I can see a train a comin’ (Sun Tunnels)


My husband and I have been very busy with the renovation of our kitchen.   It has been a long and exhausting process, but in the end, we gave each other a high five in a moment of satisfaction for a job well done and in appreciation for how beautifully it turned out.  Now, all we had left on our list of things to do was add some daylight to our kitchen.

We built our house 18 years ago.  It is a one story home with many, many windows.  In the beginning, this house was flooded with light. Since we were living in Texas, which is known for its long hot summers, we decided to put up some plantation shutters to help us control the light and the heat.  We loved the look of our new white shutters though out our home.  They were a big ticket item, but we loved the clean look they gave to the house and how they allowed us to dim the light on very hot sunny days.  We also added solar screens to help cut the passing of heat and light through the windows in the very hot Austin, Texas summers.  As the years passed, we did a lot of planting around our house and without us realizing it, our light slowly but surely began to vanish in the shade of the many trees and shrubs we had originally set in place for the sake of privacy.  Once the plantings were mature, we took off our solar screens to bring a bit more light back into the house once again.

So,  now here we were, standing in our new kitchen admiring our beautiful new mahogany stained cabinets when we suddenly realized, with a sinking feeling, that their depth of color had sucked up the minute amount of remaining light that previously lit that space. We knew then that we needed to figure out how to bring more light in to our living space.  We did a lot of research on sky lights versus sky tunnels/tubes, and while cost was a factor in our decision, we found that we liked the idea of something small and round in the ceiling emitting light, versus a large skylight that would require a lot of construction.  We walked around our house and determined that we could use three sun tunnels.  We decided we wanted one in the kitchen and one in the family room which actually pairs with the kitchen to form one large room.  We also decided to put one in our large living room space which was often dark despite the 6 large western facing windows.  The afternoons were always awash with light, but not the rest of the day.

I never go into something like this without doing my research so I read as many articles as I could find comparing sun tunnels with sun tubes and the bulk of the articles were written by exuberant people who were loving the light that was brought into their home from these little round orbs in the ceiling.  I also watched as many videos as I could find, and here too,  video after video gave highly rated reviews along with pictures of before and after shots.  I didn’t pay much attention to the very few reviews where people complained about the “blue” light that came into their home, nor the comments about how exceptionally bright these little lights were, with a wattage equal to 100 to 200 watts of light depending on the time of day.  I read these comments, but they were in the minority, so I chalked it up to human nature.  No matter what the product is, there will always be someone who doesn’t think it is deserving of high praise.

So, we waited in excited anticipation of what was to come.  Our installer showed up at 9 a.m. and we decided to have him do the living room first because it is a large room and we felt it would give us the best indication of what to expect in the smaller rooms.  The sky tube light was going dead center of the long ceiling between two fans on either side of the ceiling. It was the perfect place.  So it was measured to be exactly situated in the center of the room, and off he went to the attic to find the same spot on the roof.

Fast forward and a 14″ hole is cut in the middle of the ceiling of our formal living room.  Eureka!  The light came in and it was so lovely, I almost heard angels singing!  Oh yes!  We were gonna be loving this!.  Until……..he connected the very shiny tube to the opening and added the light diffuser cover.  That tubing increases the intensity of the light in a way that made our living room look like it was in the middle of an airport.  maxresdefaultThe light fixture that we chose was a small decorative dome and it was lit up with a VERY bright WHITE light, almost as if it had 300 watts going on.  It was already this bright and this was morning….in a western exposure room.  We couldn’t even imagine what it would be like in the afternoon. We immediately asked him to change the dome out for the flat glass that hugs the ceiling and when he switched it out, it reduced the light somewhat because the light wasn’t projecting from a protruding glass fixture in all directions.  But, it was still BRIGHT and no real way of changing our minds.  We had two more fixtures to go.  Panic was setting in.  We then asked about the colored light dimming film we had read about and he took out what looked to be a piece of yellow cellophane and set it on top of the flat plastic disc which calmed the light down a teensy weensy bit.  Despite this, we both had the deer in the headlight look…..Figuratively speaking!  But for real!

So, now we moved on to the kitchen and family room and installed two more.  We should have told him to give us time to adjust to the living room before we put all three in, but this guy is a wonderful person who owns his own business, does his own work, and who would have to eat the cost of the lights until he sold them to someone else.  In hindsight, we should have waited because these lights are selling like hotcakes at a pancake breakfast and he could have simply used them on his next order.

After living in a relatively dark house for all these years, we now felt like we were sitting in a highly lit public library.  Oh my goodness!  What have we done?  It is not like we can go back and patch up the holes on the roof and the ceiling and return the product.  No siree, Bob!  These little orbs our now a part of our life for better or worse.

After he left, I spent time on the internet ordering colored light correcting filters from a theatrical outlet.  I read some reviews on how these seemed to tame down the harsh bright light that came pouring down the highly reflective tube similar to the headlight of a train piercing the darkness.

I also remembered as I was tossing and turning throughout the night that I had some uva protective decorative window film left over from a project I had done on one side of our house to give us privacy. This seemed to be a very viable solution because it does cut the intensity of the light.  If I were to add to this, the right combination of theatrical film, we may end up with a product we love in our home.

I did have some of this theatrical film on hand when the installer was here and I was busy cutting little round circles to fit above the ceiling fixture.  They weren’t perfect, but offered much promise to the end result we wanted to achieve.  Our installer was aghast that we were already dimming the light and said he had another client who had done something similar and he just couldn’t see the point  of installing these sun tunnels to bring in light only to dim it afterwards.  This added to my already rampant anxiety because I began to doubt myself about what I wanted to achieve.

Lets face it!  People dim the light in their homes all the time to achieve what it is that is comfortable to them. Walls of windows are put into a house for the view and light only to end up with solar film applied or decorative shades installed that go up and down depending on time of day.  Homeowners put in shutters like I did to achieve privacy and a softened look to a room. People put in curtains and drapes and blinds.  Why, then, is it such a crime to dim the light from a sun tunnel that emits the equivalent of 100 -150watts of light?

Our goal was to remove the dark center of our house.  We have done that.  We are basically happy with the placement of our sun tunnels which look like 14 inch recessed lights.  The rooms have been transformed from a dark cave like appearance to rooms that are now flooded with light.  We only have to modify this light to something we are comfortable with and I am certain we will be completely happy with the end result.  We are already on our way to achieving this end.

Moral of this story?  There is always a solution to most problems.  This light has transformed our home.  It may not be exactly what we had envisioned when we ordered them, but it will be exactly what we want by the time we are done.  If you love your sun tunnel as it is when it is installed, then great!  We are happy for you.  If you are freaked out like we were, do not despair.  Check out Roscoe theatrical films (ivory, amber, pink) and static cling window films and keep combining until you get the look you want.  Be creative and be happy.  Light is still better than dark any day!











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