Let There Be Light (Bringing Natural Light Into Your Home With Tubular Skylights)

In an earlier post, I wrote about some of the things we want to change about our new house. One of them is poor lighting due to the many shade trees we have growing around our house. Our back hallway, back bathroom and kitchen had particularly poor day time lighting, which necessitated flipping the light switches on during the day.  This adds to electricity costs and was just annoying.  Here are  pictures of two of the areas in question. As you can see, with the flash of my camera turned off, it is very dark. Not ideal at all.

The Solution

We originally considered putting a sky light in the back hall, but sky lights are costly, have the potential to leak, let in UV rays and we were not sure we even had the necessary roof access to do it.  Then, I got an email from Costco advertising a particular brand of tubular skylight that they sell.  A  tubular skylight is basically a flexible or rigid tube that runs from the ceiling of the area in question through the attic to the roof. Due to the highly reflective walls of the tube, sunlight makes its way in like magic and presto- natural lighting at a fraction of the cost of a skylight.

My husband and I both did a little research and found that there are three main types of solar tubes available- ODL (carried by Home Depot), Sun Tunnels (Velux) and Solatube. All three can be installed by commercial installers or as a DIY project utilizing their video installation guides. We did not hear good things about the ODLs. Some complaints were less light reflectivity (listed as 95%) that was especially disappointing in the winter, giving off light with a bluish tint, frost/condensation on the diffuser and composite rather than metal flashings.  We crossed them off our list and considered the other two- Velux vs. Solatube. We had two local companies come to give us estimates.

The Velux guy said stay away from Solatubes. They are more expensive and they do not filter out enough UV light. The Solatube guy said stay away from Velux. They are less reflective and have flexible tubing, which is less effective and may even be a fire hazard.  The pricing turned out to be fairly similar in our case (many say the Solatube is significantly more expensive, it just was not our experience). I think one company’s bid was a little higher for the kitchen tube and the other was a little higher for the tubes for the hallway/bath.

So we did a little more research. From what I read, Solatube is slightly more reflective, 99.7% vs 98% for Velux. One site even claimed that the Solatube performs 6x better than the Velux Sun Tunnel on an overcast day. I am not sure if that was a scientific study or just here say.  Even the Velux rep did not recommend their flexible tubing. He said he only recommended rigid tubes, which was A-ok with us. Some folks said that the Solatube only came with one kind of flashing and that if you had a pitched roof, you may want to go with Velux so you don’t have an unsightly dome on your roof.  We found that there were several options for the flashing with our Solatube dealer (pitch, no pitch, universal tile for either pitch or curb mount) and I think all the flashings are a little bit unsightly, so that didn’t weigh in much with us. In the end, we were swayed by the fact that Solatube has been around forever. They seem to be the original innovators of this technology. They also offered more design options than Velux. You can choose from several designs for the diffuser or fixture. You can also opt to go with a softening lens or a warm lens if you are worried about the light being too blue or cold.  If you do not need 100% of the light, 100% of the time, you can add on a daylight dimmer. I can see this being a plus in a bedroom if there is a need for daytime napping. Velux does have a light controlling chandelier, which is pretty cool.

Here are some pictures during the install. We elected not to DIY mainly because the attic is outrageously hot during the summer and it did not seem like fun at all.  Also, I was more than a little nervous about us cutting a hole in our roof.  Maybe next time.

I will let you be the judge of our results. I think it is rather remarkable.

For more information:

Solatube Official Website 

SolarTex (our Solatube dealer)

Velux Official Website

Pros and Cons Velux vs. Solatube 

Jacob’s Veggie Tale Backyard Birthday Bash

Veggie Tale Crew

Juliette and I recently had the pleasure of attending her cousin Jacob’s first birthday party.  This entailed several plane rides, sleeping in the dreaded pack ‘n play and being away from Daddy for a week. Fortunately, the chance to follow around her baby cousin and smother him with hugs and kisses made it all worthwhile for Juliette.

Jacob is a huge fan of Veggie Tales. For those of you who are not familiar with the program, it is a children’s cartoon starring Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber and a host of other anthropomorphic vegetables including peas (French ones, at that), asparagus, carrots and even a family of gourds. Each episode features a moral Christian theme and, more often than not, a parody of a popular movie or TV show- Lord of the Beans is one example that comes to mind.

Jacob’s bday theme was first announced in this adorable invitation designed by my little sister Holly and featuring Jacob splashing around in his Veggie Tales pool.  Juliette gave the invitation her own stamp of approval by carrying it around for weeks.

For Jacob’s party, the main characters- in this case the birthday boy, Mom, Dad and the grandparents- dressed in official Veggie Tale attire pictured above and available here. The party colors were- you guessed it- cucumber green and tomato red. They were repeated in everything from the table cloths to banners and balloons.

The table decor, including plates, cups and napkins featured the Veggie Tale characters and are also available in The Veggie Tales web store.  The balloons were anchored by a clever centerpiece comprised of a Veggie Tales pail stuffed with tissue paper and baby goldfish to snack on. What little kid does not love goldfish? My Juliette was all over that. 

Later, Jacob enjoyed his Veggie Tales cake. Costco makes the best creme filled cakes ever, but due to copyrighting laws they could not draw the Veggie Tales characters on it. This was fixed by adding some Veggie Tales candles and Jacob was elated (doesn’t he look it?)

Holly spend a lot of time finding age appropriate goodies for each of the youngsters attending the party. These included Veggie Tales crayons, fruit snack, mardi gras beads, bath toys and stickers. These were placed in a lunch bag with a thank you sticker she made herself.

Juliette, being nearly 2, seemed to enjoy Jacob’s party even more than she enjoyed her own.

And Jacob’s Mom and Dad were exhausted from all the preparations but oh so happy to celebrate their Little Man’s first of many years. And we were happy to be there to celebrate with them!