Solar tubes: everything you need to know

Solar tubes help to illuminate dark interior spaces. They are made up of a translucent weatherproof head installed into your roof with a reflective pipe beneath that carries sunlight to its intended target in your home.

Solar tubes have a few disadvantages over roof window-type skylights, including a limited outdoor view and a poor ability to capture heat from sunlight in the winter. However, there are some significant advantages to consider with solar tubes, particularly their lower installation cost, energy efficiency, and ease of installation.

What exactly are solar tubes?

Solar tubes, also known as sun tunnels, allow natural light to enter your home. While they do not provide a pleasant view of the outside world, they offer a natural, cost-effective way to illuminate dark interior spaces without electricity.

Due to their compact size, solar tubes can easily be installed between roof rafters and won’t compromise the structural integrity of your roof. Furthermore, they are an excellent choice for bringing light into small, dark areas of your home like hallways, laundry rooms, and bathrooms.

How solar tubes work

Solar tube domes are optically engineered to direct as much light as possible into a tunnel below and range in diameter. A clear, weather-resistant acrylic dome typically shields them. Quality solar tubes installed by a reputable company like Sundowner Skylights use fully imported, international standard, solid, high-spec aluminium tubing.

Furthermore, most sun tubes include UV ray protection at the source of sunlight on your roof or in the light diffuser at the tube’s end. This ensures that the sunlight entering your home does not have a negative impact on your health or damage your paintings or surfaces.

The advantages of solar tubes over skylights

Compared to roof window-type skylights, solar tubes have significant benefits and a few drawbacks.


Instead of spending thousands of rands on new header beams, drywall, and skylights, you can pipe sunlight through a solar tube and achieve a similar lighting effect at a fraction of the cost.

Ease of installation

Solar tube installation is relatively quick and easy. The solar tubes have a small footprint and can easily be installed between rafters on your roof. Installing roof window-type skylights is a more difficult task requiring extra care to ensure roof structure integrity while a large window is embedded in your roofing membrane.

Energy efficient

Each solar tube outlet is analogous to a light fixture in your home. As a result, there is a significant energy saving from not having to have those lights burning when sunlight is piped into a regularly used space like a dark dining room.

Low maintenance

It’s difficult not to notice when your roof window-type skylights become caked in debris or bird poop. Unfortunately, you’ll need to get onto your roof regularly to clean the skylight. The curved exterior domes of the solar tube make it more difficult for the elements to settle on and obstruct sunlight than traditional skylights. In addition, many solar tubes are vacuum sealed and have condensation release features. So, even if you live in an area with consistently high humidity, you do not need to clean it as frequently.

Environmentally friendly

Sunlight is a non-polluting, renewable resource. In the summer, solar tubes reduce interior heat gains caused by a high overhead sun pouring in through a skylight. That means your air conditioner won’t have to work as hard to keep your home cool. Furthermore, heat also has more difficulty escaping through a small solar tube than a large skylight in the winter. As a result, you can anticipate lower heating costs.

Finally, using solar tubes saves money on your electric bill and reduces your carbon footprint.

The disadvantages of solar tubes versus skylights

There are a few downsides to solar tubes.

No expansive views

Nothing beats looking up through a big window in your living room into a starry night sky or losing yourself in your thoughts while staring into slowly swirling cloud formations. Roof window-type skylights allow you to fully appreciate the splendour of your natural surroundings, especially if you have a vaulted ceiling.

Passive solar heat is limited

Skylights outperform solar tubes in terms of incorporating passive solar architecture into home heating efficiency. A low winter sun streaming through north-facing windows and roof window-type skylights creates a miniature greenhouse effect, warming the interior of your home. Passive solar designs can generate far more heat than what can escape through the glass in the winter. However, solar tubes are too small to produce this effect.

The health benefits of solar tubes

Due to most of us spending a lot of daylight time in offices and indoors, many of us may be vitamin D deficient. However, every photon of natural sunlight in your home is another resource your skin can use to produce more Vitamin D, supporting your immune system, mood, and musculoskeletal system.

Furthermore, seasonal affective disorder is not to be taken lightly. Being in an environment with more sunlight, especially during the dreary winter months, can alleviate symptoms of depression, increase energy, and make you feel better about yourself.

As a result, installing solar tubes can help increase the amount of natural sunlight in your home while providing numerous health benefits.

Contact Sundowner Skylights for details

Solar tubes are a stylish, energy-efficient way to illuminate dark areas in your home naturally. They are relatively simple to install and cost a fraction of the price of roof window-type skylights. Furthermore, you will save money on electricity while lowering your carbon footprint.

And as natural light significantly impacts health and mood, the more you can incorporate into your home, the better you’ll feel. While traditional skylights provide an unparalleled view of the sky, solar tubes offer a practical, cost-effective way to fully use indirect light to create a warmer, natural environment in your home.

As a leading solar tube specialist company, Sundowner Skylights offers products for residential and commercial applications. In addition, we provide a range of unique attachments to customise the appearance of your lighting. Get in touch with us today for more information on our solar tube and installation services.