How to Know Good from Bad Technology in Solar Tracking Skylights
By Torrin Greathouse | September 16, 2015
Solar tracking skylights are one of the most advanced daylighting methods on the market today. Their unique blend of cutting edge technology allows them to provide high quality lighting at reduced costs for more hours a day than any passive daylighting system currently on the market. Despite there being a wide range of reasons to incorporate them into your building design, not all solar tracking systems use the best technology available. Here are a few key components to check to make sure your skylights will live up to their potential.
One of the most important benefits of solar tracking skylights is the reduction in building lighting costs they can create. The best systems are internally powered, usually by solar panels. This means that they pull no electricity from the grid, providing light at zero electrical cost. Some systems, however, either require batteries or a direct electrical feed from your building to their controller unit. While these systems still help to decrease the lighting cost of your facility, they are significantly less efficient at doing so than internally powered systems.
Simple Efficient Design
While it makes sense to constantly innovate new methods of lighting as technology evolves, many companies overthink the way that their system provides light, ignoring the merits of simple and efficient design. There are solar tracking skylights on the market which track the sun on both the vertical and horizontal axes and that convert the sunlight into electricity, moving it through fiber optic cables to LED “skylights.” However, there is no evidence to prove that these systems are more efficient than a simple solar tracking mirror array that angles sunlight directly down into the building. Meanwhile these complex technologies drive up the initial cost of installation with limited foreseeable benefit.
Deciding on the most cost efficient solar tracking skylight system for your facility often comes down to choosing the system which offers the fastest return on investment (ROI). While most manufacturers should be able to provide an in-depth ROI analysis of their skylights in your facility, when this is not possible, comparing the upfront cost of the system with the potential energy savings it provides can help you to make a close estimation. This does not, however, account for savings due to increased productivity or other benefits associated with well integrated natural lighting.
Ciralight produces a cutting edge solar tracking skylight, the SunTracker. These skylights combine solar panels and GPS technology to bring natural light into a facility for up to 10.5 hours per day while expending zero electricity.