How we see light…
Now, this is a totally non-technical and non-scientific blog which tries to explain how a Solatube sun tunnel can help lighten up your home and your life. Over the last 14 years that I’ve been installing Solatubes in the south west I have picked up on a number of points that help explain how and why a Solatube can be used to brighten up a dark room or interior. I believe they can prove quite helpful to potential Solatube customers.
We all see things differently
To begin with, it’s worth understanding that everyone ‘sees’ light differently. And to put it simply, most of us are aware that some people instinctively move toward a light source in order to read something and it’s generally when we get older and our eyesight starts to fail. I’ve been to many surveys and asked “so, where do you need the Solatube installed?” Only to be told “Well in here of course”. Now to me, that room seems light enough, however, to these people it isn’t and it looks dark. So whilst some of us can read perfectly well in low light levels, there are plenty of people who need that extra light because a room that seems light to some, is actually quite dark for others.
Another thing I’ve have realised is that the human eye, and/or brain, is actually quite good at coping with different light levels. On a bright, blue sky day we can all see perfectly well; yet on a dull overcast day we can also see perfectly well too, even though it’s probably half as light as it was. That’s because I believe our eyes and brain adjust to the overall ambient light levels that are around. A good example of this is if you venture in to a particularly dark or windowless room. Initially, you are plunged in to pitch blackness and you can’t see a thing. Then after a few moments your eyes (and brain?) start to adjust and slowly you can start to make things out again; perhaps just outlines and vague forms, but certainly a lot more than the total darkness you experienced to begin with.
Looking in to the shadows
The next point, I think, is the most interesting though, and it’s to do with dealing with contrasts; the difference between dark and bright areas. Our eyes can adjust over time to either dark OR light areas, however, what we struggle with is coping with dark and bright areas at the same time. Just think of being outside on a bright sunny day – it’s often quite difficult to peer in to the shadows to make things out. However, if you are actually in those shadows you’ll probably be able to see perfectly well, but looking out in to the brightness is quite a strain. That’s because it seems to me that the human eye and brain struggle to cope with CONTRAST. So, if you are in a dark room and look towards the window it seems brighter than if you stand at the window and look in to the dark room.
Now, pop back to that extremely dark or windowless room we ventured in to, for a moment. After a while we’ve been able to see things reasonably well because our eyes have adjusted. But let’s say someone strikes a match over in one corner – suddenly the only thing we can see is the match and the light around it, but the rest of the room (which a moment before we’d been able to see) is plunged back in to blackness again. That is contrast for you.
Balancing up the light
So, it occurs to me that often a room can seem dark because an immediately adjoining area is contrastingly bright and the eye is naturally drawn to brighter and well lit areas. Therefore, if one can balance out the contrast, then the human eye and brain will be able to better process the light that is available. If you actually used a light meter to measure the amount of light there is in this ‘dark’ area, you’ll probably find that it’s as much light as you have in other rooms in the house in which you DON’T feel it’s too dark; it’s just the contrast with the adjacent bright area that makes it SEEM too dark.
So, if you can reduce the contrast then it will probably make it easier for the eye and the brain to accept that it is actually light enough. Therefore, one can either reduce the brightness of the lighter area (not an ideal solution as we are actually looking for more, not less light in our homes), or we can increase the brightness of the dark area – and this is where a Solatube comes in. Often I’m looking to actually help balance light levels in a home in order to make a room feel lighter.
And that’s another interesting thing… When I install a Solatube in a room that is particularly dark or windowless, the ‘brightness’ of a Solatube is extremely noticeable. The room appears to go from almost pitch black to very light and we really notice the difference.
However, if I was to install that same Solatube in a similar room, but one that already has a reasonable amount of light but is just a little gloomy, the brightness doesn’t seem so great, even though it’s still delivering the same amount of light. It will still make a noticeable and significant improvement in light levels in the room, it’s just that the improvement is not as noticeable to the human eye and brain. Strange, but true!
And with all that off my mind, I’ll sign off for now!
If you are interested in bringing natural light into your home, why not contact us at Solatube Southwest; 07989 976 010) to find out whether a Solatube sun pipe can help you. Typically, a fully installed system might cost anywhere between £900 – £1,200; that’s supplied, professionally installed and includes the VAT.
Call 07989 976 010