Next to the invention of sliced bread, I can think of nothing that has made life easier for the homeowner than the invention of tubular daylighting devices. The concept is as old as the Egyptians, but it was Solatube International of Australia who patented and first marketed what we know today as TDD’s in 1986. Other manufacturers soon followed, with sizes ranging from 10 to 22 inches in diameter. Many have a mirror on the north side of the plastic bubble on the roof, to reflect maximum south sun down into the pipe, more sophisticated ones actually have tracking sensors that rotate the mirror to follow the sun throughout the day.
Prior to that , the only option for toplighting was a skylight, which by itself wasn’t much money, but add in the framing changes, insulation and drywall, and pretty soon you get up into the thousands, where a TDD can be installed for around $500-$700 in most homes.
They are perfect for stairways, hallways, laundry rooms, and bathrooms, like this inside bath in a remodel in a northern suburb of Denver by our firm with Reconstruction Experts, contractor, and Andrea Lawrence Wood, interior designer. Here , one strategically placed 10” Sun Tunnel (by Velux) fills the bath with daylight, and lessens the need to turn on a light during the day. It threads its way down through rooftrusses to deliver it’s light at the ceiling. One upgrade we insist on is insulation wrapping the tube, to avoid heat loss to the attic, or heat gain in the summer.
Tubular daylighting devices are easy to install and flash, small enough to work their way down through complicated roof framing, as they can be bent and run as much as 50 feet without losing effectiveness. Luckily, most attics are only going to require about 6 to 10 feet of run. The most common reaction of homeowners is “Wow!” The most common reaction of guests is “How do I turn that light off in the bathroom?” I consider TDD’s one of the most useful tools in my daylighting toolbox for any project.