Solar Skylight Alternatives
Solar skylights are a new category of lighting technology that's getting sunlight-reactive light into areas that were not previously possible with traditional skylights. Instead of cutting a hole through your roof, insulation and ceiling to install a shaft to bring daylight into gloomy areas of your home, office or factory you can now install a small solar panel on the roof, run a simple low voltage electrical cable into the roof cavity to any area that needs extra light and install an LED light fitting into the ceiling. Light levels adjust as the levels of sunlight vary outside, connecting the interior with outside conditions and providing mains-power free lighting for areas without access to natural light.
Apart from the advantages of lower cost and the possibility of DIY installation, solar skylights preserve the thermal performance of your home by keeping your insulation intact and not adding a major source of heat gain in Summer and heat loss in Winter. They also give you the option of adding a skylight to areas that were previously impossible, such as downstairs rooms or other areas with no roof access directly above. The LED light panels can be positioned almost anywhere, not being limited by roof structure and other impediments. There are surface mount light fittings available if you don't want the flush-mounted look or don't want to cut into your ceiling lining (e.g. if you have a timber ceiling or old plaster and lathe.
Another advantage of solar skylighting systems compared to traditional skylights is that the LED panels are sealed units, so no chance for insects, dirt or other debris to collect inside and look unsightly. Because there is no direct connection to the roof above there is no chance of water leaks developing or draughts leaking air.
There is also the option of adding a mains power kit so your skylight can run at full brightness on heavily overcast days and at night, meaning you can replace your main light fitting with a solar powered skylight.
ADVANTAGES OF SOLAR SKYLIGHTS OVER TRADITIONAL SKYLIGHTS
- No more large unsightly holes cut into the roof which can compromise the integrity
- No security risk of intruders entering via the skylight shaft
- Installation costs are greatly reduced
- Increases the efficiency of the home with no heat gain in summer or heat losses in winter.
- Positioning of light fitting on the ceiling is not restricted due to framing structures, pipes etc.
- No need to have a skylight and a mains ele light in the same room, a solar skylight can do the job of both when used with an optional Day/Night kit.
At the EnviroShop we sell two brands of solar skylights, the Illume range and the Redi-Light range. Both are excellent quality, good value for money and work on the same principles, but they are sold a bit differently.
Illume Solar Skylights
Illume solar skylights come as kits which include everything you need, including the LED panel, a suitably sized solar panel, mounting kit and at least 9m of cable to run from the solar panel to the light fitting. The light output level depends on the size of the LED panel and there's a wide range of panels available, from tiny 180mm round LED panels ideal for toilets or small store rooms up to huge 600mm x 1200mm panels that are perfect for installing in false ceiling grids in offices. There are options such as surface mount kits and the choice of white or silver surrounds in many of the sizes and there are two basic ranges, the retail packs and the trade packs. The retail packs are designed to be used as-is, giving a simple all-in-one option that you can simply buy and install and enjoy. The trade packs can also be used in this way but they have the option to add a night-operation mains power kit, extend cable lengths and generally customise a bit more. All of the Illume range of light fittings are cool white light, which is most like a traditional skylight and matching daylight, perfect for bright, clear lighting in task areas.
Redi-Light Solar Skylight
The REDI-Light range is a bit more complex but a bit more versatile. It is sold as a range of parts, with several styles of light fittings including surface mount oysters, large and small flush fitting downlights in round and square profiles. They are a very high light density, with standard large fittings consuming up to 24W and producing more than 2500 lumens of light. The LED fittings are available in warm white and cool white, so you can have a clear, bright cool white for task areas and daylighting simulation or a warm white if you would like to also use them for general room lighting at night with a night operation kit added.
The REDI-Light system has four sizes of solar panel, designed to run from a single 24W light all the way up to eight lights from the one panel. You can buy splitters, extra cable etc to custom design a system that can light multiple rooms or one big space, all from the one solar panel.
Which system should I choose?
Both the Illume and Redi-Light systems are excellent quality. When you compare apples to apples for light output etc the costs are similar, but the Illume range has much smaller and lower priced models starting from just over $200 while the REDI-Light range can go much larger and more complex, with the smallest systems starting around $600.