Sun Tunnels: Are They Right For Your Home?
Last Updated on October 3, 2022
What are sun tunnels? And are they right for you? Sun tunnels are a phenomenal way to bring lots of natural light into a room and are far more affordable than skylights. I'm sharing our personal experience with Velux Sun Tunnels and answering common questions about them!
A huge thank you to Velux for partnering with us on this project. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. I don't partner with companies or share products that I don't genuinely recommend and love.
We recently finished giving our staircase and upstairs hallway a complete makeover by installing board and batten, installing a stair runner, updating our stair railing and painting pretty much everything. But by far the most transformative part of the renovation was the installation of four Velux Sun Tunnels. It sounds dramatic, but they have completely transformed the way the upstairs of our house looks. More importantly, adding sun tunnels has completely changed the way we FEEL about the second floor of our home. Before I share why we chose to have Velux Sun Tunnels installed and show you what a huge difference they have made for us, let's cover some of the basics.
What are sun tunnels?
A sun tunnel (sometimes referred to as a tubular skylight) is a circular channel that directs sunlight from your roof down a highly reflective aluminum tunnel and into a room or space below. That means that areas of your home that don't otherwise have any natural light via windows, etc. can have light pouring into them!
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What is the difference between a sun tunnel and a skylight?
A skylight is kind of like a window that is mounted on your roof. A skylight lets in lots of natural light AND allows you to see blue sky. You also have options to open and close skylights as well as add remote-controlled blinds to them. Depending on how you have them installed, they can also add architectural interest to the ceiling of your home. We had Velux skylights installed in our old home and they were pure magic. I cannot tell you how much we loved them and they were a huge selling point when we listed our old house for sale. You can see the Velux skylights we had installed in our old primary bedroom below.
On the other hand, a sun tunnel uses an acrylic dome mounted to your roof to capture daylight, magnify it with reflective tubing, and send it down through the tube and ceiling of your home. They can fit into smaller spaces and maneuver around attic obstructions due to the flexible tunnels/ maneuverability of the material in a way that traditional skylights cannot. That makes sun tunnels far more versatile in terms of where they can be installed.
Sun tunnels let in loads of natural light, but they are very different than skylights. You cannot see blue sky through a sun tunnel. You cannot open/close them or install blinds in them. And they really don't add architectural interest to a space. But they are a phenomenal and cost-effective way to add natural light to dark, interior spaces in your home.
And the speed of installation of them is AWESOME! A sun tunnel can be installed within an afternoon, making it one of the fastest and most inexpensive ways to transform your home with natural light. We had FOUR sun tunnels installed over the course of 1 1/2 days.
How much does it cost to have a sun tunnel installed?
It depends a lot on the length of the reflective tubing you need and the exact type of sun tunnel you choose (low profile vs. flat glass, rigid vs. flexible sun tunnel tubing). But I think it's safe to say that you can generally expect to pay between $650-$2,150 per installed sun tunnel. This is FAR LESS than the cost of installed skylights especially if you want Velux skylights that open and close, have blinds, etc.
VELUX offers a virtual consultation service for free. You can meet with a daylight design consultant by phone or video conference to ask questions about skylights and discuss options for your home. You can also easily locate an installer if you are thinking Sun Tunnels are a good option for you!
Good news! Through the end of July you can enter to win two VELUX Sun Tunnel® Skylights + installation! Click HERE to enter the Velux Daylight to Night Light Sweepstakes.
Do sun tunnels leak?
When I first shared on Instagram that we planned to have sun tunnels installed, so many people expressed concerns about leaking! I think old skylights have a bad rap for leaking that still lingers in people's minds. We aren't concerned about leakage at all.
First, there is less of a risk of leaking with sun tunnels than skylights because their small, relatively flat dome allows water to drain around them. But even when we had skylights installed in our last home, we did not worry about leaks because Velux makes the “No Leak Skylights” that feature three layers of water protection. I will also say that proper installation is crucial. Even with the best Velux products, incorrect installation and sub-par contractors can cause leaks and other issues.
When VELUX Sun Tunnels are installed correctly, they have a weather-tight installation. During installation, the installer uses highly adhesive mastic to secure the flashing piece to the roof deck. The flashing piece is also screwed into place, and the screws and top portion of the flashing are covered with sealant. All-weather underlayment is installed over the top of the flashing to ensure proper drainage of rainwater. Finally, the installer will reinstall the roofing material over the flashing and around the Sun Tunnel. Use a VELUX-certified installer to ensure your Sun Tunnel is properly installed.
We had our sun tunnels (and the skylights in our old home) installed by VELUX Signature Skylight Specialist Natural Home Lite. If you are in North Carolina, I cannot more highly recommend them. They are a dream to work with and we 100% trust their expertise and installation.
Why we chose Velux Sun Tunnels for our current home.
I explain a lot in the video below and show videos of how absurdly dark our hallway was before we started our renovation–I recommend you watch it to get the full picture.
Given how much we loved the Velux skylights in our old home, we naturally wanted them again in our current home! So when I first reached out to Velux about our upstairs project, I asked about skylights. Unfortunately, they just weren't possible with the depth of the attic space we have here.
But I learned that sun tunnels would almost certainly work for the locations we needed them. So we set up an appointment forNatural Home Lite to come do a site visit. They looked around the attic and our home and determined that YES, we could install 2 14-inch sun tunnels in our hallway and 10-inch sun tunnels in our girls' bathrooms. I could not contain my excitement.
We did have some HOA limitations to work around. Our HOA rejected our initial plan that proposed 2 flat glass sun tunnels on our front roofline. ButNatural Home Lite was great and figured out a way to position all 4 sun tunnels on our rear roofline. Fortunately, our HOA approved the revised plan we submitted!
What our upstairs spaces looked like before our Velux Sun Tunnels were installed.
We purchased this home almost 2 years ago. And we nearly didn't make an offer on it because of how dark and cave-like so much of the second floor was. The upstairs hallway, which is large, didn't have a single window or natural light source. The only way the hallway received any natural light was to have the doors to the upstairs rooms open. But the fact is, the doors to our upstairs rooms are very often closed. With the doors closed, you could not see to walk down the hallway without a light on (you can see what I mean in the video I shared earlier in this post).
You can see below how dark the hallway was EVEN WITH the doors to the upstairs rooms open. Crazy.
Avery's bathroom and Attley's bathroom also completely lacked any direct sources of natural light. This is how they looked without any lights on. Bleh.
Hopefully you can see why we wanted to add some natural light to our upstairs hallway and bathrooms!
How much light do sun tunnels really let it?
As I mentioned above, we had all four Velux Sun Tunnels installed over the course of 1 1/2 days. It was painless to live through. Most of the first day the installers fromNatural Home Lite spent outside on the roof and in the attic. The second day is when they actually cut through the ceiling and finished everything. This is what it looked like after they had cut through the roof and ceiling but before they installed the reflective tunnel. So much natural light spilled through! This photo is straight out of my phone and is not edited.
But y'all… LOOK AT HOW MUCH BRIGHTER EVERYTHING GOT ONCE THE REFLECTIVE TUBES WERE ATTACHED. I was legitimately shocked by the amount of light flooding into our hallway. SHOCKED.This photo is also straight out of my phone and is not edited at all.
Before and after comparisons
Okay, I know you want to see how our upstairs hallway and bathrooms look with our Velux Sun Tunnels installed, so here you go! You can watch the transformations in the video below, but I also included lots of photos for you :)
I've included side-by-side shots of the hallway with the exact same camera settings so you can get a pure comparison. With the exact same shutter speed and aperture settings, the only difference in these photos is the fact that sun tunnels have been installed.
You can see that with the same camera settings the photos are way OVER EXPOSED after the sun tunnels were installed. The difference is incredible, isn't it?!
And here are some photos of the hallway with exposure, etc. adjusted to accommodate all the natural light that now floods into our hallway!
I shot the before and after photos ofAvery's bathroom and Attley's bathroom with my phone, which auto-adjusts everything. So it's not a “controlled comparison” like the photos of the hallway above. But it's still pretty easy to see how much brighter their bathrooms are with the sun tunnels installed.
We've had them installed for nearly a month now and I still think they have left the lights in their bathrooms on when I walk past them, lol. The fact is, we never even turn the lights in their bathrooms on during the day anymore. The 10-inch sun tunnels installed in their bathrooms provide more than enough light during the day!
Surprising perks of Velux Sun Tunnels
We were pleasantly surprised by a couple of things with our Velux Sun Tunnels. First of all, you can add a solar night light to each sun tunnel which is so cool (and makes the sun tunnel eligible for a “Solar Electric Property” Federal tax credit). The VELUX Solar Night Light captures available sunlight to charge its concealed battery, which then powers the night light’s LED bulbs after dark. And it fits inside your sun tunnel so you can't even see it. We have one in each of our sun tunnels and they provide a perfect soft glow at night so you can see without having to turn on a bright light.
The diffusers you can choose for your sun tunnels also give you some control over the appearance of your sun tunnels where they meet your ceiling and the temperature of the light that comes into your space. The daylight that the sun tunnels capture and reflect is quite cool (blueish). I thought the light felt a bit too cool for our home, so we added a neutral light diffuser to warm up the temperature of the light a bit. You can see a difference in the photo below. I'm still undecided about which I prefer, especially since the light changes quite a bit throughout the day as the angle of the sun shifts. It's totally a personal preference, but it's nice to have options!
Are sun tunnels right for you? Here's the bottom line.
If you have dark interior spaces that need natural light, you should absolutely consider sun tunnels. They are more budget-friendly than skylights and let in a tremendous amount of natural light and you can install them nearly anywhere because of their versatility. And the installation is much faster than having skylights installed. We could not be happier with our sun tunnels! They have completely changed the way we feel about the second-story of our home. It used to be dark and depressing and now it's so bright and happy!
If you are interested in Velux skylights and have the space and budget to have them installed, be sure to check out this post about the Velux skylights we had installed in our last house! We loved them so much (and still miss them).
Other posts you may enjoy:
- DIY Board and Batten Accent Wall
- How to Install a Stair Runner
- Stunning Board and Batten Wall Ideas
- Interior Trim Ideas that Aren't White
- 8 Interior Design Mistakes You Don’t Even Know You are Making (and How to Fix Them)
- How to Choose Paint Colors for Your Home: 6 Simple Tips to Follow
Wondering how I approach transforming rooms and spaces in our home? Check out Designer in a Binder®.
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Very nice post. We have a big place for meditation retreats with 3 or 4 very dark corridors and rooms in a 250 year old building. This post has clarified nicely what gains can be had from Velux sun tunnels. Very inspiring to see the real world before and after pictures with different camera settings.
I’m so glad you found it helpful! We love our Velux Sun Tunnels. They have TOTALLY transformed how we feel about the second story of our home. I hope you are able to find a way to use them in your meditation retreat!
The difference is incredible! I looked into this a little bit for our living room. It is so dark even on a sunny day. When it storms during the day you have to turn lights on. Nice job on the whole stair and hallway renovation.