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Sunlit Home: Manufactured or DIY Natural Light?

What’s the greenest (and cheapest) way to light up a room? You guessed it, sunlight. My relationship with solar lighting goes back to the days of living in a passive solar house. Talk about listening to your home. That house spoke in a loud and clear, energy-efficient voice that said, “Feed me sunlight!”

My current home has only one room that receives no benefit from natural light. Some of the rooms have skylights (some that leak) and other rooms have energy efficient windows that let in natural light. The newly renovated bathroom has no windows or skylights. After reading, The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit, by Stephen and Rebekah Hren, we’ve been toying with the idea of installing a Solatube Daylighting System to tunnel in daylight to that small space.

The Carbon Free Home explains, “Increasing the natural daylight in your home is something to take into consideration if you find you need to turn lights on during the daytime. Sunlight pipes (also called tubular daylighting devices) are low-tech devices that work wonders in dark hallways or bathrooms that have an accessible roof to penetrate. Be careful: every time you make a hole in the roof there is a chance for water penetration and damage. Solar tubes must be carefully installed and the flashing and caulking checked regularly.

Skylights require a large hole in a roof. Besides that potential for water infiltration, skylights can allow substantial heat loss in winter and often times direct solar gain in summer. Skylighting in new homes is simply bad design. For retrofits, solar tubes are much cheaper and easier to install than skylights (no heading off roof or ceiling joists) and much less of an energy liability.”

I almost stopped my search for natural lighting solutions when I stumbled upon these DIY Sun Tube Bottle Skylight upcycled from soda bottles. Take a look at this youtube video:

 

Here’s the low-down on my concerns about aesthetics, installation, cost and leaking problems.

Aesthetics
Both are cool to look at and seem to give off a hue of natural light.
Solatube is clean looking.
The DIY Sun Tube Bottle Skylight is uniquely beautiful.

Installation
Solatube – claims to install in two hours and is leak-proof
DIY Sun Tube Bottle Skylight – looks like hours (not counting the consuming of sugary soda)

Cost
Solatube – costs between $300 – $400
DIY Sun Tube Bottle Skylight – cheap, cheap, cheap

Leakage
Solatube – claims they do not leak
DIY Sun Tube Bottle Skylight – the jury is out

Share your thoughts about whether or not you think the DIY Sun Tube Bottle Skylight system is a viable solution. Has anyone tried to create skylights from soda bottles or installed one of the solar tubular devices? Do either leak?

Whether homeowners choose a manufactured product such as Solatube or embark on a DIY project such as the Sun Tube Bottle Skylight, the possibility of significantly reducing energy costs and illuminating a room is a win-win.

The photo credit: Image courtesy of Chelsea Green Publishing

Read more: Blogs, EcoNesting DIY, , , , , , ,

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Ronnie Citron-Fink

Ronnie Citron-Fink is a writer, editor and educator. She has written hundreds of articles about sustainable living, the environment, design, and family life for websites, books and magazines. Ronnie is the creator of Econesting, and the managing editor of Moms Clean Air Force. Ronnie was named one of the Top Ten Living Green Experts by Yahoo. Ronnie lives in New York with her family.

5 comments

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11:53PM PDT on Sep 5, 2010

My only problem would be putting the holes in my roof to put the bottles....and In canada you'd think that the weight of snow and rain would cause problems...

Water Damage Restoration

3:23PM PDT on Apr 16, 2009

I live in an apartment so there's only three rooms (living/dining/kitchen, bedroom and one bathroom) All of which have windows. I just open them during the day. It's cut down on my electric bill significantly.

11:12AM PDT on Apr 16, 2009

Down here in SoCal, it's not rain, but wind I'd be concerned with, but perhaps a clear plexi covering across it would control that.

11:12AM PDT on Apr 16, 2009

Down here in SoCal, it's not rain, but wind I'd be concerned with, but perhaps a clear plexi covering across it would control that.

10:17AM PDT on Apr 16, 2009

That seems really cool. My only problem would be putting the holes in my roof to put the bottles....and In canada you'd think that the weight of snow and rain would cause problems...

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