Whether you plan to build or buy a home, remodel a room or seek ideas to expand your “green” footprint, we are all in the beginning stages of constructing our dreams. Each month, this column will invite you to look beyond the usual ideas and consider alternative, cost-effective and eco-friendly options. With so many topics to explore, from top to bottom, room to room, inside and out, the goal of a vision is to take a firm step forward, and begin living the dream.
During the darkest days of the year, we especially rely on natural sunlight to boost those winter blues. Self-consciously, the family gravitates towards the one room that fosters a feeling of warmth and light in the hope of finding comfort and good company. And what becomes of the rooms that feel dark and cold? Artificial lighting is accepted to perform a necessary action such as washing and drying laundry, entering a closet or pantry, or washing hands or putting away dishes; yet, we rarely linger and enjoy those rooms. When the addition of a window is not possible, the solution is to look skyward, and consider adding skylights or solar tubes to specific rooms in your home. Viewed as a luxurious amenity, the right skylight can be placed anywhere to change a room’s value.
An alternative source of natural lighting, skylight pours light in from the roof. In a variety of sizes and widths, a skylight provides 30 percent more natural light than a vertical window. In fact, it will make a room appear larger. The benefits include both reduced heating costs and lighting costs during the day, and the solution to the summer months is to choose one with a manual or electric black-out shade. Homeowners can select from two types:
- With a fixed skylight, the window cannot be opened.
- Ventilating skylights offer the option of opening either electronically or manually to increase air flow. In a room with excess moisture or heat, such as a kitchen or bathroom, perhaps, a ventilating skylight might be appealing.
In adding a skylight to a bathroom, dining room, bonus room, or entryway, homeowners will discover a change of habit by turning a darkened room into a space of great enjoyment.
You already may be familiar with solar tubes, possibly knowing them as “sun tunnels” or “light tubes.” Constructed from sheet-metal with a weather-proof plastic globe, the 10 or 14-inch diameter tube channels light from the roof down through a diffuser in the ceiling. While the tube acts similar to a continuous mirror, the outpouring of light immediately alters a room, whether it is a bathroom, closet, hallway, or any room in the home, with bright sunlight. Just imagine providing natural light from the second floor to the main level. Providing a source of light is possible with a solar tube. Recommended as a DIY project, the Energy Star qualified solar tubes are certified as water tight and maintenance free.
Technology has offered a means to combine sun-power in exchange for lighting up the night. We have invested in solar lights to brighten our walkways, driveways, and yards; yet, we can also remove our electric exterior lights and replace them with an LED solar powered light bulb. It can be installed in any light fixture or lantern, and shine, upon condition, for up to seven hours. This particular light would become a comfort during an emergency situation, and especially a power outage. Continue to watch the improvement of solar LED light bulbs. Today’s bulbs will continue to improve in the years to come!
It is a natural reaction to enter a room and flip a switch for a roomful of fluorescent light. With natural lighting options, however, you will discover this action may soon be unnecessary. We can learn to become dependent on nature’s gift of natural sunlight, and benefit from saving energy and money.
Next month: The Appeal of a Door