10 Solar Tube Reviews

Top 10 Solar Tube Reviews : Buying Guide

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

If you're looking for solar tube reviews, you've come to the right place. Like you, we're believers of taking advantage of the natural light the sun provides. 

Solar tubes has many names. They're known as "light tube," "tubular skylight," "sun tunnel," "sun tube" and many others, but they have the same purpose: to use a sheet metal tube (in varying diameters) with polished interior that allows the light of the sun to pass through the roof and into the home. 

Connected to the metal tube (outdoors on the roof) is a weather-proof plastic globe, while the other end of the tube (in the ceiling indoors) is equipped with a diffuser that spreads the light in a dramatic white glow inside the house. 

Although it is similar to the traditional rectangular sunlight, a solar tube is a much cheaper alternative and offers better flexibility to different house and roof layouts. 

Want to learn which one you need? Here are the best options available in the market today...

Natural Light's 10-inch tubular skylight is perfect for those living in areas often passed by hurricanes. In fact, aside from being NFRC-certified for Energy Efficiency, this brand passes Florida code requirements with flying colors.

This kit is beginner-friendly: It includes 4 feet of tubing and even sealant. The materials are high quality, which is a big deal, because you won't have to replace the solar tube too quickly down the road.

Probably the most common issue with Natural Light's tubular skylight kit is the type of flashing chosen. While the brand uses big and heavy gauge aluminum, choosing the right type will prevent potential leaking. If you're not sure, Natural Light's customer support is super helpful, so call them for flashing recommendation.

Pros:

  • Option for pitched-angle roof models available
  • Easy-to-install, all materials included in the kit
  • Works on different kinds of roofing options
  • Possible to trim the light pipe

Cons:

  • Some types of roof require professional installation (and additional fees that go with it)

2. Radiant Skylight 1914ST 14-inch US Sunlight Solar Tube

If you have low-pitched asphalt shingle or fiberglass shingle type of roof,  this 14-inch solar tube with low-profile flashing from Radiant Skylight lets you add up to 90% of light transmitted from the roof lens down to your desired indoor space. 

This US Sunlight solar tube kit consists of 6 feet of flex tube attached to the skylight and a round, single diffuser. Contrary to what the instruction pamphlet says, there are about 8 feet of flexible tube, which is more than enough for most installations. In fact, many say the provided tube is longer than you'd need, so prepare to cut to fit your set-up. 

There is no need for major reframing, structural changes or renovations, but know that if your ceiling is low, the light would look more of a spotlight. The way to counter this is to add additional tubes nearby to "spread" light horizontally.

Pros:

  • No need for major renovation
  • 1- to 2-hour installation
  • Can withstand extreme weather like hail

Cons:

  • Black-painted flashing may not be to everyone's liking

3. Natural Light Energy Systems 13kxxx 13" Solar Sky Light Kit

Natural Light Energy Systems 13kxxx 13" Solar Sky Light...
  • 13" model lluminates up to 300 sq. ft.
  • Equivalent of up to 500 watts. Domed Prismatic Interior Diffuser.
  • Fits pitched fiberglass-asphalt shingle roof types - comes with 4...
  • ENERGY STAR Qualified
  • 25 Year Product Warranty

Another one from Natural Light, this 13-inch solar tube model is designed with black flashing, 4 feet of tubing and a domed prismatic interior diffuser, which perfectly fits fiberglass-asphalt shingle roof types. 

Like most solar tubes on this list, installation of this model is possible even for beginners. Of course, there will be a learning curve (especially if you're used to skylights than light tubes), but once you've installed one on your roof, the next one would be much easier. It could even bring in light from the moon at nighttime. 

Note that because the included flashing is designed for pitched Fiberglass-asphalt shingle roof applications only, you have to buy Turret extensions or tile roof flashing kits (sold separately) if needed. 

The protective plastic of the Natural Light Energy Systems 13kxxx 13" Solar Sky Light Kit is a common complaint, but if you remove it before beginning installation, it won't become an issue near the end of the install.

Pros:

  • Hurricane-tested
  • High quality roof and exterior components
  • Comes with tools, sealant and hardware needed out of the box
  • 25 years warranty

Cons:

  • Only 4 feet of tubing included

4. VELUX 10" Double Strength Acrylic Rigid Low-Profile Sun Tunnel Tubular Skylight

VELUX 10" Double Strength Acrylic Rigid Low-Profile Sun...
  • Low profile flashing provides an integrated look with the...
  • 99.99% silver reflective layer with a 20-year tunnel warranty,...
  • Energy Star labeled for high efficiency.
  • Easily installed usually under 2-hours.
  • Designed to install on Shingle/Shake roofs with 15 to 60 degree...

This 10-inch, double-strength, acrylic sun tunnel tubular skylight comes with low-profile flashing, which provides the elegant and modern appeal from the roof. This set-up results to up to 98% additional lighting mainly thanks to the newly-added 99.99% silver reflective layer. 

The VELUX 10-inch sun tunnel tubular skylight was made for shake or shingle roofs with 15 to 60 degree pitch. 

This kit is definitely heavy-duty with high-quality components. The downside to this is that installation won't be "under two hours" as advertised. Setting it up would take more time (due to the tunnel's strength and weight), but it is doable even if you're doing it yourself. Plus, it includes a scaled dimensional layout of the hole.

Pros:

  • Exceptional customer support
  • Double strength
  • High-efficiency without additional cost

Cons:

  • Professional installation can be expensive

ODL's 10-inch solar tube kit is one of the most-complete kits in this list. It has everything you need, such as a trim ring, flashing and lens diffuser (that helps in scattering light or spotlighting in a specific area). It is also equipped with ODL-patented solar lens and the brand's adjustable skylight tube with elegant-looking mirror finish.  

Because this kit comes with flat aluminum flashing, some people may need to order the kit for flat roofs. This is an important consideration to ensure your solar tube fits your existing roof without the need for framing, dry-walling or re-painting. 

The best thing about the ODL 10-inch Tubular Skylight Kit being an old model is that there are a lot of useful tips from fellow owners.

Pros:

  • Easy to install
  • Complete solar tube kit
  • 48 inches of adjustable tube included

Cons:

  • Not the newest model in the market (released in 2004)

6. Natural Light 13-inch Tubular Skylight Kit

Natural Light, Tubular Skylight Kit, Flat, White...
  • Illuminates up to 300 sq. ft. - Equivalent of up to 500 watts...
  • ENERGY STAR Qualified - May Qualify for Tax Credits.
  • Hurricane Tested/Approved - High-Impact Acrylic Dome.
  • Industry Leading 25 Year Manufacturer's Product Warranty.
  • 13" Model with Flat Roof Flashing for Asphalt Type Roofer...

This 13-inch solar tube model from Natural Light is equipped with flat roof flashing (perfect for asphalt-type roof installations), high-impact acrylic dome, and hurricane-tested tubes and other components.

Illuminating up to 300 square feet of space, which is an equivalent of about 500 watts, this set-up will dramatically brighten up a kitchen, cabinet, entryway, or any other areas that used to be "blind spots."

And like other Natural Light solar tubes, you can choose to custom powder-coat the flashing to match your roof color.

Pros:

  • Energy Star-qualified (could qualify for tax credits)
  • 25 years manufacturer's warranty
  • Easy to install, even sealer is included
  • Solid instruction manual

Cons:

  • Fingerprints easily gets onto the mirror-like finish, so be careful during installation

Solatube's 14-inch Daylighting System Skylight is composed of an acrylic dome, Vusion diffuser, pitched metal flashing, top and bottom tubes, as well as sealant and fastener to put everything in place. Plus, the light deflector included in the Solatube kit gives you some control of the type of light brought into the house. 

The tube is 30 feet long, which is pretty long for most houses, so you might need to cut it down to fit your specific needs. 

Solatube has been providing a power-saving option to homeowners for decades now, so you'd have more information about its solar tubes than any other brands in the market.

Pros:

  • Effect filter available (sold separately by Solatube)
  • 10 year manufacturer's warranty
  • Completely USA Made

Cons:

  • Might need professional install for tricky set-ups

8. Velux America 14-inch Sun Tunnel

14 in. Sun Tunnel Tubular Skylight Acrylic Dome with...
  • Low Profile Flashing for pitched Fiberglass-Asphalt Shingle of...
  • Installs in as little 2-hours in most applications.

Velux America's 14-inch model sun tunnel has all the components you need to bring the sunlight into your home for cheap. This kit includes exterior dome, roof flashing, 8 feet of tubing, and interior diffuser, which dramatically helps in spreading light output more evenly.

Like other solar tubes, there's a possibility that insects get through the lens. What's great about this Velux sun tunnel is it makes it easy for you to clean the lens with just a twist on the trim ring's lock. It's an underrated, but much-appreciate feature.

Pros:

  • Easy to install, even for beginners
  • Additional tubing can be purchased from Velux
  • Quick twist cleaning

Cons:

  • Light is on the cool side (may be a problem if you're after something warmer)

9. ODL EZ14SCANH 14" Tubular Skylight kit

ODL EZ14SCANH 14" Tubular Skylight
  • For use on asphalt roofs
  • Strong, UV protected acrylic dome with patented optics
  • Durable 1-pc. polyethylene flashing
  • 14in.L x 14in.W x 48in.H
  • 48in. of highly reflective tubing delivers the light from the...

ODL's 14-inch tubular skylight kit is a massive-looking sun tunnel. You might get intimidated at first, but when you're inside a home with this model installed, there's a good chance you'll get wowed by the 48-inch, highly reflective tubing that delivers the sun's light from the UV-protected acrylic dome down to your room. 

Positioning the ODL Tubular Skylight kit properly is important, unless of course if you live in an area where cloudy days are more often than not.

Pros:

  • Polyethylene flashing
  • Dome constructed with ODL-patented optics
  • Choice of DIY installation or professional installation

Cons:

  • Must be careful in sealing the seam of tubes (to prevent air and insects from coming in)

10. Natural Light 18-inch Tubular Skylight

Natural Light Tubular Skylight 18 inch model
  • Large aperture for homes and commercial buildings built at 24...
  • Skylight Illuminates up to 500 square feet - equivalent up to...
  • Comes with Natural Light's 25 year product warranty.
  • Highly reflective light pipe will not delaminate, yellow, crack...
  • Designed for use on pitched Fiber-glass asphalt shingle roofs.

Natural Light's 18-inch tubular skylight was designed for use on pitched Fiber-glass asphalt shingle roofs. Aside from the massive size, what's great about this model is that the highly-reflective tubing doesn't crack, peel, delaminate or turn yellow. 

This model of Natural Light also features a heavy-duty acrylic dome, seamless commercial grade powder-coated black aluminum flashing, a diffuser, and ceiling trim ring. 

Installation is as easy as most of the best solar tubes here, but because of the size of Natural Light's 18-inch tubular skylight, you could probably do the setup without a professional’s help only if you have some help.

Pros:

  • Comes with 25 years warranty
  • Light tube is crack-proof and stain-proof
  • Produces massive amounts of light

Cons:

  • Doesn't accommodate metal roofing

Factors to Consider When Buying  Solar Tubes

Almost every solar tube in the market looks alike, but just like many solar products, every tiny component makes a huge difference. As such, choosing the solar tube kit should depend on the following considerations:

  • Budget - Professionally installed solar tubes cost an average $750, which is a lot cheaper than the average $2k skylight. But if you know how to work your way around the roof and you can install the solar tube on your own, you could find kits sold for around $300.
  • Light needed per square feet - Solar tubes are usually placed in rooms and areas of the house that require constant light, such as bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, or stairways. It can also be used for laundry rooms or walk-in closets. As such, you have to know how big a solar tube you'll need for the room intended. Generally, a 10-inch tube can light up a 200-square feet space since it is equivalent to 3 bulbs of 100-watt each.
  • Roof type - Not all solar tubes can work with any type of roof. If your roof has slope between 15 to 60 degrees, you'll need a solar tube with flashing (this is usually included in most kits). Also consider the material of your roof, since most solar tube kits were designed for asphalt shingles, but they would also work with tile or metal roofing as long as you get flashing adapters.
  • Location of the solar tube - The spot where you install the light tube will affect how much light it brings indoors. A globe is recommended to be installed southwest of the roof for best light source possible.
  • Weather and climate - Solar tubes can work in both hot and cold climates, but problematic areas are those that suffer from heavy snow (could cause cracking of the dome), or high humidity (could lead to condensation inside the tube). There are hurricane-proof solar tubes, but you have to make sure the dome is made of polycarbonate.

If you're planning to bring the solar tube through multiple levels, it is possible, but may require professional installation (especially if you have no idea how to go through HVAC, wiring or plumbing).

Wrap Up: Which is the Best Solar Tube for My Home?

These solar tube reviews are a great start if you’re looking for the perfect model, but you have to understand that the best solar tube for you depends on your lighting needs. For example, if you’re trying to bring light into a tiny space, the budget-friendly Natural Light 10-inch Tubular Skylight Kit for Flat Roof can be a good choice. 

If you have a more complicated set-up such as multi-levels, rooms bigger than 300 square feet, extensive HVAC systems, then the best solar tube kits for you are the ones that would meet your requirements. For example, the VELUX 10" Double Strength Acrylic Rigid Low-Profile Sun Tunnel Tubular Skylight would fit most households that are currently undergoing roof renovations, while the Natural Light Energy Systems 13kxxx 13" Solar Sky Light Kit is best for rooms small enough to need just one solar tube unit, but big enough that a 10-inch model wouldn’t cut it. 

Once you do find a solar tube perfect for your requirements, there's a big possibility that you won't ever go back to the time when you haven't taken advantage of the sun.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.