Skylights Vs Solar Tubes: What’s The Difference And Which One Is Right For You
Learn more about these two ways to add light to your house.
Want to add natural light to a drab room? Skylights and solar tubes are two options to consider. Your roof orientation, design taste, budget and energy-efficiency goals all come into play when weighing these choices.
Our guide explores the main differences between skylights and solar tubes — how each one works and which one might be the better fit for your home.
Types Of Solar Hot Water Systems
There are three main types of solar hot water systems flat-plate collectors, evacuated tube collectors and heat pump systems.
- Flat-plate collectors: This system uses a large solar panellike collector to catch the suns rays and transfer the heat to an insulated hot water tank. Flat-plate collectors tend to be the more affordable solar hot water option, however, they are not terribly effective in cooler climates. There are two variants of these systems roof mounted where the tank is connected to the collector on the roof, and split where the panel is installed on the roof while the tank is on the ground.
- Evacuated tube collectors: These work similarly to flat-plate collector hot water systems. The difference is that this model collects sunlight using a series of glass tubes that have a vacuum seal. This allows for the efficient transferral of solar energy. As such, evacuated tube collector hot water systems are widely considered to be the most effective, however they are also the most expensive.
- Heat Pump systems: Unlike the other solar hot water systems which collect sunlight, heat pump solar systems draw solar heat from the air and use this to heat water. Heat pump solar systems do use some electricity to pump in hot air, but this is a fairly negligible amount.
Amount Of Light Generated
The smallest tube available is 10 inches which is enough to generate light equivalent to 3 bulbs . This can illuminate a room with a floor area of 200 square feet. The 14-inch tubes such as Velux TMR 014 0000 or ODL EZ14SCANH can illuminate a 300 square feet room.
The most popular locations for lighting using the solar tubes include stairways, hallways, laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and walk-in closets. However, you dont need a solar tube in the area where you have placed your PC or TV since it will just create unnecessary glare.
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Heating A Spa Or Pool
Expect to pay between $3,000 and $4,000 when installing solar heaters for a pool or span. The components involved in installation include a solar collector, a filter, a flow control valve, and a pump. The unit pumps water up from the pool or spa, through the filter and into the collectors to heat. The price of installing other pool heating systems isnt much different, yet the solar version won’t have an operating cost. The only downside is that a significant number of collectors will be necessary–taking up a roof area that is 50% to 100% the surface area of the pool.
Advanced Daylighting System And What They Look Like
If the ability to see the sky is not an issue than an advanced tubular daylighting system is the very best solution for providing workable natural light.
Meaning you can Work, read, cook, play or complete any other tasks under the skylight with a beautiful spread of consistent light throughout the entire day, even melting butter on top of the kitchen table.
While you should always avoid cheap, low quality options, the top of the range daylighting will not require any structural changes at a modest price of $900- $1600 installed. Providing maximum light, whilst removing heat with patent INFRAREDuction technology.
As seen below these products pack a much larger punch of light, spreading it throughout the room. By selecting the right diffuser, it will evenly spread light from the ceiling reducing glare.
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Solar Pool Heater Repair
Even the best solar pool heater might require pool solar panel repair. Common problems with a solar pool heater include panel leaks, plumbing repairs, panel replacements, valves, controllers, and sensor repairs that control automation. The repair cost varies based on the brand, the required part, size, and problem. Also, the extent of wear and damage impacts the cost because the part might be repairable or need to undergo complete replacement.
Solar Tube Rebates Credits And Tax Reliefs
According to federal law, you can get up to 26% in tax credit if you install solar tubes. Respective states also have their rebates and other tax cuts for anyone willing to go solar.
The government wants more homeowners to embrace green power. So, they chip in to make the prices of purchasing and installing solar appliances and systems lower.
The 22% to 26% tax credit typically applies to the materials purchased and installation costs. Your tubes features must be solar-powered to qualify for the credits.
For instance, you could have blinds powered by solar. Upon verification of the costs you incur, you can claim the credits.
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What Are Solar Tubes
Solar tubes, also known as sun tunnels, light tubes, and daylight pipes, channel outside daylight into your home.
While they dont allow for a nice view of the outside world, they do provide a natural, cost effective way to naturally illuminate dark interior spaces without using electricity.
On the left: a dark bathroom space before a solar tube installation. On the right, the same space with natural sunlight pouring in through a solar tube fixture. Image source: Bob Vila
Because they are relatively small, solar tubes can be easily placed between roof rafters. As a homeowner, that alleviates worry about the structural integrity of your roof. Compared to skylights, solar tubes minimize heat gains and heat losses.
They are a good choice for integrating daylight into small, dark spaces in your home such as hallways, laundry areas, closets, and bathrooms.
Solar Vs Electric Pool Heater
An electric pool heater is only practical for a small pool or for use in an area where the temperature is consistently over 55 degrees. An electric pool heater needs its own electrical circuit to provide enough energy. In an electric pool heating system, water is pumped through the system, heated by an element, and returned to the pool. In a solar heating unit, the water is pumped through solar panels that use the suns rays to heat the water. Electric units are relatively inexpensive compared to a solar heating system, but the cost to run them adds up quickly. Expect the cost for an electric pool heater to be between $1,250 and $5,500, including installation. Solar pool heating systems range in price from $2,000 to $9,000.
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Nationwide Average Price For Solar
|Solar system size|
Information sourced from SolarChoice, September 2019.*Estimated price for product and installation after Government STC rebate. NT and ACT prices excluded from table.
These prices reflect estimated costs within capital cities. The actual cost of your solar panels can vary greatly depending on where you are, what system youre after and your installer. For a specific quote get in touch with your preferred installation specialist.
As you can see, prices vary considerably depending on where you live. Western Australia is the cheapest place to install solar , while installing solar in Northern Territory is 2 to 3 times more expensive. To illustrate, the average price of installing a 1.5kW system in WA in September 2019 was $2,460, while in NT it was $4,860, according to Solar Choice.
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What Else Might Affect The Cost Of Solar
System size and location are undoubtedly the largest contributors to the price of your solar system, but there may be some other contributors to price, particularly pertaining to installation costs.
- A flat roof: Solar panels must be optimally angled toward the sun. If you have a flat roof, then you need mount installed to correctly tilt the panels. These mounts will cost you an additional $20 to $80 per panel.
- Roof condition: Nearly all types of rooves can have solar panels attached, however the harder your roof is to work on, the more installers will charge. Old rooves which require more delicate work will be the most expensive. The installer will let you know about this when you receive your quote.
- Installer demand: Installation costs are largely dependent on supply and demand. In areas, or at times, where installers have a lot of work to get through, they will tend to charge a higher price. Generally speaking, solar technicians are in lower demand in the early parts of autumn and spring.
- Solar panel quality: Not all solar panels are the same. Some have a superior crystalline structure which makes them more efficient at transforming sunlight in to useable electricity. Efficient panels are more expensive in the short term, but may save you more in the long term.
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Solar Water Heater Installation Costs
Solar water heater installation averages $70 per hour by a trained professional. The installation of these systems can be much more involved than that of other water heaters. A conventional style typically won’t take more than one day to install where solar units may take several days. So, a significant amount of your overall bill will be labor charges.
Other factors that will play into your price include whether the equipment is being used for a pool or spa, where it will go in and around the home, how much sun you can expect and the available tax credits.
How Do You Maintain A Skylight
A skylight requires careful, deep cleaning once or twice per year. This cleaning involves removing any accumulated debris or films on the glass or plastic cleaning is especially important with plastic skylights, as haze can form on the plastic and be difficult to remove should it be allowed to accumulate.
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How Much Light Do Skylights Produce
Traditional skylights cannot produce as much light as tubular skylights because they use a skylight well. Solar tubes dont use a skylight well and wont lose as much light through absorption like skylights do.Furthermore, traditional skylights dont use light diffusion or diffuse reflection like solar tubes do. Light diffusion helps spread the light out over the entire room vs only shining down on areas where the sun directly shines through.
How Well Do Solar Pool Heaters Work
Energy Convervation GAWhat is a solar pool heater?How solar pool heaters work:
- Pool pump sends water through the pipes to a diverter valve
- Diverter valve sends water up the pipe leading to the solar panels
- Solar panels are usually positioned on top of a roof, on fence,or a ground-level platform facing the south
The Positive Health Effects Of Solar Tubes And Skylights
According to the National Institutes of Health, 42% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D.
Every extra photon of natural sunlight in your home is an additional resource your skin can use to create more Vitamin D, which helps boost your immune system, mood, and musculoskeletal health.
Additionally, seasonal affective disorder is nothing to take lightly. Especially during dreary winter months, being in an environment with more sunlight can ease symptoms of depression, increase your energy, and help you feel better about yourself.
Both solar tubes and skylights help increase the amount of natural sunlight in your home and provide numerous health benefits.
How Much Do Solar Tubes Cost Compared To Traditional Skylights
Solar tubes can be installed for much less than skylights. On average, professionally installed solar tubes cost about $750 apiece. Skylights average $1500 to $2500, depending on size and installation complexity.
If you have skills, confidence, and time, you can purchase a DIY solar tube kit for about $300 and install them yourself. Be sure to check if you have a current roofing warranty from your roofing installer. If you attempt a solar tube install yourself, you may void it.
Youll need a roof pitch angle between 3 x 12 inches and 20 x 12 inches , as almost all the models arent engineered for flat roofs or extreme slopes.
Most solar tube kits are designed for asphalt shingle roofing material, though adapters are readily available which make installation on wood, metal, or tile roof types straightforward.
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Not Suitable For Every Home
Solar tube installation might not be ideal due to the kind of roof you have in your house. Most solar tubes are designed and suitable for conventional roofs with a slope between 15-60 degrees. So if your roof is pitched steeply or flat, installation of the solar tube might pose a challenge.
Also, the material of your buildings roof might need an adapter during installation, posing a challenge too. Since solar tube lighting systems can only be installed on the roof, the system wont work well in areas on the ground floor in a two-story building, requiring longer tubes to channel the sunlight.
The longer the tubes, the less light is provided. Overall, it makes the solar tube lighting system ineffectual in certain places in your house. See tube length details here.
Advantages Of Solar Tubes
Due to the direct lighting from skylights, harmful UV rays can shine through and into your home, which leads to furniture damage and fading and can even cause sunburns and other skin issues. Indirect light from solar tubes has UV rays filtered out by the acrylic top on your roof and will be much safer for the furniture and people in your home.
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Advantages Of Solar Water Heater/geyser
The biggest benefit is the monthly savings. Energy Star has conducted studies to determine that energy bills will drop at least 50% each month with these systems. The savings can even be as much as 80%. While the money saved each month will ultimately depend on a wide variety of factors, it is guaranteed that the home’s energy consumption will be drastically reduced.
In addition to the monthly savings, there is the 30% federal tax credit for solar-powered home installations. This large rebate can go a long way to making this an affordable expense. While everyone is still going to have to pay the full price of the job upfront, it is possible to get 30% of the expenditures back when the yearly tax returns are completed.
The collectors for these systems will also take up less roof space than a PV system. On top of tangible benefits like these, homeowners will also reduce their carbon footprint with a solar heater.
Traditional Square Skylights Installation And What They Look Like
At Solatube we really do believe these products are a thing of the past. They often provide poor light performance by utilising flex duct or Gyprock to line the light well up to the skylight, only allowing access to see the sky directly under the skylight and often do not spread light throughout the room leaving a bright hot spot on the ground when the sun is directly overhead still requiring artificial lights in the other dark areas. The only real benefit is by choosing an openable window that allows you to add fresh air when opened. While many customers are hoping to achieve a result similar to option 3, they are often restricted by a trust frame roof or other construction obstacles and end up with installations as below
This is why at Solatube we suggest reviewing your budgets and selecting either of the second two options
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Best Solar Tubes Reviewed
Following are the top 10 solar tubes currently available in the market. Take a look and find the right one for your home.
- Finish Type: Powder-coated Aluminum
- Material: Aluminum
You are going to witness a lot of Natural Lights solar tubes on our list. Natural Light is the leader in producing high-quality skylights, solar tubes, and other similar solar products. This particular top-spot product is a 13-inch skylight kit that illuminates an area of up to 300 sq ft. It lights up your home like a 500 watts light bulb and it comes with a domed prismatic interior diffuser. It fits perfectly with pitched fiberglass-asphalt shingle roof types and comes with 4 feet of sun tubes. It is one of the most popular products on the market and it comes with a 25-year warranty.
- 300 sq ft of range
- Domed prismatic interior diffuser
- Energy Star labeled for high efficiency.
- 99.99% silver reflective layer
- Easy to install and use
- ENERGY STAR qualified
- Highest Quality Materials
- Hurricane tested and approved
Natural Light Solar 10 inch solar tubes are designed for flat roofs and are not applicable to metal roofs. These solar tubes are high-quality products with an NFRC certification as proof of energy efficiency. These are 4 feet sun tunnels with a domed prismatic diffuser. Each tube is equivalent to 300 watts and lights up a 150 sq ft of area in your home. This is a highly durable product and has a Florida code requirements approval.
- Easy to install and use