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The Best Solar Tubes

Light up all rooms of your home with these environmentally friendly natural light solar tubes

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Reviewed by
Robert Laswell
Review
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Good lighting can be hard to come by during the day in a room with hardly any windows. Turning on the light can lead to unnecessary energy consumption and rack up the electricity bill. Imagine a way you could have natural light during the day, in any room you want. Solar tubes have revolutionized sustainable light sources by bringing sunlight into your home.   

It’s so simple. A solar tube often referred to as a sun tunnel, is a metallic tube through your roof. Similar to a skylight, but they’re much smaller and more cost-effective. They don’t actually use any solar electricity but rather make way to let the sunlight shine through and light up your room. Not only will you be able to see better, but you’ll feel better getting your vitamin D when you’re indoors. Increase the overall energy efficiency of your home by investing in one of these next-generation light sources.

Editor’s Picks

Before we explore the top 10 products on our list, let’s quickly take a look at 3 best products in their respective categories:

Natural Light Energy Systems And Solar Tubes
Best Overall
Natural Light Energy Systems And Solar Tubes

Natural Light 13 inch solar tube is overall the best product on our list. It receives a high customer rating due to the extremely high value for money it creates through its specifications and features. It has the strength of illuminating 300 sq ft of area in your home which is equivalent to 500 watts and comes with a prismatic interior diffuser. It is ENERGY STAR qualified and has the highest energy efficiency in the market. Lastly, this product comes with a whopping 25-year warranty!

Natural Light 10 Inch Solar Tubes And Energy Systems
Best Budget
Natural Light 10 Inch Solar Tubes And Energy Systems

Natural Light has manufactured this 10-inch solar tube for the masses. It comes at a low price with all the qualities of a top-quality product. This is an NFRC qualified product, so you can expect high energy efficiency. It is a highly durable product due to the extensive hurricane testing that has been performed on this 4 feet long tubing. It illuminates 150 sq ft of area in your home with an equivalence of 300 watts.

Natural Light 13 Inch Tubular Skylight Kit And Solar Tubes
Best Kit
Natural Light 13 Inch Tubular Skylight Kit And Solar Tubes

Natural Light 13 inch skylight kit is the most effective and efficient solar kit in the market. It is ENERGY STAR qualified for its high energy efficiency. It is also hurricane tested to ensure high durability. This solar tube illuminates 300 sq ft of area and comes with a 25-year warranty.

How Do Solar Tubes Work

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in a home with skylights built into the ceiling, then you’ll already know just how transformational the integration of sunlight into your home can be for aesthetics, visibility, and even your own mental health. However, not all of us have the space or money to install skylights.

Solar tubes are a phenomenal, and much cheaper alternative to skylights. Solar tubes direct outdoor ambience and sunlight into your home, via tubing installed from your roof to the room(s) you wish to brighten. Most solar tubes (also known as ‘sun tunnels’, ‘sun lights’, ‘daylight pipes’, and ‘light tubes’) begin with a weatherproof, transparent acrylic dome, which is fixed to the roof of your house. These domes are specifically engineered to maximise their exposure to the sun, thus ensuring that they capture and transfer as much sunlight as possible to your home.

From the rooftop dome of the solar tube, natural light passes through (often flexible) tubing lined with ultra reflective material – essentially a continuous mirror. Sunlight passes through the dome of the solar tube and then bounces off this reflective lining to pass down the length of the tubing. (It’s worthwhile knowing that the length of solar tubes can be extended indefinitely, the only drawback being a slight decrease in brightness by the time it reaches the interior.) At the end of the tubing, natural light reaches the ceiling diffuser, a disc between 1 and 2 feet in diameter, which distribute the captured sunlight safely and efficiently, maximising brightness and thermal protection.

The very best quality solar tubes lose next to no sunlight during transportation, and can transform windowless rooms into havens of sunlight, or simply increase the natural light of regular rooms. What’s more, if you’re concerned about the look of several large domes on the roof of your house, there are solar tubes out there which capture sunlight through flat windows (like mini-skylights) set flush with the roof.

Most solar tubes come UV protected, meaning that either at the point of the sunlight’s contact with the roof, or at the point at which it passes through the ceiling diffuser and into your home, it will be filtered so as to ensure that the light reaching you is not harmful to your eyes or skin. In other words, you get to experience all the joy of natural sunlight on your face whilst indoors, without having to worry about applying sunscreen.

Relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and requiring next to no maintenance, solar tubes are a carbon-zero alternative to electric lighting, and can completely change the look and feel of a room; especially small, dark parts of a house such as laundry rooms or walk-in storage cupboards.

Whilst we call them ‘solar tubes’, they do not generate any electricity like ‘solar panels’ do. However, this does not mean that the way they work isn’t green or energy efficient. Just like solar energy, solar tubes save you money on electricity bills by making the power of the sun work to your advantage.

Solar Tubes Vs Skylights

The obvious comparison to make with solar tubes is skylights. Skylights are essentially windows built into the roof of your home, tilted to face the sun and stars. As such, they also bring the natural light of outdoors indoors. Additionally, they provide a view of the sky which solar tubes lack. There are many such comparisons and contrasts to be made between the two solar installations, and they are most definitely worth considering, especially if you’ve yet to make your mind up as to how you want to renovate your home. Let’s take a look.

Cost

One of the biggest appeals of solar tubes is their cost, especially when compared with skylights. On average, a professionally installed solar tube may cost you somewhere in the region of $750. Whereas skylights, depending on the nature and complexity of the installation, can cost anywhere from $1500 to in excess of $3000. This is mostly to do with the differences in the two installation processes. Skylights most often require the installation of new header beams, dry wall, and extensive reconstruction of the house. Solar tubes, on the other hand, can be fitted at a fraction of the cost, whilst requiring next to no structural changes to the home. They are particularly practical and cost effective in homes with lots of attic space (since the tubes can pass right through the attic space, whereas a skylight would have to be built into it).

Space

Related to the cost benefits of solar tubes are the space saving benefits. Solar tubes, even if up to 2 feet in diameter, still have a relatively small footprint. Most come with flexible tubing allowing the installer to build them into the house, rather than rebuilding the house around them. Their domes take up little space on the roof, whilst their tubes can pass right through attic and loft spaces, extended indefinitely to any room in the house (no matter where on the roof the sunlight contact point is established). On the other hand, skylight installation requires massive structural changes be made to the roof itself, with supporting header beams and drywall taking up huge amounts of attic space.

Ease of Installation

We’ve already touched on this in the above sections, but it should be pointed out that solar tubes are really easy to install. If you’re particularly handy with DIY, or fancy giving yourself a challenge, you can even buy DIY solar tube kits for about $300, bringing the (already affordable) cost right down. But even if you’re not into the idea of installing a solar tube yourself, because they are so easy to install compared to skylights, you’ll not have to shell out lots of cash and long hours to labourers to have one in your home.

Maintenance

Having a view of the sky fed directly into your home via a skylight is great… until a bird (or several) leaves its mark on the glass, or until snow blocks out the light, or dust or leaves settle on it. Skylights require fairly regular maintenance, meaning you’ll have to get up on your roof quite often in order to keep the window clear and clean. On the other hand, solar tubes do not face the same problem. Their domed construction keeps the worst of the weather and debris from settling on them, ensuring you experience minimal disruption to the levels of natural light entering your home. What’s more, many solar tubes come with a condensation release – especially handy in areas of consistently high humidity – once more negating the need for constant maintenance.

Aesthetic

Of course, solar tubes can’t trump skylights in every department. When it comes to the aesthetic of solar tubes versus skylights, there’s no denying that a skylight is infinitely more pleasing to look at. There’s almost nothing better when indoors than being able to lie back and look up at the stars on a clear night, or doze wistfully on your sofa or bed as big, puffy white clouds float languorously by, high above. Unfortunately, a view just isn’t something which comes with a solar tube.

Heat

Similarly, skylights have the upper hand when it comes to their heat-catching capabilities. Skylights operate as part of what’s called ‘passive solar architecture’ – architecture which, by its very nature, helps to warm the home and store heat to be released overnight. Thanks to their large glass construction, skylights work as a kind of greenhouse, sending massive amounts of sunlight into the house and warming it as they do. Unfortunately, solar tubes are simply too small in construction to do the same. Whilst they may bring a little heat with the light, they cannot be said to trap heat nor warm the house in the same manner in which skylights do.

Pros And Cons Of Solar Tubes

If you’re the kind of person who likes to really weigh up all of the arguments for and against something before buying it, then we understand. Even $300 (for a DIY solar tube kit) is not a sum to be frivolously spent, and knowing exactly what you’re buying into is important for the conscientious consumer. Here are the various pros and cons of solar tubes.

Pros:

  • Vitamin D – According to the various national institutes of health, as well as the World Health Organisation, most Americans and Brits don’t receive nearly half of the Vitamin D that they require, in order to keep their skin and bodies healthy and happy. Solar tubes bring the sunlight of the outdoors directly inside, meaning that even as you walk about your house, you can be reaping the health benefits of the sun.
  • Cost and Installation – Solar tubes are relatively inexpensive (especially the DIY packs, and when you compare their costs to skylights), and what’s more, they are not at all difficult to install. Even if you hire a professional to install your solar light for you, you can expect not to pay much more than about $750 in all, compared to some $3000 you might spend installing a skylight.
  • Energy Efficiency – Whilst they require some initial investment, replacing some of your electric house lights with solar tubes is a surefire way to save money in the long run. Requiring nothing more than sunlight to brighten your home, solar tubes cost nothing when it comes to your electricity bills. As with all green and solar energy solutions, your new solar tube will pay for itself, and then some. Equally important is the positive environmental impact that you’ll be making if you substitute your electric lighting for solar tubes.
  • Space Saving – Whether you’ve got a house with a roomy attic or only have a little space to play with, solar tubes can easily adapt. Their flexible tubing can worm its way through the tightest, winding spaces, and can deliver the same levels of bright sunlight to your interior whether the distance between their filters and domes is small or large.
  • Natural Light Indoors – In dark or windowless rooms, it’s tempting to try and make them more hospitable with electric lights. However, electric lighting simply cannot hold a candle to the positive mental effects of genuine, natural sunlight. As such, there’s really no better alternative to solar tubes when it comes to renovating that dingy laundry room, or attic bedroom.

Cons:

  • No view – One of the biggest drawbacks to solar tubes, for all their advantages, is undeniably their distinct lack of a view. Given that solar tubes are posed as a cheaper alternative to skylights, it’s hard to avoid the fact that they don’t offer a view at all, let alone a view as majestic as those offered by skylights.
  • Minimal passive heating – Again, when compared to skylights (as we’ve discussed in greater detail above), solar tubes fall short in the passive heat category, too. Though they transport sunlight from the outside to the inside, the heat of that sunlight is lost along the way. As such, your home will not benefit from the same reduction to heating bills as it might with a greenhouse-esque skylight.
  • Aesthetics – Though pleasing on the eye from the inside, some may not be quite so taken with their look on the outside. The bulbous domes of solar tubes (where they’re attached to the roof) can look a little odd, and whilst there are flush, window-like alternatives, these don’t necessarily work quite as well at capturing sunlight as the specifically-engineered domes do.

Best Solar Tubes Reviewed

The Best Solar Tubes In 2021

Following are the top 10 solar tubes currently available in the market. Take a look and find the right one for your home. 

Natural Light Energy Systems And Solar Tubes

  • Brand: Natural Light
  • Color: Black
  • Finish Type: Powder-coated Aluminum
  • Material: Aluminum
Natural Light Energy Systems And Solar Tubes

You are going to witness a lot of Natural Light’s 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.

Pros:

  • 300 sq ft of range
  • Domed prismatic interior diffuser
  • ENERGY STAR qualified
  • 25 years warranty

Cons:

  • Less durable

VELUX 10 Inch Double Strength Acrylic Rigid Skylight

  • Brand: VELUX
  • Color: Gray|grays
  • Energy Star labeled for high efficiency.
  • 99.99% silver reflective layer
VELUX 10 Inch Double Strength Acrylic Rigid Skylight

VELUX is another popular brand involved in producing high-quality solar tubes. This powerful, double-strength solar tube is made from acrylic and top-of-the-range optics. This completely durable Velux sun-powered skylight is an alternative for electric light that will be with you for an extended amount of time. With 10 inches of highly reflective tubing, your room will be as bright as ever. With a 99.9% silver reflective layer, this light tube is perfect for your living room. It is easy to install and comes with a 20-year tunnel warranty. Save energy and the planet by using this tube light that doesn’t need a battery.

Pros:

  • Stylish
  • Easy to install and use
  • ENERGY STAR qualified
  • 20-year tunnel warranty

Cons:

  • High Price

Natural Light 10 Inch Tubular Skylights And Solar Tubes

  • Brand: Natural Light
  • Highest Quality Materials
  • Hurricane tested and approved
Natural Light 10 Inch Tubular Skylights And Solar Tubes

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.

Pros:

  • NFRC certification for energy efficiency
  • Florida code requirements approval
  • Highly Durable
  • Domed prismatic interior diffuser

Cons:

  • No warranty

Natural Light 10 Inch Solar Tubes And Energy Systems

  • Brand: Natural Light
  • Color: Black
  • Built-in UV protection prevents fading on clothing, furniture and rugs.
  • ENERGY STAR Qualified and NFRC Certified for Energy Efficiency
Natural Light 10 Inch Solar Tubes And Energy Systems

Natural Light Energy Systems have designed and manufactured a lot of high-quality solar tubes and this product is no exception. This is a 10-inch tubular skylight that has built-in UV protection to safeguard your furniture and rugs from dangerous sun rays. This solar tunnel is both ENERGY STAR and NFRC certified. Thus, you can expect the highest energy efficiency from this product. Lastly, this product comes with a 25-year warranty.

Pros:

  • ENERGY STAR certified
  • NFRC certified
  • 25-year warranty
  • Affordable Price

Cons:

  • Less effective

Velux America 14 Inch Solar Tubes And Tubular Skylights

  • Brand: Velux America
  • Color: Gray | Grays
  • Flex Tubing and Low Profile flashing.
Velux America 14 Inch Solar Tubes And Tubular Skylights

Velux America 14 inch solar tubes are perfect products to illuminate your entire home in an eco-friendly manner. These solar tubes are installed in fiberglass-asphalt shingle roof types. Also, these tunnels require an easy DIY installation which requires less than 2 hours.

Pros:

  • Highly efficient
  • Easy to install and use

Cons:

  • No warranty

Natural Light 13 Inch Tubular Skylight Kit

  • Brand: Natural Light
  • Color: Aluminum
  • Hurricane Tested/Approved
  • Energy Start Qualified
Natural Light 13 Inch Tubular Skylight Kit

Welcome natural light into your home with this solar tube light that illuminates up to 300 square feet. Equating to 500 watts of light, you’ll never have guessed your desired room could be so bright. It is ENERGY STAR qualified as well as hurricane tested. Thus, you can expect high-quality build-quality with efficient lighting. The durable tube comes with a 25-year warranty and will last you a lifetime since it doesn’t delaminate, yellow, crack, or peel. This 13-inch model is a flat roof flashing for asphalt-type roofer installs.

Pros:

  • ENERGY STAR qualified
  • Hurricane tested
  • 25-year warranty
  • DIY solar tube installation

Cons:

  • Highly expensive

VELUX TMR 14 Inch Sun Tunnel Tubular Skylight

  • Brand: VELUX
  • Color: Gray|Grays
  • 99. 99% silver reflective layer
  • TCR Impact models available
VELUX TMR 14 Inch Sun Tunnel Tubular Skylight

VELUX TMR solar tubes have a 14-inch diameter. This low-profile solar tube light comes with a flashing that integrates it into your roofline, making your home look stylish and bright. The 99.9% reflective layer provides you with more light than you could ever ask for. No need to hire anyone for the setup as it has been designed for easy installation in under 2 hours. For such little time, you’ll be able to see clearly in your desired room every day. Put this solar tube light through any harsh conditions, and it’ll survive as it’s hurricane tested. If it’s not long enough for you, don’t worry, as you can always purchase extra tubing.  This product comes with a 20-year warranty, therefore you don’t have to buy another solar light any time soon.

Pros:

  • Hurricane tested
  • Highly effective
  • 20-year warranty

Cons:

  • High price

Natural Light 13 inch Tubular Skylight

  • Brand: Natural Light
  • Domed Prismatic Interior Diffuser
  • Energy Star Qualified
Natural Light 13 inch Tubular Skylight

This great solar tube light illuminates as much as 300 square feet of area, making it perfect for larger spaces such as warehouses. You’ll feel like you’re experiencing up to 500 watts of electrical light. This product contains 4 feet of solar tubes which are designed to be installed in fiberglass/asphalt shingle-type roofs. No need to ever worry about the energy efficiency as this light is ENERGY STAR qualified. This means you won’t experience any lag in its performance in the long run. Everything you need to have high-quality natural light in your room is included along with a 25-year warranty, meaning no extra expenses.

Pros:

  • ENERGY STAR qualified
  • DIY solar tube installation
  • Highly durable
  • 25 -year warranty

Cons:

  • Highly expensive

VELUX TMR 10 Inch Solar Tubes Sun Tunnel

  • Brand: VELUX
  • Color: Gray|Grays
  • Highly reflective tunnels
VELUX TMR 10 Inch Solar Tubes Sun Tunnel

VELUX’s highly reflective solar tubes will bring the ideal amount of natural light into your home. These solar tubes are perfect for those who have low profile roofing materials such as shingles and shakes, meaning they won’t be seen by any passers-by. You’re provided with the entire kit needed for it to work effectively, such as a metal flashing and ceiling ring. These solar tubes are highly reflective tunnels to provide an optimum level of lighting in your home.

Pros:

  • DIY installation
  • Highly effective

Cons:

  • No warranty

Natural Light 13 Inch Solar Tubes and Tubular Skylight Kit

  • Brand: Natural Light
  • Highest Quality Materials
  • Hurricane tested and approved
Natural Light 13 Inch Solar Tubes and Tubular Skylight Kit

Natural Light’s 13 inches solar tubes are excellent for you if you have a larger home or want one of these lights for a commercial building. It can withstand harsh conditions as it has been hurricane tested and has the approval of Florida code requirements. This also proves it is durable, which is one of the best benefits a product can have. Provided with a 300 sq ft illumination capacity, you’ll be having bright natural light in your home in no time. The amount of space this small tube can light up is impressive, and you’ll be shocked why you never had one before.

Pros:

  • NFRC certified
  • Hurricane tested
  • Highly durable

Cons:

  • No warranty

Buyer’s Guide

Solar tubes come in all shapes and sizes. These tubes are designed to serve different customers and are installed on different roof types. They have a lot of illumination capabilities to light up area space accordingly. Following are the features that can help you decide about the right product for your home.

Rigid or Flexible

There are two types of solar tubes; rigid and flexible. You’ll want to choose the correct one for your home depending on the distance you want the light to travel. A rigid light will usually give off more light than a flexible one because it offers a straight path down to the room. However, these typically are much more expensive so take that into account too. A flexible light (flexible tube) is better for short distances and is better suited for flat roofs.   

Roof Type

As you can see from the recommended products, many of them aren’t suitable for all roof types. The majority of solar tubes out there are designed just for roofs made out of asphalt. However, suppose your roof is made out of tile or metal. In that case, you may be able to make them compatible using a flashing adapter. A large amount of these tubes luckily come with one as part of their kit. You’ll also need a flashing adapter if your roof has a slope between 15 to 60 degrees.   

Budget

You’ll most likely have to have some money spare if you are looking for a high-quality sun tunnel. They can cost up to $1000, and sometimes you may have to pay extra to get someone to install it for you. However, if you were looking to buy a skylight, the cost for those is closer to $2000. Therefore, a solar tube may be the cheaper option to get energy-efficient light in your house.   

Size of Your Room

Different sized solar tubes are capable of providing different amounts of light. You’ll need to consider what room you want the light in (I.e., bathroom, kitchen, etc.) and measure how large it is per square meter. This will help you choose what size tube you’ll need. For example, a 10-inch light can typically light up around 150 square meters. For industrial spaces, you’ll need a tube between 18-21 inches.   

Weather Conditions

Solar tubes are usually UV-protected, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any sun damage to the inside of your house. However, if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions such as snow or strong winds, you’ll need a more robust product. Luckily, many solar tubes have been hurricane tested so they can withstand these conditions. Just ensure the dome of the tube is made out of polycarbonate.   

Final Verdict

The best solar tube is undoubtedly the 13-inch Natural Light energy systems and solar tubes. This is because it provides you with everything you need to get great natural light. As well as this, it’s incredibly durable, and therefore you’ll never need to spend money on another. It’s also exceptionally well-priced for such a high-quality product. It provides a decent illumination capacity of 300 sq ft with a 500 watts equivalence. It is ENERGY STAR qualified and comes with a 25-year warranty. This product is an ALL-IN-ONE package to serve a diverse range of customers.

Pinterest Board

Check out our updated Pinterest board with the best solar tubes:

FAQs

What’s the average cost of a solar tube?

A solar tube can range anywhere from around $200 up to $1000, with the average price being $750. The price tends to vary on the length of the tube and how much light it can handle. You’ll also find that a flexible tube is much cheaper than a rigid one. 

Do I need to install it myself?

Absolutely not! There are many engineers out there who could easily install it for you. They may cost more, but you’ll be paying knowing your new solar tube is in good hands. If you have any carpentry experience or a similar field, you should be completely fine doing it yourself. Most are very easy to install and have good instructions.

Do they only work in the day?

Yes, the solar tubes are only suitable in the day for natural night and won’t be useful at night. They aren’t an alternative to electricity and instead provide you with daylight for rooms with limited windows. For example, you may have a bathroom without a window that you don’t want to use a lightbulb for in the day. A solar tube will be the perfect solution for this.

What is the average useful life of a solar tube?

Solar tubes are extremely durable products and designed to last a lifetime. Most products come with a 20-25 years warranty. Therefore, if you buy one, you don’t have to purchase another solar tube anytime soon.

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Author Bio

Robert Laswell

Robert is a renewable energy and sustainability specialist with 10+ years of experience in the solar and renewable energy space.

With experience in different organizations in the industry, he operates semprius as a passion project promoting sustainable renewable energy ideas and products.

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