Mother Earth Living

Let the Sun Shine: Tubular Skylights

Tubular skylights invite natural light into your home.
By Dan Chiras
July/August 2005
Add to My MSN

A tubular Velux skylight requires little space in this tile roof, but it does shed a lot of light.

Content Tools

Related Content

Can This Home Be Greened? Keeping the Haven Safe

A Phoenix couple wants to green their desert home with low-cost, high-impact improvements.

Top 10 Remodeling Techniques

The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) recently compiled its top 10 picks for re...

The Evolution of Stuff: Best Eco-Products of the Decade

Many great products for people and the planet have emerged over the past 10 years. The following cat...

Save Green: How to Get Tax Credits for Making Eco-Friendly Home Improvements

How to get up to $1,500 in tax credits by making these eco-friendly improvements to your home by Dec...

Conventional skylights typically consist of two panes of window glass mounted in a wooden frame, while tubular skylights capture daylight through a small, durable plastic lens mounted on the roof. Light is directed down a reflective tubular shaft—ranging in diameter from about eight to twenty-four inches—to a diffuser mounted on the ceiling in the interior space. The shaft’s polished aluminum interior ensures maximum light transmission and provides a high level of illumination, even on cloudy days. The diffuser, which looks a lot like a ceiling light fixture, enables light entering the room to disperse naturally over a wide area. In larger rooms, several tubular skylights can be used to provide uniform lighting.

Enlightened Design

Tubular skylights virtually eliminate unwanted heat gain in summer months—a common problem with conventional skylights whose large glass surfaces allow enormous amounts of sunlight into our homes. In winter, tubes provide natural light during daylight hours while permitting little heat loss during evening hours or on cold, cloudy days—another common problem of the conventional design.

Ease of installation is another advantage. A conventional skylight requires a day or so to install in an existing home and requires creating a large opening in the roof and ceiling. Often, this involves cutting through framing members and modifying existing framing to maintain structural integrity. In addition, a light shaft must be constructed to transmit light from the skylight into the house. And finally, you have to repair the damaged ceiling and roof, apply drywall to the light shaft, and repaint.

In contrast, installing a tubular skylight requires only two small circular holes—one in the ceiling and one in the roof—between existing framing members, so there’s no need to mess with the framing. The lens and shaft and diffuser lens are snapped in place and secured to the roof and ceiling, which takes a couple of hours. To make things easier, many manufacturers provide installation kits that include all the parts you need. To minimize ceiling penetrations, several tubular brands offer supplementary electrical lights for use at night. Moreover, because they’re compact and energy efficient, tubular styles can be installed in places where it would be difficult to install a conventional skylight, such as narrow hallways or walk-in closets.

Solar Savings

A tubular skylight can save you money; however, the potential economic savings depends on initial and installation costs and how much electrical lighting it will displace. Most models retail in the $200 to $500 range, depending on unit size and manufacturer. Installation by a professional could easily run $200 or more—depending on the job difficulty. On a sunny day, the DayLite eight-inch tubular skylight pro­vides the same amount of light as seven 100-watt light bulbs. Day­Lite’s twelve-inch size provides the equivalent of ten 100-watt light bulbs. Even on cloudy days, these skylights provide 100 to 180 watts of illumination.

However, not all installations save substantial sums; in fact, it could take a number of years to pay back your initial investment. But if you’re going to install a skylight anyway, you’re better off installing a tubular one.

Installation Intelligence: Before You Install

Previous | 1 | 2 | Next   View All

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.