Sunday, 4 October 2015

Two Tubelights Twinkling

SO I spent the last few weeks working evenings and weekends to put a new roof on the house. And a new roof meant I FINALLY got to install Solar Tubes to light up the dining room, which has been decidedly gloomy since we moved in. This has been on my to-do list since, well, forever.

Mind the mess, focus on the lights. In the ceiling.

The cool thing about solar tubes is that they take a gloomy room (like our dining room) and bring in natural light from outside un-gloomify it. You'll find these things marketed as suntunnels, Solar tubes, tube lights, etc. all over the place. We paid around (GASP!) $350 per light for ours at Home Depot. The install isn't especially difficult, and tool-wise you only really need a jigsaw and a screwdriver. Some basic roofing tools don't hurt, and you should understand how to install a roof vent since the technique is about the same.

So here we go...

For the first step, determine the spot where the tube lights go. Pick a spot and put an exploratory hole in the ceiling. This hole should be small enough that you can hide it with a dab of caulk. Now get a rod-like object (Piece of dowel, coathanger, wire) and poke it up through the hole and into the attic above.

In the attic, measure 11" around the hole to make a circle. See if there is anything you will hit if you cut out a circle that big. You may find wires, framing members, or pipes up there. If you do, you will have to adjust the location of your hole or relocate pipes and wires (which sucks). Luckily, all I had around my hole was insulation, which I just cut away.

Now that you know where the centre of your hole will be, take a plumb bob and suspend it from the underside of the roof deck. When the bob hangs right over the centre of your circle, drive a nail or screw up through the roof deck above. This will mark your lights location outside.

Once you have things marked out, have your wife stand in the room below holding up a vacuum, and with a drywall saw, cut out the circle in the ceiling. With luck, the vacuum will suck up most of the drywall dust before it makes a mess. As the dude in the attic, you will enjoy the fresh air that arrives once the hole is cut out.

Sadly I have no pics of these steps since time spent in the ceiling is uncomfortable and not conducive to photography. Sorry.

Now its time to go up on the roof...

Since I was re-roofing, I took all the shingles off the roof until I had a clear roof deck. You don't have to do this to install these lights, but it is probably easier to do the install without working around old roofing. Dunno.

I marked the nails with a blob of white paint so they'd be easy to spot. Then I laid out the cuts for the shrouds that go on the roof. The cutouts are an arc top and bottom, with straight sides spaced at 14". In order to be safe, I cut out a small section of the markup. This means I could work on the roof without worrying about falling through the open hole, but I would remember when to stop roofing to install the lights.

Once I reached the holes, I got out my trusty jigsaw and cut out the rest of the hole. With that done, I shingled up to about half way over the hole. With the hole cut out, I smeared the back of the flange in roofing tar, and placed the hood over the hole, then tested how the next row of shingles would align.

 ... And checked the alignment of the hood to the light below...

With everything lined up, I went ahead and installed the screws to hold it all in place. The tar gooed out of the edges and through the screw holes making a nice seal.

With the hood in place, I got out the tubes.  The tubes come in three sections, but I found that we didn't need the lower piece. Careful measurement is needed to set the tubes to just the right length. Peel away th eprotective coating on the inside and admire the shiny reflective surface, then put them through the attic.

The pieces are slid together, and tape goes over the joints. Our length of need was 37". Since the tape is all you have to hold things together, and to insulate the whole thing, use it with vigour. Finally slide the tubes into the shrouds from above, screw the lids on, and voila! Suntunnels!

We have a mess to clean up - roofing is messy work.

With the lights in, the dining room is notably brighter. At breakfast this morning we were noticing the difference and overall we are pleased with the results of this. Hopefully this will reduce the daytime electric use, although I imagine it will take a long time to recoup the cost of these tunnels. We'll have to see how they fare over time.

They are definitely a good thing though, the natural light is a nice thing that back room!

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