3 Ways Solar Tracking Skylights & LEDs Can Work Together
By Torrin Greathouse | July 03, 2015
Drawing comparisons between the advantages and disadvantages of LEDs and skylights gives the impression that these two forms of green lighting technology are directly in competition with one another. However, there is a huge amount of potential for combining the two. Solar tracking skylights are the most efficient daylighting system on the market, providing free illumination for 10.5 hours a day, while LEDs are the most energy efficient form of electric lighting currently on the market. It only makes sense to combine their benefits for maximum efficiency. Here are three ways to integrate both LEDs and solar tracking skylights into your building design.
Daylighting and Night Lighting
Daylighting systems allow you to turn off electric lights during the day, but once the sun falls below the horizon, you must rely on electric lights for illumination. It makes sense to utilize each system separately--the former saving energy during the day and the latter saving energy at night. While this is a simple solution, it presents two key issues. First, solar tracking skylights and LEDs must be strategically placed within a building to maximize the light they provide. But with two systems being installed around each other, it may result in poor distribution of light. Secondly, there is the issue of when to turn the LED lights on. They will either have to be switched on manually, or you will have to cut into your budget to install energy efficient rooftop daylight sensors and wire them into the lights.
Electric LED Integration
These two dilemmas lead to a more elegant solution: why not wire the LED bulbs into the electric grid and install them as part of the skylight system? Doing this eliminates the issue of spacing, letting you place both light sources in the optimal position to light your space. Daylight sensors and LED bulbs will be directly wired into the solar tracking skylights, either in the dome or near the bottom of the lightwell. Wiring these sensors through the existing hole made by a skylight not only saves on installation costs, but circumvents the need for lights to be switched on manually. Despite these benefits, a combined system will still consume electricity from your grid--not quite reaching the goal of net zero energy consumption from lighting.
Full Solar Integration
Solar tracking skylights consume zero electricity, because they are powered by a small solar panel that collects enough light to power the systems’ motorized mirror array as well as their GPS unit. A solar tracking skylight system capable of collecting and storing enough solar energy to power LED lights while the sun is down would be able to bring a building down to net zero energy consumption for lighting. Not only that, but the solar tracking skylight’s unmatched resistance to heat gain and loss and the minimal heat output of LEDs markedly reduces a building’s HVAC costs.
Ciralight’s Next Generation Skylights
Like most manufacturers, Ciralight has struggled with the tradeoff between free, efficient daylighting and the need for electric lights. While full solar integration still presents unsolved issues, the leading manufacturer of solar tracking skylights is proud to announce that they will soon be releasing their skylight with electric LED integration. Ciralight SunTracker Generation 2.0 is slated for release in the summer of 2015.
This system, designed by world renowned lighting designer Chip Israel, will integrate full spectrum LEDs into the solar tracking skylight system. While the LEDs in the SunTracker Generation 2.0 system will still draw energy from your building’s electrical grid, it is a step toward minimizing electrical costs and maximizing high quality light.