With the increasing need for electricity and upsurging bills, people nowadays are switching towards solar tube lighting technology. After all, isn’t solar tube lighting one of the best and low-cost solutions to light up your dark spaces? And if your living space is considerably dark, far from the reach of sunlight, solar tube lighting is undoubtedly the go-to option.
After all, nothing brightens up a room like natural lights!
Solar tube lighting systems save you a good amount of money in the long run without having to compromise the lighting requirements for your dark hallways or stairwells. Nevertheless, solar tube lighting does not come with 100% bullet-proof advantages. There are a few drawbacks to this technology that you need to carefully understand and analyze to determine if it is the best alternative to meet your lighting requirements.
Table of Contents
- Issues With Suitability
- Limited Customization Options
- Single Source of Energy
- Issues With the Installation Process
- Initial Cost is High
- Zero Ventilation
- Issues With Condensation (Thermosiphoning)
- No Options for Control
- Reliability Concerns
- Zero Sky View
- Conclusion: Is a solar tube light system worth the hype and investment?
Issues With Suitability
There are several things that you need to confirm before installing a solar tube lighting system. For starters, it is impossible to install a solar tube light on a flat or highly inclined roof. Your roof slope should be at an angle between 15 to 60 degrees, nothing more and nothing less.
Additionally, the material on your roof plays a significant role. If your roof material is anything other than wood shingles or asphalt, you might need to either renovate your roof entirely or give up the idea of free light!
Hold on. There is another non-economic way to install solar tube lights for metal or tile-covered roofs. You can fix the problem with an adaptor; however, this will be slightly costly and not very dependable.
Furthermore, this solar technology is not ideal for the basement or ground floors in a building. Longer tubes will be required to transmit the sunlight to the desired location, decreasing the intensity of light substantially.
You might also need to cut down that big old tree which will most likely block most of the direct light from falling on your roof. Henceforth, a solar tube lighting system can be ineffective in specific living spaces.
Limited Customization Options
Solar tube lighting has a straightforward design and style, and when it comes to customization, it is almost impossible. Unlike solar skylights, solar tube lights do not have an option for UV films, making this one of its most significant disadvantages.
If you want to give an aesthetic feel to your room, don’t rely on the solar tube lights as they are too tiny and basic to make any difference. From the inside, they will simply look like any other regular ceiling lights.
Single Source of Energy
Sun is the only energy source for a solar tube lighting system, and long dark winters or sun-less monsoon can prove to be a challenge. No sun means no light. Also, you might need to add extra artificial light for the nighttime.
On cloudy and gloomy days or in the absence of intense sunlight, it is very natural for your solar tubes to glow a little dimmer than usual. Henceforth, relying merely on a single source of energy can be problematic, particularly if you want an uninterrupted supply of light at all hours.
Issues With the Installation Process
When it comes to solar tubes, spaces play the most prominent and crucial role. Solar tube light needs ample space to absorb enough energy from the sun. If you have a small house with a considerably smaller roof, you might lack the adequate space required for the installation. As for bigger houses, they will capture plenty of lights and meet the standard light requirements for your living space.
Initial Cost is High
In the long run, the Return on Investment (ROI) of solar tube lights is excellent. Additionally, it is even more cost-effective in terms of running costs and maintenance needs. However, the initial investment to install a solar tube light system is considerably high.
In any case, transitioning from regular electricity that has already been set up to a solar tube light system can be harsh on your bank balance. The question is, are you ready to spend a little more today to save a little more tomorrow?
Solar tube lights do a great job at bringing in free natural light from the outside to the comforts of your room, but it definitely comes with a price. The price you will be paying here is ventilation. It is impossible to install a ventilation system along with solar tubes.
If you are from a hot and humid climate, you might want to install an AC or other forms of ventilation to vent out the warm air inside your room. Wouldn’t it be much better if solar tube lighting systems came along with ventilation to catch some free breeze? The designers and manufacturers might need to work some more on eliminating this challenge.
There are a few choices in the market when it comes to selecting a solar tube dome. And, if you want to amplify your light intensity and make the most out of the sunlight, better opt for the ones with additional aluminum reflectors.
However, it comes with a downside. These solar tubes with aluminum reflectors inside the domes create a lot of noise on a windy day. If you are a silence-lover, you are better off choosing a dome free from aluminum reflectors.
Issues With Condensation (Thermosiphoning)
The tubes in solar light systems are made up of aluminum which is a good conductor of heat. However, if you live in high-humidity climates, the tubes will allow the collection of water inside the dome through the process of condensation. And, this will considerably reduce the lifespan of your lighting system.
Additionally, there have been cases where the collected water seeps down through the pipelines and destroys your beautifully painted walls. To minimize such regretful situations, you might use R-15 batt insulation for the light pipe before the installation. However, this would spike up your initial installation cost.
No Options for Control
Solar skylights provide us with options of diffusers, ventilation, shade, and many more. However, when it comes to a solar tube lighting system, there are little to no options.
Solar tubes do not have a power feature, so they do not allow us to switch them on or off as per our needs. Neither do we have an option to use shades when the intensity of light is extremely high.
If you want to limit the amount of light entering your house on those extremely bright summers, you can invest in a diffuser or a window film.
Although solar tubes are cheaper and environmentally friendly than regular artificial lights, they might not be half as reliable as electrical ones. Additionally, they are not suitable for critical weather conditions and cannot be entirely dependable.
You might need to keep a few candles or a torchlight nearby for those days with inconsistent sunlight.
The outermost covering of the solar tube light is constantly exposed to the outside. Hence, there are high chances that the outermost dome can get damaged due to external environmental factors. Heavy rainfall, hailstorm, extreme temperatures, etc., can pose a threat to the system.
And, in case your solar tube lighting system fails to work due to such events, you will be required to replace the entire lighting system. If you frequently experience extreme temperatures in your location, you might need to evaluate the pros and cons in contrast with durability.
Zero Sky View
Who would not be thrilled with the idea of lying on their warm and cozy beds and stargazing as they fall asleep? If you are one of those people who love the night sky view, a solar tube lighting system is not for you.
Since the solar tubes are only designed to reflect the light from outside, it provides limited to zero options for sky viewing.
Conclusion: Is a solar tube light system worth the hype and investment?
It is essential to be mindful of our actions and contribute to the green movement. Could there be a better option than using solar technology to bring in natural lights in our homes?
The United States Department of Energy reported that about 5% of the total monthly energy is consumed by lighting our living spaces. And if you want to save both your money and the environment. Why not switch to a sustainable solution, right?
There are plenty of advantages associated with solar tube lights, and they are one of the most versatile lighting systems at present. No doubt! At the same time, considering all the drawbacks mentioned above, we need to analyze whether a solar tube lighting system is a correct fit for our home.
If you are someone like me without many windows in your room, solar tube lights could be a perfect fit for you!
Do you have enough installation space? Are you within the capacity to invest a bulk sum for a good ROI? And the most critical question is, do you desperately want to minimize your carbon footprints? If your answers are 100% yes, go ahead and install a solar tube light system for your home.
(Last Updated on August 10, 2021 by Sadrish Dabadi)