Green buildings perform well by incorporating a variety of ways to increase efficiency and enhance occupant comfort. Perhaps one of the most common strategies is daylighting, a means of utilizing natural light for interior illumination. It not only reduces energy usage, but provides natural, full-spectrum light that enhances our well-being.
When an architect designs a new green building, they might employ several daylighting techniques. Obviously, window location, size, type and orientation play a key role, but so can reflective light shelves, clerestories, skylights and light-colored finishes. When it all comes together, day-lit spaces are more enjoyable places to be and if done properly, can save money too.
It is no wonder that people who are too often deprived of the sun’s bright charisma can become depressed. Seasonal Affective Disorder is common in areas that experience fewer sunny days, especially in winter. Although Nevada is known for its abundant sunshine, many of our homes still have areas that are too dark, even during the light of day.
For example, my home has plenty of windows but in some areas we found ourselves flipping on the lights even in the middle of the day. Skylights are one solution but suffer from a few drawbacks: they are expensive and can compromise a building’s energy performance. In other words, they get very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Also, when the sun is directly overhead, the light can be too intense and create unwanted glare.
“More exposed to the high summer sun than vertical windows, skylights can let into your home as much as four times the amount of heat as a standard window.”
The perfect skylight would provide bright, evenly-distributed natural light. It would never get too bright, even at mid-day, but would somehow manage to collect more light whenever the sun was at lower angles. It would never get hot or cold, would be leak-proof and easy to install in a wider range of places and, last but not least, it would be affordable.
Enter Solatube. This high-performance daylighting system uses advanced optics to significantly improve the way daylight is harnessed. We’ve had four of them installed in our home and the difference they make is incredible! There is a large one in our kitchen, near the center of our primary living area. It provides just the right amount of natural illumination throughout the day so the entire space feels consistent and evenly lit from sunrise to sunset. Also, the high-quality light reveals the beautiful detail in granite counter tops like never before. There are smaller Solatubes in the laundry room, master closet and guest bath.
Each Solatube uses a clear dome on the roof to gather light. A highly-reflective “light tube” efficiently transmits the light through the attic to a ceiling-mounted lens that seals the bottom while evenly diffusing the light inside the room. There are several options for lenses and other features but we are happy with the basic model. Because the system is self-enclosed there is very little heat gain or loss, summer to winter.
It is great to find a product that is so innovative, well-designed and green. The best part is that there is a dealer in Southern Nevada that is just as good. Sun Cat Skylights is the premier Solatube dealer in our area. Sun Cat is a local, family-run business founded by Glenn and Joan Georgens. They and their staff are some of the nicest folks you’re likely to meet anywhere. Their efficient crews can usually install a Solatube in just a few hours and they do it right. After more than six years of use and zero maintenance, we’ve never had the hint of a leak.
Dollar for dollar, I think Solatubes are one of the best ways to enhance the enjoyment and value of one’s home. We appreciate ours every single day – and sometimes even after the sun goes down. An unforeseen bonus is that during each full moon they magically transform into Lunatubes!