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Why Most Light Pipes are Rubbish

Why most light pipes are rubbish – the truth of the matter.

Yes, that’s what we said. The truth of the matter is that vast majority of light pipes, solar tubes, light tunnels, or whatever you want to call them, deliver so little light that you’d probably have been better to have kept your money in your wallet. So much so that I’ve met many builders who actively recommend against fitting them.

If this is the case, why is it that thousands of people aren’t up in arms complaining? The reality is that most people who do invest in a sun tunnel have a never seen a system installed, and so don’t have a reference point to compare to. And even if they did, who do they complain to? Once the sun pipe system is installed there’s very little you can do about it. And if you actually take trouble to read all of the ‘small print’ you will see that none of the sales copy you will have read actually guarantees anything.

So how do we define ‘rubbish’?

Well if you were comparing similar priced tumble dryers and one drier was 20 times quicker then another, or one central-heating boiler was 20 times more efficient than another, or one make of battery lasted 20 times longer than another, it would be fair to say that such a difference would render the significantly poorer performer to be considered a waste of time. And yet, the best-selling sun tube system in the world, the Velux flexible sun tunnel, probably sells more units than all of the other manufacturers combined and yet is only 3.8% efficient – 20 times less light than a Solarspot D-38!


You can see how the uneven surface of the flexible tube will cause the daylight to scatter rather than deliver to the room below.

Lack of regulations or standards for solar tubes

This is because there is no regulation, or set of standards, that cover solar tube systems. Manufactures can virtually say anything they like. You will see ridiculously exaggerated claims for how many light bulbs it will be equivalent to or grandiose statements like ‘probably the best performing sun tunnel in the UK’ from a product like the Lightway Crystal 200 HP, which is frankly laughable. This is a statement from a company that avoids producing any meaningful data and completely avoids any evidentual comparison information. Why stop at ‘…in the UK’? why not ‘the world’, or even ‘the universe?’


Neighbours with identical bathrooms get very different results from their sun tunnels. On the left is the Solarspot D-25 delivering four times the light of the Solatube 160DS

On the other hand, Solatube say ‘…The Brightest Daylight System With Full Compliance to UK Building Regulations’ which, apart from being an appalling use of capital letters, is a completely meaningless statement as there are no UK regulations for sun tunnel systems.

Facts, not fantasies, about sun tunnels

If you do want some hard facts, about how much light you will get or how one system compares to another, you need to be able to see independent test results that are published by reputable institutions like the UK’s Building Research Establishment (BRE) or CSTB in France. That’s why all of the data that we publish at Solarspot is taken from these tests. Competitor systems are set up, side-by-side, and tested to see how much daylight they deliver compared to each other.

To quote one set of test results from BRE for systems with a diameter of 350mm – 380mm the Solarspot D-38 was nearly 70% brighter than the Solatube 290 DS and around  1800% (18 times) brighter than the Velux Flexible Sun Tunnel (tube lengths tested, 2.0 – 2.2m). It’s as a result of these tests that we can categorically guarantee that a Solarspot will give you more daylight than a Solatube, Velux Sun Tunnel, Lightway Crystal, SunPipe, Fakro or any other product in the UK, World or even Universe.


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