Skylight installer can see brighter future

Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012
Paul Nielsen, HomeTech managing director, with a SolaTube system.
LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL: Paul Nielsen, HomeTech managing director, with a SolaTube system.

Relevant offers

Small Business

The Misprint Co turning waste paper into notebooks Womad stallholders stoush a health and safety issue Californian to recreate homeland's arty, surfer vibe in 'NZ's Napa/Silicon Valley': Martinborough Ask the expert: where to go for funding Small retailers hurt as Auckland CDB rents soar Nurture Change: Icebreaker's Jeremy Moon talks business reinvention Bootleggers Craft Mixers raising Wellington spirits Tourist farmstays a silver bullet for struggling dairy farmers? My Food Bag advertising - stereotyped or smart? Payroll causing headaches among SMEs

Lower Hutt businessman Paul Nielsen has been lighting up Kiwi homes with SolaTubes, skylights and roof windows for 20 years.

The SolaTube daylighting system captures sunlight in domes on the rooftop then transfers it down through reflective tubes that can be up to 15 metres long. It is then diffused into rooms in the house through 25-centimetre diameter lenses that can be dimmed.

He first started importing the Australian developed SolaTube system in 1992 after buying a $25,000 exclusive licence for the product with his then business partners, Malcolm Hughes and Bill Wilcox, whom he bought out in 1996, changing the business name to HomeTech.

"When I was first told about this skylight from Australia, I thought it was quite boring really.

"I said it was not of interest but when I found out the details, it was quite revolutionary at the time. It had been on Beyond 2000 [inventions television show] and taken Australia by storm."

He found the first customer in Waikanae, set up a branch in Auckland in March 1993, and by the end of 1993 had a nationwide network of installers.

SolaTube was promoted through word of mouth, advertising on television, and in local newspapers and the Yellow Pages.

The parts for the SolaTube and its other items come from several international sources, including Australia, America and Poland, and are then assembled at HomeTech's Alicetown head office and warehouse. The firm books all appointments nationwide from its call centre based there.

In 1995, it started installing SolaTube in commercial properties. It is becoming more popular in industrial and office buildings as companies look to be as sustainable as possible.

Cadbury, the National Bank and Air New Zealand are among its clients. "There is huge potential in retrofitting," Nielsen said.

SolaTube, which Nielsen said was the only Branz-approved (Building Research Association of NZ) skylight, launched a range of decorative fixtures in July with "good" uptake so far.

While SolaTube continues to make up about 50 per cent of its business, HomeTech is growing to become a broader installer, to include ventilation products and heat pumps. It recently bought a heat pump installation business in Christchurch and has a website - - that sells a range of installed residential products.

HomeTech tried forays into solar water heating and burglar alarms in the past but ultimately has kept the business more focused. It gives a portion of SolaTube sales to the Skylight charity, having donated close to $100,000 so far.

Ad Feedback

Nielsen said business had been weaker in recent years with the downturn in building but was on track to pick up in 2014.

"Margins are certainly not what they used to be, with higher compliance costs," he said.

Turnover, at about $12 million a year, was down from several years ago but he imagined the business would become a "bigger player" in heating installation.

"This recession has just gone on and on. The Christchurch rebuild will make a big difference to a lot of companies. I think 2014 is going to be a golden year for building, it's all going to happen."


7000 installations a year

Licence for SolaTube $25,000

Turnover about $12m

Employs 30

Wellington is one-sixth of its market

Auckland one-third of its market

- The Dominion Post

Special offers
Opinion poll

Do you feel better off than at this time last year?



In some areas yes, others no

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content