Tubular skylights: Velux vs. Solatube vs ?

finallyrenovatingDecember 31, 2011

We are mid renovation, pre-reroofing. Has anyone had experience they can share about these tubular sun tunnels/skylights. The addition on the side of our house took out some windows and I'm really missing the sun, but I feel like full skylights will not be doable or affordable this far along. Thank you to any one that can help!!

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I have both solatubes and ODL from Home Depot.

The Solatube is vastly overrated and very expensive. The ODL works fine and just as good if not better.

The ODL's have glass at the interior ceiling while the Solatube has plastic which discolors

Investigate the flashing material before buying. There is galvy and some kind of polymer; I can't remember which I have or which is supposed to be the best.

The roofers put the roof part in when they roofed the house. Anyone with a bit of talent can install. First one is a learning curve and takes a while.

If you live in very cold country you may have to bubble insulate the tube; not hard to do. If you don't and it gets well below zero you will get condensation dripping on the floor.

Hope that helps. Anita

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

In in Indiana and had a Solatube installed in 2009, so it has seen 2 winters now, and have not had any condensation issues. I did a good bit of research before deciding to go with Solatube, but can't remember why I chose it...maybe reviews? I know $$ was not a factor because I didn't want or need to skimp to save a little, knowing if there were problems, that it would cost me more in the long run.

Yes, the lens is plastic, but there is no discoloration, at least not yet. I'm thinking the lens can be changed out anyway, depending on the kind of light you want...white light (what I have) versus sort of a yellow light.

I really like the Solatube light. It is in an interior hallway laundry room area, and I love not having to use a light in there during daylight hours. I found it sold somewhere on line, (not the actual Solatube site) and even with shipping it was a lot less than buying from Solatube. I'm not sure if they are carried in local stores.

I was getting a new roof at the time, and the roofer installed it once the roof was complete.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 11:28AM
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Thanks for the help! I truly appreciate it. I confess, the condensation issue worries me a bit, since we are in Virginia, where we get very cold sometimes, and very hot sometimes. Our contractor seems to have a Velux contact, I wonder how they score in all of this (DH and I are hopeless in the reno dept, but the advice to purchase it ourselves may be real helpful). I am gingerly contemplating having it run from a second story roof, through that floor and having the opening between the existing house and the new addition room, which is half below ground. Sun does not shine directly into this room despite windows on SE side(in back) and SW side in front. This would require a couple of bends. My reading seems to indicate that the flexible tubes are not worth while, but Solatube has rigid ones that have elbows, not sure about ODL or Velux. Other concern is guest room upstairs (used a lot) that lost the south facing window. Thanks again for help!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 3:13PM
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We put in 5 SunTunnels, which is what Velux is now (they bought them out since they were of good quality). One of the advantages of the Velux is that they have a low profile choice that we used for the ones that you see from the front of the house--we don't even notice them. This will be our 5th winter, and we've had no condensation issues here in Michigan, or coloring of the plastic.

We have one in the stairwell to the second floor and one in the 2nd floor interior bathroom; both of these are very short--only a few feet with slight elbows.

We have 2 into the kitchen. One goes out through attic space and the front porch roof, and has a couple of elbows. The other goes straight up through the second floor closet wall--I designed that bedroom & closets around the 2 kitchen SunTunnels.

We have one on the front porch. It was supposed to be for the powder room, but I was afraid it would be blocked by and too close to a dormer, so since we'd already bought it we decided to put it in the front porch roof that shades the kitchen to get more light in there. Someday we'll temporarily cover it up to see if it really makes any difference!

All are rigid because of the length.

I had to fight my husband to get these; he wanted a completely air-tight house. However, the amount of heat lost is miniscule compared to a skylight. He called and talked to the SunTunnel people about making them insulated. He says he thinks they've made this change on the ones Velux sells now, so you may want to check on this.

BTW, I LOVE them!!! And he concurs that the light is nice.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 3:56PM
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I can speak to solatube. We had two put in the dark area of our kitchen and we loved them. We got the kind that also had the fluorescent lighting inside them for extra lighting at night, but found we didn't use that feature very often at all. In hindsight, we'd have skipped that extra cost.

As far as brightness, we had two skylights in the other half of the kitchen (not encased except for three or four inches), and these two tube lights were definitely brighter in the daytime than the huge skylights nearby. We were surprised.

One suggestion is to definitely find an authorized dealer (We used First Day Natural Lightingout of Centerville Ohio). My contractor would have installed them but 1) he didn't have the experience of the authorized dealer/installer and 2) it would have ended up costing *much* more. We were extremely happy with ours.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 7:20PM
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Hmmm- maybe authorized dealer and contractor could coordinate. mjtx2: were these put in new construction or existing? Yeah, I think I would probably skip florescent option- I really don't like CFL lighting. Did you have a lot of light loss with elbows? Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 10:17PM
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If you are going to run it from the second story roof to the first floor, you should go with a 14' tubular skylight. ODL and Solatube are the only two that I know of that have a rigid unit. I would suggest taking a look at the link provided. Good Luck, you'll love the natural light!

Here is a link that might be useful: ODL

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 10:42AM
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Thanks for the link, Sunny South- the diagram looks very helpful. Now to make sure all the structures are located where I think they are! Do you have any preferences for either brand?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 11:40AM
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My name is Christine and I am the owner of Brighter Homes, the local Solatube Premier Dealership. I would be happy to set a time to discuss the features and benefits of a Solatube Daylighting System in detail. In the meantime I did want to clarify the inaccurate information that was posted in response to your question. I have never had a customer complaint that either the Effect Lens or the Diffuser discolor over time; furthermore, I called Solatube International and was told they do not have a problem with discoloration of the lens. Next, considering the climate in Virginia there should not be a problem with condensation however Solatube Daylighting Systems are designed to allow some air transfer from the interior of the system to the exterior. This allows moist air to escape, while also enabling any droplets of water, which may have formed on the dome, to escape via weep holes in the dome.

Solatube Daylighting Systems is by far the best product on the market with four patents on the technology that the competition does not have. Our product has patents on Spectralight Infinity Tubing that is 99.7% highly relective, the LightTracker Reflector inside the dome, the Raybender technology of the dome and the Dual Lens Array. Please check out our website for a more complete discussion of the patented technology that Solatube Daylighting Systems have. Please do not hesitate to call me for more information at 460-0703

Here is a link that might be useful: Hampton Roads Daylight

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 1:54PM
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Yikes, they "are designed to allow some air transfer from the interior [to the exterior]." This should very troubling to energy efficient homes and buildings. I would imagine that this air leakage could be very significant to a home with five of them and their vulnerable chimney like locations. I would like to learn more about this "feature".

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 8:42PM
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Yes, with 5 SunTunnels/Velux, DH was concerned about how much heat would escape, especially since he did everything else he could to make the house energy efficient. He was not happy that I wanted these.

We do not have a way to measure the heat loss ourselves; if we ever do the blower door infrared test that DH plans to do once he finishes a few more things, we should have a rough idea. In the winter when it snows, the snow will disappear around the SunTunnels before it does on the rest of the roof, but we've never seen melting/actual water running down the shingles, and believe me, I look for it.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 11:05PM
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