Daylighting solutions for healthy living
Business View Magazine interviews Joshua Rillie, Director of Solatube Home, as part of our focus on best practices in the home improvement industry.
Top of mind for everyone are germs and how to proactively sanitize their environments. One way to do that is to bring in more natural light, which has been shown to kill germs. According to a recent study, rooms with natural light have half the amount of germs that dark rooms do.
So how do you bring in natural light to a space with no access to windows? Enter Solatube International, Inc., the inventor of the tubular skylight and the market leader in its daylighting category. With its high-performance lighting solutions for interior spaces—everything from retail stores and health care facilities to school gymnasiums and single-family homes—Solatube is now gearing up to accelerate its business development by enhancing and expanding its sales and service networks across the United States.
Add to that the development trends of net zero energy building and smart, sustainable design which have led to a responding increase in the popularity of products that promote the use of natural light in interior spaces, thus making this the perfect market environment for Solatube International, Inc., and its products.
“The Solatube daylighting system was invented in Sydney, Australia, in 1986,” shares Joshua Rillie, Director of Solatube Home. “David Rillie, one of three founders in Australia, and the current CEO of Solatube International, Inc., had visions of bringing this technology to the United States, and in 1992 opened the first Solatube retail location here in San Diego County. The company quickly expanded distribution throughout United States, Canada, and Europe with all manufacturing, production, and engineering activities based out of the headquarters in Vista, Calif. Since 2004, the retail division, Solatube Home, has been servicing homeowners directly and has expanded from San Diego into Orange County and various parts of Los Angeles County offering both daylighting and ventilation solutions.
Solatube’s patented technologies derive from some of the same basic design principles that the ancient Egyptians used to make their homes more comfortable. “We have dozens of patents to protect both the innovative technology and the quality of our products. With the first patent granted in 1987, we have led the Tubular Daylighting Device (TDD) industry in both quality and performance,” Rillie explains. “For our primary product, the Solatube TDD, there are competitors on the market, but they’re really just copycats offering a generic metal tube and a clear dome.”
“The Solatube technology captures the daylight at the roof through an acrylic dome that both redirects sunlight down a highly reflective tube, as well as inhibits the harmful UV rays of the sun. Our proprietary tubing removes heat, while maintaining the transfer of 99.7 percent of the pure daylight captured by the dome. This light is then dispersed though a stylish diffuser at the ceiling level.” Rillie continues. “This brings light into places that are typically dark and windowless, such as hallways, closets, and bathrooms. Since the late 1980s, it has been our approach to bring daylight to spaces where traditional skylights were not a viable option. In addition, we offer a more affordable option with a focus on exemplary service and an average installation time of just two hours. We have been providing this ‘win-win’ situation for over 30 years now.”
With more and more studies coming out about the health benefits of natural light, it makes sense that Solatube TDDs would be in demand, as homeowners strive to not only bring in the aesthetics that natural light provides, but also to provide a healthy living environment for their families.
“As the market develops, and our company grows in the skylight/natural lighting industry space, we’ve had a lot of people ask us if we also replace skylights. We’ve previously turned that business away, but this year we’re going after it,” Rillie said. Solatube has already developed its own traditional skylight and is taking it to market to replace the existing skylights in residential properties. “We’re not focusing on putting in brand new skylights, which would include penetrating the roof, dry-walling, and framing,” he adds. “Rather, we are promoting to the existing skylight market—homeowners that have skylights that need to be replaced. We have found that there are numerous skylight manufacturers out there; they don’t all offer quality products. They’re commodity products. These can end up breaking down over time and causing leaks. We’re coming to the rescue with a higher-end, more quality product that has been specifically designed to replace an existing skylight.”
In what is now the latest phase of the company’s growth program, Solatube is offering up its decades-long design and manufacturing expertise in the form of a franchise package under the Solatube Home brand. Essentially, it is a sales and installation service offering same-day installation of Solatube daylight and ventilation products, plus skylight replacement options to homeowners. “We’ve built Solatube Home as a proof-of-business model with a look and a brand, and a system for doing business. We’re looking to bring on two to three new franchisees this year, and then grow five to ten each year after that.”
Solatube Home’s Vista location, which is the company store that Rillie manages, is anticipated to become a test lab for new sales, marketing, and product ideas. Those ideas will be run in the local market prior to being passed on to the rest of the dealer/franchise network. As far as product suppliers, Solatube Home acquires all product from its parent company and corporate headquarters, Solatube International, Inc. The components that are manufactured and distributed by Solatube International are considered finished goods, which are then assembled by Solatube Home Certified Installation Consultants (CIC) on site.
“The Solatube Home business model that we are offering is a unique business model to reach homeowners,” says Rillie. “We go direct to the consumer. We do a lot of print advertising locally, through newspapers and home improvement magazines. We attend several home shows each year. We also do quite a bit of digital marketing with some of the Google programs. Then we have an inside sales staff that will take those calls and leads and walk the customer through the process. They’ll get a first-hand understanding of what the customer’s looking for, what their needs are, and they’ll set up an appointment for one of our technicians or CICs to meet them at their home.” Rillie continues. “These CICs not only have product knowledge, but we’ve given them training and skills to carry out consultative visits. They carry the Solatube products in their van, in bulk, and they can install it the same day. Our customers love the immediate service and immediate gratification. There’s no obligation, but they can move forward that very same day if they want to. That’s generally our workflow.”
In addition to the tubular and replacement skylight products, Solatube offers a range of ventilation solutions for the home, from living spaces to garages, attics, and even sheds. “We offer solar-powered attic fans for attic ventilation,” says Rillie. “The attic fan was introduced in 2000. About two years ago, we started offering whole house fans. When heat builds up throughout the day, homes naturally heat up. Once the sun starts setting in the afternoon and the outdoors is typically cooler than inside, you can easily open a window and turn on the Whole House Fan. The fan will pull cooler air into the home while the hot stale air rises and is sucked through the intake grill and pushed through the ducting in the attic, and out through your vents in the roof. This is a quick way of exchanging the air—warmer for cooler, in a matter of minutes.”
“We’re lucky in that we have a manufacturer in Solatube International, Inc. that provides a quality product, but the thing that we control at Solatube Home is the customer experience. That is really what we’re providing as a team. We often talk about putting customer needs at the center of what our company needs to do. We do a great job, we have great customer reviews, but there’s always more that we can do to provide a transformative experience for our customers in the home,” Rillie says.
“Solatube Home has a mission statement: We exist to brighten our customer’s lives with our service and their homes with our innovative and energy efficient solutions. This mission has arguably already been attained through massively inventive product models and corporate involvement in social responsibilities such as advising and educating homeowners about renewable energy tax credits.”
With the company now cleverly expanding through venture partnerships that offer its franchisees a pride of ownership and a sense of belonging, Solatube Home is sure to see more of the bright light as it shines.
Click The Cover To View Or Download The Brochure
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Solatube Home
WHAT: A seller and installer of Solatube Daylighting Systems
WHERE: Offices in Southern California