Solar Tubes And Skylights Brighten Your Home Naturally

Solar Tubes | Skylights | Madison WI | Sims Exteriors & Remodeling
Can you envision it – a “tube” brings natural light from above to brighten a workspace that gets plenty of traffic.

Not every room, hallway and closet in your Madison WI home can have a window. That’s where solar tubes and traditional skylights come in. These popular creations combine a light source and a window for areas normally lacking access to outdoor light. Modern technology has kept up with demand, too. Where standard roof-installed windows are limited in where they work, solar tubes step in to literally bend light around corners.

In many homes, adding standard windows is not an option. Hallways, laundry rooms and mud rooms, for instance, may not have an outside wall. Bringing natural light from above is worth exploring. Large overhead openings spread the light more evenly than light fixtures. Consider bringing light into your shadowy rooms with more than a “window in the roof.”

A bright, sun-filled space is more than a relief to your electric bill, it’s good for you. Natural light provides vitamin D and sunshine is a boost to your spirit.

Skylights Or Solar Tubes – What’s The Difference?

The obvious difference between the two openings is appearance. One looks like a window in the roof while the other is a round tunnel-like structure.

The window-like version features glass, acrylic or polycarbonate window panes set in a special frame. It comes in basic square and rectangular models. You can get one as small as a foot square. Bigger is better but window design professionals suggest never going larger than 15% of the square footage of the room below.

Often called “sun tunnels,” the tubes feature and acrylic or polycarbonate dome to catch sunlight from all angles. Light reflects through a flexible metal tube. A specially engineered diffusing lens in the room spreads the light evenly. Basic tubes are usually 10- to 14-inch diameter but much larger ones are available.

Both work well to bring natural sunlight into your home. However, sun tunnels have an edge in energy efficiency. Why? Sunlight is captured and diffused into your rooms reducing unwanted heat gain. Compared to a normal window, you gain about three times as much sunlight through a large window in the roof. In addition, you get much more solar heating on bright summer days.

Consider these disadvantages of traditional overhead windows:

  • On a south-facing roof there’s potential for overheating the room below.
  • On a north-facing roof you get softer light but none of the “sunsplash” effects that brighten the room below.
  • Installed in open floor plans or large bathrooms cabinets, furnishings and vanities are subject to fading when exposed to sun from overhead. Built-in shades and tinted Low-E glass are available in high-end versions.

Solar Tubes Gaining Popularity

Solar Tubes | Skylights | Madison WI | Sims Exteriors & Remodeling
With optional remote venting these skylights are opened to let in fresh spring, fall and summer air.

Not long ago the idea of metal tunnels steering sunlight into your house was thought to be a fad. The creative use of these high-tech lighting solutions is here to stay. Both for remodeling projects and in new construction. The thought of bringing natural light into dark hallways or your laundry room is appealing, right? Consider these additional benefits:

  • A basic tube installation provides light equal to as many as three standard 100-watt light bulbs.
  • High-end tubes can include warmth via solar energy – ideal for installation near the shower in a spa bathroom.
  • Basic installation reduces heat loss expected from traditional windows.
  • Solar tunnels work even in rooms with no direct route to the roof – they can be angled and in some case run from the roof through a second floor to rooms on ground level. Creative installations hide them in second floor closets, etc.
  • Once properly installed there’s little or no maintenance to worry about – including little concern for leaks.
  • There are Energy Star® rated systems.
  • Optional kits to reduce intensity and add lighting for after dark are available.

Two things are mentioned detracting from a tube installation:

  • Water condenses inside the tube. While leaks are few and far between, it is possible for water to condense inside the metal cylinder. Condensation is usually the result of poor ventilation in the attic space or too much moisture in the air within the house. Both can be cured.
  • No view of the sky. Unlike the “window in the roof” you cannot see the stars at night or blue sky during the day. However you can get sunlight in spaces with no access to the roof in any other way.

Skylights Have Their Place

Opening up you home to natural light to take advantage of “free illumination” makes sense. Not only do you get great lighting, your home expands visually, too. The ceiling is no longer a solid expanse. It blends into the design and decorating plan.

Experienced designers recommend: “go big!” Meaning install the largest roof windows the room and budget allows. They note that installation makes up the largest portion of the cost and that there’s little difference between putting in a large version opposed to a small one.

Can you imagine sitting back at night and enjoying moonlight filtering into your great room or the golden glow of sunrise welcoming your day?

Challenged by new technology in the form of bendable tubes, roof-mounted windows remain important for remodeling and new construction. Their benefits include:

  • Enhancing the overall appearance of the room – making it appear much larger than it is.
  • They can be equipped with remote openers for venting hot air.
  • Remote-activated shades are available as is tinted, high-efficiency glass.
  • Filters, shades and glass options reduce and block UV rays to reduce the threat of fading furnishings.
  • They provide an excellent view of the sky.
  • They add resale value.

There are drawbacks, though…

  • Installation requires skill and experience.
  • They require more finishing and trim inside than other options.
  • They can be less energy-efficient because of summer heat gain – however, technology improves all the time!
  • They have a reputation for leaking – largely undeserved. Professional installation is the key to protecting the structure from leaks. In addition, today’s glazing techniques reduce condensation and some models come with designed-in channels to wick moisture away.

Installation Skill Critical For Solar Tubes/Skylights

Is bringing natural light into previously shadowed reaches of your home appealing? It’s easier than you think. Modern sun tunnels and “windows in the roof” are available to fit almost any remodel or new home. However, installation is the one critical factor eliminating the any downside. If you’d like to explore ways to expand upward upon your open floor plan, or bring natural light into inner rooms, email us or call at 608-825-4500. Sims Exteriors & Remodeling has been installing windows for decades and has the skilled, trained craftsmen to not only help you make the right choice, but to professionally install solar tubes and skylights in your Madison WI home.

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