Solar Tube Lighting

Do Tube Skylights Work?

Solar Tube Lighting is more than an alternative to skylights, it's a BETTER alternative. Otherwise called Tube Skylights, solar light tubes have improved on every aspect of the traditional skylight.

Solar Tube Skylights

There are some tasks for which solar energy is especially well suited and lighting is definitely one of them.

solar tube lighting

The sun's been in the business of lighting for a very long time and although we've made significant technological advances that allow us to illuminate the inside of our homes, our efforts have been a poor substitute for good old sunshine. And the energy expense... well.

Skylights bring sunlight in but at the cost of faded fabrics, an uncomfortable heat gain, significant heat loss and a major structural undertaking.

Solar Tube Lighting has the upside without the downside of skylights. Tube skylights deliver a puddle of diffused sunlight to wherever you want it. Because its diffused there's no worry about fading of furniture or fabrics in a closet. Because it's sunlight there's no cost to operate and it'll reduce your energy consumption.

No heat gain or loss which means that you're not just trading one energy saving technique for another.

The difference is in the highly reflective tube interior that is able to redirect a patch of sunlight, with very little loss of intensity, to a dark area or windowless room inside your house. Additionally, the dome shape of the rooftop structure collects early morning and late evening light that traditional skylights miss.

Tips for Buying Solar Tube Lighting

Here's what you need to know before buying any skylight tube.

  • Choose the location where the dome will be located (ideally on the sunny part of the roof), and the interior lens where you want the light to spill. Measure or calculate the distance between the two to determine if you'll need to purchase extra tubing.
  • Although you can extend the tubing as much as 30 feet, from rooftop to ceiling opening, with some designs, the special reflective tubing is not cheap and the original cost of your light can triple when several extension are added. Additionally, a minimal amount of light is lost with each extension that's added. The farther the light travels through the tube the less intense the light at the end.
  • For someone who is moderately skilled as a handyperson this is a fairly simple DIY project. There is important information in the instructions that you do not want to find out about after you've assembled the thing wrong. I know I don't have to tell you this but I'll just mention it anyway. Read the instruction manual before you cut the hole in the roof.
  • If the tube diameter is 14 inches or less, the installation will fit between existing struts making for a relatively simple instalation project.
  • Install the tube skylight as close to the center of the space you want to illuminate as possible. A good guideline is one 10 inch tube for every 150 - 200 square feet of space.
  • In rooms with very high ceilings some of the benefits are lost.

On the outside, the cool looking globe structure allows the sun to strike it from even very low angles. The light rays move down the tunnel to the interior lens structure which resembles a large recessed light. But this recessed light requires no energy to function.

The brighter the sun is shining the brighter the light the skylight tube will deliver, even moonlight will cast enough light to see by. On cloudy or winter days the light will be less intense just as is true of any skylight.

Where to Use Solar Tube Lighting

  • Walk-in closet/Dressing room
  • Bathroom
  • Playroom
  • Note

    Use dimmers on tube skylights installed in bedrooms to control early morning light and full moon light.

  • Art studio
  • Sewing room
  • Craft room
  • Laundry room
  • Workshop
  • Office
  • Dim hallways
  • Stairways

Pros and Cons of Solar Tube Lighting


  • Relatively Small Roof Opening Kits under 14 inches in diameter are easiest to install as they require no serious structural work.
  • DIY Installation For a moderately handy person the installation is relatively simple, requiring more patience than skill.
  • Pure Daylight Solar tube lighting delivers natural daylight.
  • No energy cost Free, renewable, solar energy reduces energy cost.
  • No Fading of Fabrics The diffused light that the solar tube delivers doesn't fade furniture or clothing.
  • Flexibility The unique tubing and extensions allow you to direct sunlight from the rooftop to an indoor area as much as 30 feet away.
  • No heat gain or heat loss concerns. Consumers report no noticeable heat loss or gain through the solar tubes.


  • Not for Basement Installation Although the tube can be extended several feet, unless you are very creative, only the uppermost floor will be a candidate for the skylight tube.
  • Nights and Overcast Solar light tubes deliver sunlight. At night and on heavily overcast days, you'll still need lights in the space.
  • Bluish Light Some people see the light as bluish in color. Ensure that the protective plastic coating has been removed from the inside of the tubes. Try cutting a piece of Magnolia Window Film to fit over the interior lens. It'll alter the color, look stunning and won't interfere much with the amount of light coming in.

You'll still need a light at night but the solar tubes are surprisingly efficient and collect early morning and late evening rays that traditional skylights miss out on. Oh, and expect a moonlight surprise on bright nights.


solar tube lighting

ODL EZ10SCANH 10 In. Tubular Skylight with Asphalt Flashing

ODL tube skylights are the solution for spaces where nothing but natural light will do; art studios, sewing rooms and crafting corners, and if you want to know what color you're really wearing, they make a perfect wardrobe light.

Our pick as "the most tube skylight for the best price" is ODL's 10 inch diameter model. The kit comes complete with the roof assembly, interior ceiling lens and 48 inches of reflective tubing.

Typical Amazon customer comments.

"All and all, we are extremely pleased with the product from pricing to installation"

"The light is amazing. Even early in the morning way before dawn there is enough light to make the stairs safe"

Visitors to our Solar Tube Lighting page may also be interested in the following pages.

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