Solatube, Don’t Skylight

If your bothered about the lack of natural light in certain rooms of your house and you’re thinking about installing skylights, think again.  Installing a skylight is one of the worst things you can do to your home.  Install a Solatube instead.

Reason one: The roof is the most important part of your home structure.  You never want to penetrate your roof unless you absolutely have to.  Good home design takes into account our need for natural light.  Proper orientation of a new home and smart placement of windows will provide all the natural lighting we need.  The truth, however, is that most existing homes out there, even most new homes under construction, are not well designed.  The only option to get natural lighting is to penetrate your roof with a skylight or a Solatube.  Skylights are square or rectangular and it is this shape that leads to lots of roof damage.  Water from rain will inevitably gather on the top sill of the skylight.  No matter how well it is flashed or covered in tar, water that is not immediately shed will eventually penetrate your flashing and rot the roof sheathing.  Solatubes on the other hand are round.  Water doesn’t collect around the flashing; it immediately drains away.  Problem solved.

Reason Two:  Skylights don’t diffuse light.  They do effectively eliminate that caged feeling by giving us some openness -the feeling of the sky just above our heads – but the light stays right there in that square box.  Solatubes on the other hand use refraction and lens to diffuse light.  Problem two solved.

Finally, Skylights are massive energy drains.  Hot air rises in the winter and finds the fastest way out, whether through a surface (your skylight window pane) or through penetrations.  The more surface, the more energy loss.  With a Solatube, the surface area is much smaller (10″ 0r 14″ diameter).  Certainly you’ll lose some energy there, but not as much.  And in the summer, when the air is hot, there is nothing you can do about the magnifying effect of your skylight.  (Ever feel like an ant under the microscope of a destructive 7 year old?)  With certain models of  Solatube you can close the system to adjust incoming light.

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2 Responses to Solatube, Don’t Skylight

  1. Rob Packard says:

    It sounds like you only install Solatube tubelites, which by the way is a horrible way to inform your customers about products. It turns them off. You are better served being more honest becasue you well know that skylights in homes are terrific. I was just in a beautiful log cabin in the mountains today where they have eight skylights in their kitchen/dining area that has vaulted wood ceilings. Any brand of tubelites woulod have not looked well at all. You can see the sky and the trees and you feel like your are partially outside. The rooms felt larger than they were and it had a real sense of spaciousness. This is an example how skylights work better than tubelites.

    • Rob, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right; skylights have the ability to make a building occupant feel like they’re partially outside, especially when eight of them have been installed. However, my concern is the relative “greenness” or “sustainability” of a product and the structural implementation of that product. In addition to how things look, I consider energy efficiency, durability, and purpose. Multiple skylights will make you feel like your partially outside, a Solatube won’t. Multiple skylights will be a significant drain on your homes energy efficiency, Solatubes not so much so. Multiple skylights may cause multiple roof rot problems. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t live in their homes long enough (avg. 7 years) to experience the problems caused by skylight installations (granted not all fail), but the people who buy it from them do, most frequently when it is time to re-roof. Anything that compromises durability, compromises sustainability. In my post I mentioned that it’s best not to ever penetrate the roof. As well, Solatubes do not bring the outside in, like a skylight, but they do more effectively achieve a purpose of diffusing more natural light into a room. A single skylight, because it is boxed within the framing system, can do little more than paint a stripe of light.

      I do sell Solatubes. This is a blog for my business. I have not hidden that, nor am I being dishonest. I sell Solatube for a specific, well founded reason: I got into this business to help people make sustainable choices for their home, choosing products based on strict criteria. You can view this criteria on my website.

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