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Building With Natural Light: The Power of Solar Tubes and Skylights


Introduction to Natural Light in Architectural Design

Natural light has been revered in architecture for centuries. It plays a pivotal role in creating spaces that are both energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing.

More recently, technological advancements have enabled more precise control and manipulation of natural light, unlocking unprecedented possibilities in architectural design. At Shear Architectural Design, we are experts in harnessing the power of natural light, using innovative methods like solar tubes and skylights.

Whether you’re interested in a new build house, a house extension, or renovations and conversions, we can help illuminate your project.

What is a Solar Tube?

Often referred to as light tube skylights, tubular solar lights, or sun tube skylights, a solar tube is a device that captures sunlight at the roof and uses highly reflective material to concentrate the light and transmit it to a desired location in a building. This creates a natural light solar tube that delivers abundant daylight into rooms that would otherwise lack windows or other sources of natural light.

Solar Tubes vs Skylights: The Showdown

A common question that arises when planning to increase the natural light in a home is: “Are solar tubes better than skylights?” To answer this, it’s crucial to understand the key differences between the two.

Skylights are essentially windows installed in the roof, allowing a direct view of the sky above. They can transform a space by flooding it with natural light and offering a glimpse of the open sky. However, skylights can be tricky to install, especially in houses with complex roof structures or tight attic spaces.

On the other hand, solar tubes, or sun tube lights, offer a more flexible solution. The compact and flexible design of a solar tube light allows it to be installed in virtually any part of a building, regardless of roof access. This makes them a popular choice for loft conversions and garage conversions.

The best solar tubes can deliver sunlight even to the most hard-to-reach corners of a building, effectively acting as a sun tube skylight. However, unlike skylights, they don’t provide a view of the sky. In many cases, solar tubes are preferred over skylights due to their superior energy efficiency, lower installation cost, and lesser impact on a building’s thermal performance.

Planning Permission and Building Regulations

So, do you need planning permission for sun tunnels? This is another common query we receive. Generally, sun tunnels or solar tubes are considered ‘permitted development’ in the UK, which means they do not usually require planning permission. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with our team to ensure your project complies with building regulations.


Operational Aspects of Solar Tubes

This section focuses on the operational aspects of solar tubes, discussing their performance and functionality:

Solar Tubes and Roof Leaks

One of the key concerns of homeowners considering installing solar tubes is, “Do solar tubes cause roof leaks?” Rest assured, when installed correctly by a skilled installer, a solar tube will not cause roof leaks. The installation process includes proper waterproofing measures to ensure no water infiltrates your home through the roof.

Solar Tubes: Light and Heat

One might ask, “Do solar tubes make a room hotter?” Solar tubes are designed to illuminate your space with natural light without significantly impacting the room’s temperature. That’s because most solar tubes feature a built-in diffuser that spreads the light evenly while mitigating heat transfer.

Some of the best solar tube skylights even come equipped with special filters that block UV and infrared radiation, ensuring that they bring in light but not the heat. This makes them an excellent choice for projects focused on keeping cool.

Managing Condensation in Solar Tubes

“Do solar tubes cause condensation?” is another common question we encounter. Condensation can indeed occur in solar tubes, but most quality solar tube systems come with features to mitigate this issue. Proper insulation and ventilation can help minimise the risk of condensation, keeping your solar tube functioning optimally.

The Performance of Solar Tubes in Cloudy Weather

“How well do solar tubes work on cloudy days?” Despite their reliance on sunlight, solar tubes can indeed function in overcast conditions. They won’t deliver as much light as they would on a bright, sunny day, but they can still outperform traditional electric lighting in terms of energy efficiency and light quality.

Solar Tubes vs Solar Panels

An interesting point of comparison is between solar tubes and solar panels. The question often arises, “Are solar tubes better than solar panels?” While both utilise the sun’s energy, they serve different purposes. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, whereas solar tubes guide sunlight directly into your home for illumination. One is not necessarily “better” than the other—they are complementary technologies that can be integrated into a comprehensive, sustainable home design.


Best Practices and Strategic Placement of Solar Tubes

Having unraveled the operational aspects of solar tubes in our previous section, we now shift our focus to the strategic placement of solar tubes, understanding the best solar tube systems and concluding our exploration into the realm of natural light architecture.

Where is the Best Place to Put Solar Tubes?

Placement plays a crucial role in maximising the effectiveness of solar tubes. The best place to put solar tubes largely depends on the layout and orientation of your home. Generally, installing solar tubes on south-facing roofs optimises sunlight capture, as the sun is in the southern part of the sky for most of the day in the UK.

However, every home is unique, and optimal solar tube placement can vary.

Types and Best Solar Tube Systems

There are numerous types of solar tubes available, each with its own strengths. Some solar tubes feature adjustable elbows for easy installation, while others come with ventilation features, effectively acting as a vented solar tube. Some even include integrated LED lights to supplement natural light when necessary.

When it comes to choosing the best solar tube skylight, consider factors like your home’s design, your light requirements, and your budget. Shear Architectural Design is on hand to guide you through the selection process and install the best solar tubes for your specific needs.

Conclusion: Embrace Natural Light with Solar Tubes

Solar tubes represent a practical, cost-effective solution for bringing natural light into your home. By incorporating them into your architectural designs, you can create a more sustainable, energy-efficient, and aesthetically pleasing living space. For those looking to embark on the journey of building with natural light, Shear Architectural Design is your trusted partner.

If you’re interested in more information about integrating natural light into your architectural projects, here are some additional articles that you might find helpful:

  1. Clearing Up the Confusion: Planning Permission for Installing Windows in UK Flats Explained
  2. Green Roofs: Combining Sustainability and Aesthetics in Home Design
  3. Increase the Light in Your New Home Design with Shear Architectural Design
  4. The Impact of Biophilic Design on Health and Well-being in Modern Homes
  5. Lofty Ambitions: Velux to Mansard, Discover Your Ultimate Loft Conversion Style


As always, thanks for reading!

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is intended to provide a general understanding of the subject matter. It is not intended to provide specific advice for any specific circumstances. Always consult with a professional before starting any construction work.

About Shear Architectural Design

Shear Architectural Design is an award winning Architectural Design firm based in Sussex, specialising in residential and commercial projects. Our experienced team is dedicated to creating innovative, sustainable, and functional spaces that meet the unique needs of our clients.

With a focus on collaboration and customer satisfaction, we work closely with you to bring your vision to life, from the initial concept to the final construction. To learn more about our services or to discuss your project, please contact us today.

Working with an Architectural Designer can help you to achieve your goals and ensure that your project is a success. Shear Architectural Design is a reliable and experienced company that can help you with your home renovation, building project or garden project, in Sussex.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us today. Our experts are ready to guide you through the entire process, from design and planning to construction and completion.


As part of our comprehensive approach, we offer services to design a house plan tailored to your unique requirements.

Our Architectural Design process involves the creation of detailed Architectural Design drawings, which meticulously capture every aspect of your dream home.

We also navigate the complexities of Building Regulation plans, ensuring that our designs adhere to both building regulations and planning permission guidelines.

By incorporating innovative Architectural ideas and working closely with you to draw a house design that reflects your vision, we strive to make the planning and design process as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Our commitment to excellence ensures that you receive a bespoke, high-quality living space that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations.


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Our Services

At Shear Architectural Design, we offer a range of services to help you bring your vision to life:

Related Services:

  • Architectural Design Consultation
  • Planning Applications & Appeals
  • Permitted Development Advice
  • 3D Visualisation
  • Building Regulations Applications


We assist with gaining planning permission and building regulations, ensuring that your project meets all necessary requirements.

Contact us today, on 01273 740642 to learn more about how we can help you create the home of your dreams!

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