Solar Tubes: The Complete Guide

Explore Solatube’s complete guide to solar tubes. In this article, we will discuss what solar tubes are, how they work, as well as the benefits and potential drawbacks of them.

This article covers:

What exactly is a solar tube?

How do solar tubes operate?

How much light can a solar tube provide?

The benefits of solar tubes

Cons of solar tubes

How do solar tubes compare to skylights?

How to install a solar tube

Get a quote for a solar tube

Solar tube FAQs

What are solar tubes?

Solar tubes, also known as sun tunnels, sun tubes or light tunnels, are a cost effective and easy way to bring natural light into your home. They extend from your roof to your ceiling, directing sunlight into rooms without windows. They’re great for places where a standard roof window won’t work. Instead of using artificial lighting, a solar tube is an effective alternative.

Solatube Skylights

Common rooms for solar tubes include bathrooms without windows, dark hallways, stairwell landings and various commercial properties. They provide an affordable way to brighten up dark spaces with natural light. Installing one is a quick process, usually taking a few hours.

How do solar tubes operate?

Solar tubes consist of a rooftop dome, a reflective tube, and an interior ceiling diffuser. The rooftop dome captures sunlight and sends it down the reflective tube. Inside the tube, the reflective surface ensures the sunlight goes into the room. The diffuser then spreads the light evenly throughout the space.

Explore more about how Solatube’s innovative tubular daylighting technologies work.

How much light can a solar tube provide

The amount of light provided by a solar tube depends on various factors. These factors include:

  • The tube’s diameter
  • The length of the tub
  • The angle and intensity of sunlight
  • Any potential obstructions or shading

On a sunny day, a well-designed solar tube can deliver a significant amount of natural light to a room.

A solar tube can provide illumination equal to that of several traditional light bulbs. It’s essential to note that solar tubes are most effective when installed in locations with ample sunlight exposure.

If you’re thinking about installing a solar tube, we recommend talking to a professional. This will help to determine the most suitable size and placement for optimal light coverage in your specific space.

The benefits of solar tubes

Compact design

Compared to traditional skylights or windows, solar tubes have a minimal impact on space due to their compact design. This makes them suitable for areas where larger alternatives may not be practical. 

Cost savings

Although there is an initial investment with solar tube installation, there are long-term cost savings. A reduction in reliance on artificial lighting during daylight hours decreases electricity bills.

Vitamin D & mental health benefits

Improving the amount of natural sunlight in your home improves your intake of vitamin D. 

Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. Sunlit spaces also improve serotonin levels, which impact your mood and promote mental well-being.

Energy efficiency 

Solar tubes contribute to energy conservation by harnessing natural sunlight. The diminished need for artificial lighting during the daytime leads to lower energy consumption. 


The installation process for solar tubes is straightforward and cost-effective. In contrast, extensive renovations for skylights or windows can be expensive. Solar tubes offer a viable option for homeowners seeking to brighten specific areas on a budget. 

Privacy considerations 

Solar tubes facilitate the entry of natural light without compromising privacy. This is important in areas like bathrooms where conventional windows might be impractical.

Solatube Home Daylighting System

Heat transfer mitigation 

In contrast to traditional windows, solar tubes do not transfer heat into the interior. This ensures the enjoyment of natural light benefits without the potential drawback of increased heat. This makes them suitable for diverse climates and seasons.

Increased property value 

The incorporation of energy-efficient features like solar tubes can elevate the value of a home. Potential buyers may be willing to pay more for a property with sustainable and cost-saving elements. 

Cons of solar tubes

Limited suitability for certain roof types

Solar tubes may not be suitable for all roof types. Sloped roofs with tiled or flat roofs are generally more conducive to solar tube installations. Flat or metal roofs may pose challenges and need modifications.

Potential condensation issues

Solar tubes can be prone to condensation build-up, especially in humid climates. Condensation may form on the interior surface of the tube. This may affect the quality of natural light and potentially cause water damage over time. 

This is not the case with the Solatube system, as we have innovative tech that reduces condensation build-up. The use of whole-house fans and attic fans can help mitigate condensation.

Impact on roof warranty

Installing solar tubes may impact the warranty of the existing roof. Penetrating the roof for installation can void warranties provided by roofing manufacturers. This could potentially lead to complications and additional costs if issues arise. This is particularly important when we consider rubber roofing membranes.

Sunlight dependency

Solar tubes rely on sunlight to provide natural illumination. They may not be as effective during cloudy days, at night, or in locations with limited sunlight. 

How do solar tubes compare to skylights?

Solar tubes and skylights are both designed to bring natural light to interior spaces. However, they have some differences in terms of design, installation, and performance. Here’s how they compare against each other in key areas:


Solar tubes: A more affordable option and typically much cheaper than skylights.

Skylights: More expensive due to extensive roof work, flashing, and interior trim requirements.

Energy efficiency

Solar tubes: Better for warm climates, limiting heat entry and reducing cooling needs. Still reduces artificial lighting usage during the day.

Skylights: More suitable for cold climates, allowing passive heating through the large opening. They also reduce artificial lighting usage during the day.


Solar tubes: Easier installation, thanks to their smaller size and less invasive roof work.

Skylights: Complex installation process due to larger size and more invasive roof work.


Solar tubes: These are generally flexible in terms of placement. They can navigate around obstacles in your loft and are suitable for rooms further away from the roof.

Skylights: Installation may be more complex, especially for larger skylights. Placement is crucial, and they are best suited for rooms directly beneath the roof.


Solar tubes: Mimic the look of a recessed light fixture. They’re smaller and less impactful from both interior and exterior perspectives.

Skylights: Aesthetically pleasing to most people. There are various sizes, shapes, and materials to complement the design of your home.


Solar tubes: Minimal maintenance. The curved dome facilitates the sliding off of moisture and debris.

Skylights: More maintenance due to trim collecting dirt and debris, necessitating regular cleaning.


Solar tubes: Not intended to provide an outside view. They primarily diffuse sunlight into the home.

Skylights: Offer a better view of the outside environment. Advised for those seeking a scenic view.

Return-on-Investment (ROI)

Solar tubes: Homes with energy and cost-saving elements are growing in popularity. Despite solar tubes not offering as much ROI as skylights, they help towards the efficiency of a modern home.

Skylights: Better ROI when compared to solar tubes. They significantly change the look and feel of a room, providing improved aesthetics and functionality.

How to install a solar tube

If you’re looking to install a solar tube, we recommend contacting a professional. It’s possible to fit a solar tube yourself, however, a professional will ensure the job is done safely. It’s also important to ensure the tube has been correctly sealed. This will ensure the installation is leak-proof and as effective as possible.

Here’s the process our team of Daylight Design Consultants go through when installing a solar tube:

Schedule an appointment

Start by requesting a free home survey, for one of our consultants to assess your requirements. We’ll never pressure you to buy.

Property assessment

During your appointment, we will assess your needs to advise you on the best product. This will involve measuring up and providing you with an accurate quote. Different factors go into the final cost of a solar tube, so an appointment is vital for a bespoke quote.

Product installation

If you wish to go ahead with the installation of the solar tube, our team will schedule an appointment for an installation or fit the product the same day!

Get a quote for a solar tube

Find out exactly what a solar tube would cost you with Solatube. We have 100s of satisfied customers for our daylighting and ventilation systems. 

Schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Daylight Design Consultants for advice, recommendations, and a bespoke quote today.

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Solar tube FAQs

Are solar tubes suitable for all rooms?

Solar tubes are versatile and can be installed in various rooms, including bathrooms, kitchens, and hallways.

Do solar tubes need maintenance?

Solar tubes generally require minimal maintenance. Regular cleaning of the dome and diffuser to remove dirt and debris is recommended for optimal light transmission.

What are the main components of a solar tube system?

The main components include the rooftop dome, reflective tube, and diffuser.

Do I need planning permission to install a solar tube?

Typically, the answer is no. Solar tubes are often considered permitted development. However, it’s advisable to check local regulations. Our Daylight Design Consultants can confirm if you require planning permission.

Do solar tubes provide natural light during cloudy days?

While solar tubes are most effective on sunny days, they can still provide some natural light during cloudy days. However, the amount of light may be less compared to sunny conditions. It is best to consider them as you would a window.

How long do solar tubes last?

The reflective tubing in a solar tube can last up to 20 years, while the rigid tubing in your roof space should last indefinitely. All Solatube Daylighting System components are covered by a 10-year warranty.

Can solar tubes be used as a replacement for traditional skylights?

Solar tubes are typically considered an alternative to traditional skylights. They are more cost-effective, easier to install, and can be used in spaces where traditional skylights may not be practical.

Are solar tubes energy-efficient?

Yes, solar tubes are energy-efficient as they harness natural sunlight. This reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day and lowers energy consumption.

Can solar tubes be installed in existing buildings?

Yes, solar tubes can be retrofitted into existing buildings. The installation process involves cutting a hole in the roof and ceiling to accommodate the tube.