In the meantime, pros have plenty of high- and low-tech options to keep homes bright and open while maintaining aesthetics and optimizing energy efficiency.
Plugging into the Sun
Hybrid solar is an elegant new technology that uses solar collectors to track and magnify the sun's rays, which are then channeled through flexible fiber-optic bundles to hard-to-reach interior rooms. "The sunlight is concentrated about 400 times, so the opening required in the roof is much smaller than it would be for a skylight to bring in the same amount of light, resulting in fewer thermal and moisture leaks," explains Curt Maxey, senior research engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which pioneered the technology for commercial use.
The residential equivalent is the Swedish-made Parens fiber-optic skylight. It consists of a wall- or roof-mounted panel, about 3 feet square and 8 inches deep, fitted with 64 Fresnel lenses-scaled-down versions of those used in lighthouses. An internal fan circulates air to prevent heat buildup, and filters eliminate UV and infrared wavelengths. The fiber-optic cable can reach 60 feet into a house. "Unlike tubular skylights, the fiber optics are not affected by being bent and rotated," says Eric G. Huffman, vice president of Huvco Daylighting Solutions, which distributes the system.
With a retail cost of about $10,000, hybrid solar is being marketed to high-end homes.