Not everyone in North America is familiar with solar tubes (also known as sun tunnels, sun pipes or light tubes), but luckily the name is self-explanatory: essentially a tube that reflects daylight into spaces that are otherwise dark interior spaces. As a company, we choose to only distribute materials and components appropriate for the most energy-optimized buildings. It will come as no surprise that Lightway is our solar tube of choice, because it’s the only option for those who prefer to have a thermal break (called the Blue Performance), preventing the solar tube from being a literal hole to the outside - which most solar tubes are. Beyond this unique distinction, we’re lining up 7 good reasons to choose Lightway to brighten up your day.
1. Bohemian crystal domes
When North Americans hear the term “Bohemian” the first word that pops to mind is probably “Rhapsody”. But Bohemia is a region of the present-day Czech Republic, that has been known for centuries in Europe for its high quality artisanal crystal glass production. It’s a major selling point in European markets, but flies right over the heads of those of us on this side of the Atlantic.
This matters because most solar tubes have a plastic dome up top. It’s a common durability issue among those who own them. Lightway crystal glass domes are more durable, longer-lasting, and stays “crystal clear” for decades. Domes made from plastic become foggy, discolored and yellow, dimming the ability to get full-spectrum light, and the surface will become scratched from dust particles spread during windy conditions - worsening every month. A dome made from crystal glass is a guard against aging caused by the sun and the build up the dust and scratches caused by air pollution and particulate matter blown in the wind.
2. Works with the space you have
Lighway’s kits are modular systems that work with any roof design or pitch, and that extend to reach any interior space needed. Need to get light deep into a basement? Not a problem. As long as you have an interior chase to run the tube, simply plan to include enough extension tubes and elbows to work your way down. Lightway’s tubes are very customizable. They come in three diameters to allow you to balance the tube size to the space and the need, and Lightway has extension tubes and 45 degree elbows that can be adjusted to angle from 0 to 90 degrees, allowing you to get the daylight right to the spot you want it.
3. Designed to catch the light
Light is easy to let in when it’s bright out, but the true test comes when it‘s overcast during winter or spring when daylight is craved the most. Solar tubes were originally developed for places known for their sunshine, like Australia and California. Because of this, many manufacturers used designs meant to capture the direct sun. Lightway is built and designed in the infamously grey areas of Eastern Europe, meaning they have made both material and design choices to help get the most out of the light that is available.
Dome-shaped glass is beneficial for a couple reasons: more access to angles of the sun (like a 360 eye, looking in all directions) and less chance of leaves, snow, water stains, and other things sticking to the outside ruining your light source. These domes catch 30% more of the available daylight than a flat glass surface, which reflects light and requires more frequent cleaning.
4. Avoids condensation
In order to reflect light effectively, the pipe needs to be metal. So as you can imagine, this pipe is a very good conductor - effectively like a heat chimney - for differing temperatures between the inside and outside of a building. So, imagine during the peak of summer when heat rises, and the AC is blasting, you can just see that tube beading up like a beer can at a BBQ. Water droplets start trickling down inside or even outside the tube. Now, not only is the ceiling wet, the roof construction is wet, and you may even see water droplets falling to the floor, meaning the risk of mold you’ve tried so hard to avoid with your smart vapor retarder, is now challenged.
By specifying a Blue Performance unit as the thermal break in your Lightway solar tube and installing it at the point of a building‘s thermal insulation, heat losses will be prevented and in addition to the energy benefits, condensation is avoided.
5.Highly reflective metal
As mentioned above, these tubes need to have an ideal reflective layer. One that is reflective for as much of the daylight spectrum as possible is preferred, so occupants get that happy Vitamin D glow.
It’s very common that solar tubes have a reflective surface made from aluminium. Although buffed aluminium is shiny in the light, it has a relatively low reflectivity and the ratio between reflecting different color rays of daylight is unbalanced.
Lightway produces the highest quality tube in the market, coated with a thin layer of real silver. Looking at the inside of a solar tube should be as bright and reflective as a mirror. While self-adhesive foil does offer some reflectivity it will nevertheless only allow 50% or less of possible daylight to find its way into a room during the grey winter months we talked about in reason #3.
6. It’s what inside that counts
If the light makes it all the way down the pipe, but then gets blocked by the interior light diffuser, you lost the use of the light tube. It’s a potential “last mile” problem. Similar to the reason for avoiding a plastic dome up top, it makes a difference to have a diffuser inside the room made from real glass. Plus, it just looks better on the interior: you don’t want plastic light fixture, so why would you want a plastic solar tube diffuser?
A plastic interior diffuser will work at first, but degrade pretty quickly after installation due to the effects of the sun and alternating temperatures. Ultimately, the plastic diffuser becomes a barrier against daylight and will negatively influence the color. Lightway’s real glass diffuser has great longevity, and provides true daylight. It helps spread light evenly around the room.
7. Stocked in the US
Last, but not least, they’re here and ready to ship. All of the basic kits and components you see on the product pages of this site are stocked in the warehouses, available to ship anywhere in North America. Unless you have a custom design in mind, you can order on your own now and get the order rolling immediately. If you have a question, you’ll have the support of the 475 team to make sure the order is what you need and you get your answers. The installation is simple and straight-foward, and the install guides found on the product page are clear and image-oriented.
Once you learn that Lightways are silver-lined tubes topped with Bohemian crystal domes, it begins to sound like a precious object. The great thing is, despite their superior construction, it is cost competitive many of the plastic models available today. Consider Lightway the next time designs call for a boost of daylight in an interior space, and check out one of our Lightway videos on our YouTube channel. Let there be light(way)!