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Home Improvement Guide 2007
First things first
Before launching into any home improvement project you should carefully consider your motivations and goals.
First things first
Let there be light
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Once you establish light patterns, you'll have a good idea of what you want. Then call in a professional for a consultation. Not only can they give you a good idea of what the plan will cost, but they also might be able to recommend less expensive ways to give you the same or similar results. Costs can vary widely depending on where you live, what types of products and materials you want, and the structure and construction of your home.

"Natural lighting is going to save you the most money," says Tom Silva, the general contractor on the PBS series "This Old House" and "Ask This Old House." That's because once you've paid for installation, you don't have to pay for power.

Energy-efficient windows have a special coating that blocks the sun's heat to keep your power bills down, even as they still let in plenty of light. You can also add larger windows, but you must be careful. Larger windows let in more light, but unless you do a good job of matching them to the house, they can throw off the proportions of your home. "It's very important to pay attention to the style of the house," says Silva.

Skylights have been popular for years, and are still very much in style. "Skylights are great," says Silva, who says he has about a dozen in his own home.

Solar tubes are mirror-filled tubes that mount on the roof and fit between the joists or rafters, sending light to dark corners. It's perfect for areas that always seem dark, even during the day, says Silva.

Artificial light solutions
If you need more light and don't want to start making structural changes to the outside of your house (and incurring that expense), you've still got plenty of options. Painting the room a lighter color or using a more reflective paint can add light to dark spaces. You also can give a room, or the entire house, a lighting makeover. Depending on how many fixtures you might need, and what materials and choices you make, you can spend a little or a lot.

This is one area where hiring an electrician or contractor to wire or install your lighting can be a smart investment. Not only will you have the peace of mind of knowing that it's done correctly and up to code (a real plus for your home value), but you'll also get a pro's evaluation of what your system can handle, and you won't risk frying wires, starting a fire or shocking yourself in the process.

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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