits include flashing that can be installed on roofs with slopes between 15 degrees (a 3-in-12 pitch) and 60 degrees (a 20-in-12 pitch).
Roofing material: Kits are designed with asphalt shingles in mind, but also work with wood shingles or shakes. Flashing adapters for metal or tile roofs are available.
Roof framing spacing: Standard rafters are spaced 16 inches on-center; gap enough for 10- or 14-inch tubes. If your home has rafters positioned 24 inches on-center, you can special order a 21-inch Solatube for light coverage up to 600 square feet.
Location: A dome mounted on a southwest roof gives the best results but your Premier Dealer can give you a free in-home estimate to determine the best position and orientation. They will choose a spot requiring a run of tubing that’s 14 feet or less. A dome positioned directly above your target room can convey as much as 98 percent of exterior light. Solatube offers 30-, 45- or 90-degree elbows that will get you anywhere and around any obstacle in your attic with minimal light reduction.