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Sun Tubes

Inexpensive Alternative to Skylights, Sun Tubes Are Gaining in Popularlity

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A cross section of a sun tube installation.

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When remodeling your home, it's not uncommon to encounter spaces that lack natural light: converting your basement into conditioned space, adding an extra bedroom or maybe you have a dim bathroom, hall or stairway.

In many cases, it's not possible to add a window or skylight because of attic space or the orientation of a room. A viable solution might be to install sun tubes, which funnel natural light into a space to help you save on energy costs.

Also called light tubes, solar tubes, or tubular daylighting devices (TDDs), sun tubes look similar to recessed light fixtures in your ceiling. While they don't transmit as much light as a skylight or window, the light they do provide is a big improvement over electrical lighting. Sun tubes include a transport device to collect light on the roof with either a reflective coating or bundle of fiber optics to conduct the light.

The light is directed through a tube, which can bend or turn as needed, that extends from the roof to the ceiling of a space. A diffuser is mounted on the ceiling to distribute the light evenly throughout the room. Even if the sun isn't burning brightly, the sun tube will still transmit plenty of natural light into a room without transmitting heat.

Sun tubes offer considerable cost savings over installing a skylight or window. They're available in several sizes, ranging from a ten inch diameter up to 20 or more inches, and cost between $200 and $400.

If you are handy with tools, you can install the sun tube yourself, which obviously involves climbing on the roof to cut a hole and weatherproofing it. You may be eligible for federal, state or local home energy tax credits when you install a sun tube. The only downside? Sun tubes don't provide you with a view.

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