What are the drawbacks to solar tube lighting?

What are the drawbacks to solar tube lighting?

  • Post author:

During the winters, the days get short and the electricity bills get hard to afford for many users. Additionally, there can be some gloomy indoor spaces regardless of what kind of lighting you are using. If you want to add some natural light to your homes, solar tubes are a simple, cost-effective solution. They provide soft, gentle, natural sunlight however, despite their advantages there are certain drawbacks of solar tube lighting. Here is a detailed review of solar tube lighting, exploring the drawbacks in detail.

Image shows the installation of solar tube light
The solar tube lighting system

Solar tube lighting

These are narrow tubes that enhance natural daylight by placing them on the roof of the house and are also called sun tunnels and light tubes. Solar tube lights can be as long as one requires and are available in different sizes. Usually, they vary in diameter i.e., 10 to 22 inches. It is generally assumed that a 10-inch long solar tube is equal to three 100-watt bulbs. Solar tubes are popular in areas where electric light is used in the daytime. Therefore, such lights help light up the dark hallways, closets, laundry rooms, kitchen, bathrooms, and staircases. If a mechanical chase or a closet is available, solar tubes can run through them. They can provide light even to lower floor levels.

How does solar tube light work?

A solar tube is usually in a cylindrical shape and is made up of a reflective material that is mostly a clear, weather-resistant glass dome or an acrylic cap. This material is used to catch the sunlight and then bounces it onto the inner surface of the tube. A highly polished material is used to line these solar tube lights so that the sunlight can be amplified as it passes through the dome. After passing through many surfaces, the light reaches inside your homes where the acrylic domes are installed in the ceiling from where the natural light emits.

Solar tube lights also have a diffuser that helps spread the light evenly in the room providing bright light and also preventing the formation of hotspots from the sunlight. Since light has a bouncing nature, so there is a threat of UV rays entering your homes.  Solar tube lighting has, therefore, emerged as an easy alternative to use renewable and clean energy without paying the cost of energy.


Solar Tube lights Vs. Skylights

Solar tube lights

Solar tube lights are a cost-effective and easy to afford alternative to get natural sunlight. Their total cost including the installation is around $100 and they are installed on the roof. Furthermore, they come with an installation assistance kit to provide further support. As compared to the skylights, solar tubes are more efficient in terms of energy and they gain less heat. Also, lesser finishing of interior design is required by solar tubes for setup. These lights can be a great addition to your homes and will also prevent stale air from entering your homes.


Skylights are windows similar to the concept of solar tubes and are placed into the roofs of the houses. However, their time for installation is more, they are comparatively expensive and require more materials and labor since they are large in size. The process for the installation of such lights is difficult and costs around $2000. Skylights are very efficient in terms of lighting, but they can also result in warming of the room since they allow solar energy to pass through. Also, they filter UV light partially. These lights are very popular since they are providing two benefits, lighting and a complete sky view right from your homes. Solar tubes, on the other hand, do not provide a view of the sky since they are narrow and are set deeply in the roof, therefore, you cannot use them for sky gazing through their opening.

Steel and glass skylight

That being said, skylights may be a bit expensive, but they add to the resale value of your home. They are a true definition of grace and elegance and give your homes a new appearance, adding to the value of your house.

Benefits of solar tube lighting

Although the benefits of solar tube lights have been mentioned above, we decided to give you a clear picture of their inherent advantages. Here is a list that fully highlights the benefits of the installation of such an innovative device in your homes:

  • Solar tube lights are bright and convenient.
  • They are easy to install.
  • Comparatively less expensive than skylights.
  • Greate effectiveness and reduced risk of leakage
  • Allow the design to be flexible.
  • Do not cause heating of the room and retain heat in winters.
  • Solar tube lights help to avert seasonal affective disorders since they are a constant source of daylight.

Drawbacks of solar tube lighting

High initial cost

It has been observed that solar tube lighting has a high initial cost which includes the cost of installing the system, however, the overall cost is lower than other options. So, moving from regular power to solar energy will be an expensive move. To generate the same amount of energy as the conventional power system, a high level of investment will be needed.

Not suitable for all types of houses

A common assumption is that innovative devices such as solar tubes can be compatible with all types of houses but this is not always true. There are consumers which have to face a lack of usability. Solar tubes need to be installed in houses that have conventional roofs. If you think for a moment, it will be difficult to mount a solar tube on a roof that has an A-shaped frame.

Requires big space

Another factor to consider is space when installing a solar tube light. It can be a daunting task to install a solar tube light in a house where there is no space. Since more space you have, the more amount of energy you will be able to get. However, if you have to light up a significant area then there will be additional requirements for installing the solar tube lighting other than space which is a prerequisite.


It is not possible to install ventilation with solar tube lighting. This means that you cannot open the solar tube lights for heat release or to let in the fresh air as you can do with the standard skylight. One should also note that the longer the length of the solar tube, the lesser will be the light therefore it can be ineffective in some specific areas

No control of lighting

Solar tubes do not possess a power feature therefore the light cannot be controlled as compared to other sources of lights such as light bulbs. You can only control the amount of light a solar tube provides. The product has two options and comes in 10 and 14 inches in diameter. A diffuser or a window film can be used to control the lighting, however, this single factor can be the deal-breaker as there might be some days where you will have extreme exposure to sunlight.

Solar tube lighting is a single source of energy

One basic problem with solar energy is that sunlight is the primary source of energy. To provide a sufficient amount of energy, you need a constant supply of sunlight. Therefore, on the days when there is bad weather or there is not enough sunlight, you will have to store solar energy. Generally, these lights are used to complement artificial lights in homes that might have some structural defects. They are used to supplement the lighting of the house since they do not enrich the interior design of the house.

Water of condensation

A very common problem that has been reported by the consumers using solar tube lights is water of condensation. This problem occurs in those areas where the weather is humid because of which moist air gets into the solar tube. This leads to water condensation and accumulation on the dome of the light. Accumulated water can become a problem since it can reduce the life span of the light. Moreover, it can also leak into your rooms, ruining your paint and walls.


Before making a certain investment, it is always good to weigh the benefits and drawbacks. Knowing the drawbacks means preparing oneself as to what should be expected out of a certain product. We have tried to highlight all the things you should know before buying solar tube lighting including their inherent drawbacks. If you have an indoor space that needs natural daylight, then solar tubes can be a good option. They can help provide a convenient, cost-effective solution. However, like all products solar tubes also have certain drawbacks, so considering all this information, we hope you will be able to make a sound decision.