Monday, February 28, 2011

Construction: Skylights and Light Tubes

Due to their thick walls and need to limit the number of windows on the north, east, and west walls, interior lighting inside straw bale buildings may be a challenge. Electric lighting should most certainly be minimized during daylight hours to conserve energy, so what are the options?

Traditional skylights are often used to let light into a structure, yet excessive use of skylights can sabotage efforts to effectively insulate the roof. That said, skylights that can be opened could be very useful in the bathrooms and laundry room since they would not only let in light, but also provide the means for releasing moisture and steam generated by hot showers and washing machines.

A better solution for bringing light into straw bale building would be to use strategically placed solar light tubes, which have a tiny footprint and are essentially metal tubes with mirror surfaces on the inside that first concentrate and then redirect sunlight into a building's interior. There are many companies manufacturing these simple yet highly effective devices, such as the Tru Light company in Colorado:


People in the third world has been using simple light tubes that they make themselves from plastic bottles, as shown in this video from Brazil:


While these ingenious homemade devices would be impractical for larger buildings constructed at Valhalla, they may be invaluable for providing light inside the mini-cabins, sheds, and other small buildings. As an example, here's a man who lights the interior of his chicken coop with bottles:


Note that while he added a little bleach to the water inside the bottle, it might be wise to add a quantity of rubbing alcohol instead to prevent freezing in the winter.

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