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7 things you must know when purchasing a daylighting system 

Now known generically across the market as sun tunnels or sun pipes, believe it or not, tubular daylighting systems are not all quite the same. The tubular daylighting market growning is day by day, so we here at Solatube UK have taken the initiative to write a piece on what we believe are the 7 most important things you should know or look out for when purchasing a daylighting system: 

1. How does it work? 

The concept is simple; a tubular daylighting system takes daylight from the rooftop of a building and pipes it through highly reflective tubing to a point in the ceiling below where a diffuser spreads the daylight into the room below. The original concept was patented by Solatube in Australia over 25 years ago. 

2. Flexible vs Rigid - What's the difference? 

To put it simply, daylighting systems with flexible tubes simply do not perform well: Flexible tube by its very nature is not a reliable means of transferring light; light entering a flexible tube will not necessarily continue to bounce on a downward path, but will scatter randomly in all directions (including upwards) as it bounces off the concertinaed surface of the tube. In-fact, independent test results have shown that Spectralight Infinity tube material will deliver 10 times more daylight than a flexible system! 
One high quality Solatube Daylighting System replace two flexible duct systems example

3. Reflectivity percentage - Why does it matter? 

A 99.7% reflective material means that only 0.3% of energy (light) is lost each time light bounces inside the tube material — with 99.7% of the remaining light continuing on. So if the light bounces down the tube 20 times to get from one end to the other, a huge 94.17% of the original light is transferred with Spectralight Infinity tube material. 
 
A seemingly small difference in the reflectivity level can result in a significant loss of light delivered into the room below. For example, a 98% reflective material would result in only 66.76% of the light being transferred after 20 bounces. 
Reflectivity comparisons showing different light output levels after 20 bounces of light

4. What is the difference between dome, square, tile etc – are some more effective than others? 

Domes are designed to actively gather daylight at roof level whereas flat panels or tiles are ‘passive’ daylight collectors. Flat panels or tiles therefore work best on south-facing aspects when the daylight can enter the tube aperture directly.  
 
On north, east or west aspects and when the sun is low in the sky in the early morning or evening time, roof domes really have the advantage; roof domes usually contain technologies such as Fresnel lenses or reflectors to ‘harvest’ daylight – so more daylight enters the tube at roof level throughout the whole day. 
Roof dome vs window comparison

5. Aesthetics - Will the daylighting system look pleasing in my home? 

The sole reason for introducing tubular daylighting systems to your home is to combat those dark, and or dull areas of the home. Bringing those rooms to life with daylight is one thing, very much the main thing, but matching your interior with a beautiful ceiling fitting is another.  
 
How many tubular daylighting systems can also offer a large extensive range of beautiful classic finishes, as well as a series of glass styles to suit your home interior? We offer the largest range of decorative fixtures for your daylighting system, also, these diffusers are interchangeable at any time! 
Kitchen example

6. Quality - How do you know you're purchasing a quality product? 

If you're thinking of purchasing a tubular daylighting system, you need to know what you're buying is of quality. In some cases you may be purchasing the product online and haven't had a hand on experience with the product.  
 
Some key points to look out for may well be creditions and achievements for the product. For example, if your project is required to meet building control, does the system have BBA accredition? Or maybe, has the product been recognised by or achieved any awards from a notable source? Build It Awards, Grand Designs Loves? 
Grand Designs Loves Logo
Built It Awards 2016 Winner Logo

7. Efficiency - Is it thermally efficient? 

A quality tubular daylighting system can offer excellent thermal efficiency – often better than traditional, double-glazed windows. Look for a system with a double-glazed ceiling diffuser to prevent your precious heated (or cooled) air escaping up the tube into the roof void. Flashing insulators or insulated flashings are a significant help too in maintaining thermal efficiency. We offer an enhancement kit for our tubular daylighting systems that gives u-values as low as 0.5 W/m²K. 
Solatube Daylighting System thermal efficiency diagram
04 November 2016 
 
Transforming your home with daylight 
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