You may have heard of fiber optics in reference to internet connection, but the technology can also be used for indoor lighting. In this article, we’ll discuss solar fiber optic lighting, a way to use the sun to naturally light up indoor spaces without windows.
Solar fiber optic lighting overview
Solar fiber optic lighting setups are an alternative to traditional indoor lights using fiber optic technology. Fiber optic cables are designed to carry light from point to point by internally reflecting said light along their length. Solar fiber optic setups allow you to capture sunlight, transmit it inside, and emit it in your home or business. While more expensive than traditional lighting setups, a fiber optic lighting installation can help you save money on electricity costs while providing high-quality, natural light throughout your property.
How does solar fiber optic lighting work?
Solar fiber optic lighting systems bring natural sunlight into your building to shine light on rooms without access to windows. There are three major components to these systems:
1. Solar collectors/receivers
Much like photovoltaic solar panels and solar hot water systems, solar fiber optic systems need to collect sunlight, usually on top of a roof. The solar collectors used for fiber optic lighting are usually made of several small mirrors that focus sunlight into the fibers that actually transmit light. Similar to ground-mounted tracking systems, many solar collectors for fiber optic setups track the sun throughout the day. This allows them to capture as much sunlight as possible to funnel down into your building.
A solar fiber optic collector. Image from parans.com.
2. Fiber optic cables
Once solar collectors capture sunlight, they focus it into the actual fiber optic cables that transmit any captured light throughout your building. Solar fiber optic cables are like electrical wiring, but instead of transmitting power, they transmit light by reflecting the light internally along their entire length. Cables are usually made from glass or plastic, and the glass versions generally carry light more effectively but come at a higher price point.
3. Indoor lights
The last major components of a solar fiber system are the lights themselves. Light can travel up to a few hundred feet through fiber optic cables, and at the end of each cable is a lighting apparatus that disperses sunlight, just like a traditional electrical lighting setup. Fiber optic lighting companies often have multiple types of lighting products that provide different lighting experiences, from spotlights to large area lighting.
How much does solar fiber optic lighting cost?
Costs for solar fiber optic lighting systems will vary by brand. Lighting boxes themselves can cost $500 or more depending on their size. The fiber optic cables are usually priced by length, so lighting an area of your building that’s further away from your roof will cost more than an area close to it. Additionally, the material you use for the cables will influence pricing. Glass cables are higher quality and last longer, but can cost around $10 per foot. The other option for cable material is acrylic, which provides lower quality light at about half the cost per foot.
Should you install solar fiber optics?
If you don’t mind the high upfront cost of a solar fiber optic lighting installation, there are many benefits to upgrading your home lighting to fiber optics. You’ll get high-quality natural light, you’ll use less electricity, and you won’t have to worry about changing lightbulbs in hard-to-reach places.
For most property owners, solar fiber optic lighting won’t be worth the initial upfront cost. However, as costs fall and the technology becomes more widespread, fiber optic lighting options will become more and more viable for all kinds of properties.
Install solar panels on your property to harness the sun’s energy
As an alternative to solar fiber optics, you can run your entire electrical lighting system and home on free energy from the sun by installing a photovoltaic solar panel system. The best way to find the right solar installation for you is to compare multiple quotes on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, where you can receive solar quotes from local, pre-screened installers. Some solar installers double as home contractors and can help you examine lighting options as well, including fiber optic solutions.