11 Benefits Solar Tracking Skylights Provide for Businesses
By Jeff Brain | August 25, 2016
Solar tracking skylights are a recent sustainable daylighting solution being implemented by many of the best known companies around the world, which makes use of GPS technology and a mirror array to track the sun throughout the day and reflect sunlight downward into a building. These skylights provide buildings with superior lighting for longer hours and at higher levels than traditional skylights and provide a range of advantages over artificial lighting. The light quality and level from traditional skylights and tubular skylights is dependent on the angle of the sun as it moves throughout the day. Since a solar tracking system tracks the sun with mirrors and direct the sunlight down into the building, it eliminates this issue, providing light as though the sun is directly overhead throughout the day. Below are the top 11 benefits solar tracking systems offer your business.
1. Lower Lighting Costs
Because of their unique solar tracking design, solar tracking skylights provide light for longer hours than traditional skylights—up to 10+ hours per day. This allows businesses to turn off their electric lights which drastically reduces your business’ electricity consumption for lighting. Businesses which have installed them reported saving between 50 and 80% on their monthly lighting energy costs.
2. Boost Employee Productivity
Studies show people work better under the abundant natural light skylights can provide. The superior quality of light bolsters both focus and energy allowing employees to work more efficiently throughout the day. One case study showed that simply incorporating natural lighting instead of artificial could increase worker productivity by 6-16%, as much as $2,500 per employee.
3. Reduce Workplace Injuries
Diffused natural light helps increase visibility and improves our ability to detect edges and fine details. Particularly when working with heavy machinery, a high level of visibility is important for ensuring injuries do not occur. A study by Prince Street Technologies found that when they replaced their artificial lighting with industrial skylights, their yearly worker's compensation cases due to injury decreased by a factor of more than 20.
4. Promote Visual Health
Recent studies have linked excessive artificial light exposure to both myopia and macular degeneration. The flicker and glare that many bulbs create strains our eyes, damaging them over time. Natural light, in contrast is steady with minimal fluctuation, placing minimal strain on the eyes, and solar tracking systems are designed to bring healthy natural light indoors and improve indoor environments.
5. Provide Healthy Lighting for Employees and Customers
Daily exposure to natural, broad spectrum sunlight has been shown to boost our immune systems and aid in the prevention of a variety of ailments. Studies have been released showing the effectiveness of natural light in preventing multiple sclerosis, rickets, pre-diabetes, seasonal affective disorder, and some autoimmune diseases.
6. Maintain Circadian Rhythms
Overexposure to high-blue light, like that produced by many modern LEDs, has been shown to destabilize our circadian rhythms, contributing to schizophrenia. On the other hand, incorporating skylights into your facility will help expose employees to the bodies natural day-night light cycle. This helps to improve their sleep cycle and quality of sleep, while reducing stress and leading to more energy throughout the day.
7. Create a Pleasant Atmosphere
The diffused, natural light these skylights provide makes building interiors far more aesthetically appealing. The light spreads evenly throughout a room, eliminating shadows, highlighting lines and shapes, and bringing out the vibrant color in a space. This makes naturally daylit rooms appear cleaner and creates “positive environmental feelings” in building occupants.
8. Quicker Return on Investment
Solar tracking skylights are so efficient at reducing a facility’s energy usage that they offer one of the quickest returns on investment (ROI) on the market. The ROI is the amount of time it takes for a system to earn or save you as much as its initial investment cost. While traditional skylights can take up to 10 years to pay off and solar panels have a 15 to 20 year payback, solar tracking systems have a 2.5-4 year ROI.
9. Require Minimal Roof Space
Solar tracking skylights provide a high level of light and use specialized diffuser lenses to spread light evenly throughout a space. This allows them to provide more light with less units than other daylighting systems. While traditional skylights can take up to 10% of your roof space, a solar tracking system only needs 1-2% of the roof area to provide the same level of light, leaving room for solar panels and other rooftop equipment.
10. Increase Retail Sales
Several case studies have shown that retail stores which employ natural daylighting have higher sales figures than those that do not. An analysis by PG&E found that daylit stores sold up to 40% more that non-daylit stores. Other studies found that within the same store items displayed under natural light sell far better than those under artificial light, even when the products are identical.
11. Minimize HVAC Usage
Another area in which solar tracking skylights can reduce energy costs is heating and cooling. While traditional skylights are notorious for creating high levels of heat along with sunlight, Solar Tracking skylight are designed like a dual pane window to reduce heat gain or loss. This is demonstrated by comparing the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) ratings and U-Factor ratings for different skylight styles for energy efficiency. In fact, a study by the US Army Corp of Engineers showed that well insulated daylighting could reduce heating costs by 63% and cooling costs by as much as 43%.