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Sun Tunnels: Brighten Your Home, Naturally!

Sun Tunnel“Nothing can match daylight when it comes to brightening up a home—it’s completely energy efficient, free of cost and feels brighter and better than even the most advanced artificial light. In green building there has been a growing movement to create homes that encourage daylighting, making spaces that reduce energy use by illuminating spaces by the sun rather than lamps or light fixtures. Yet in many spaces, large windows or open skylights are simply not an option structurally or financially.

Now, however, there are merged solutions to help these spaces get some sun and reduce energy use. Tubular Skylights by ODL work in places where traditional skylights could never go. Just one 14-inch light can equal up to five 100 watt light bulbs and light up to 300 square feet of space—using no energy at all.An angled tunnel can be easily installed between the roof rafters in many types of homes.

Also known as a sun tunnel, the tubular system uses a solar-lens roof dome to gather sunlight even during low-light hours in the early morning, late afternoon or winter. The small bubble-like structure on the roof then passes the light down adjustable reflective tubing that magnifies and directs the sun’s light to the room.

A lens in the ceiling in the interior diffuses the tube’s light to allow a soft natural beam to come in to the space. With an appearance that at first might seem like an artificial light apart from its natural brightness, these skylights can provide light to dark spaces during the day while also protecting rugs, furniture, and clothes from fading by absorbing 99% of UV rays.

These lights can also help builders meet green certification standards by meeting requirements for daylighting in rooms without windows, making it one of the Home Innovation Research Labs’ Certified Green Products. Each light is also easy to install between the roof rafters in many homes, requiring no framing, dry walling, painting or construction and is low-maintenance with leak-proof flashing and a dome that keeps out debris and grime.

In addition to the skylight itself, buyers can add the Solar Powered Dimmer that allows for a remote controlled cover to help reduce light even during the daytime in rooms like bedrooms, nurseries or media rooms. An optional Electric Light Kit can also be installed so that when there is little to no natural light each skylight can convert into a conventional fixture for seamless illumination in each room.”

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Composite Decking: Yay or Nay? 

composite-landscape-timbersThat singular American creation, the backyard deck, conjures up images of idyllic afternoons napping in a hammock or festive get-togethers around the grill and a tub of ice-cold beer. But maintaining that elevated expanse of lumber is a downright chore, what with all the scrubbing, bleaching, and staining that wood requires—not to mention the occasional replacement of a splintered, warped, or rotten board.

When the less demanding plastic-composite decking appeared on the scene in the 1990s, homeowners happily adopted it, despite the higher price and limited color selection (gray). A decade later, as companies began to offer new products that looked like fresh-cut cedar and Brazilian walnut but never turned gray, sales of composites took off. Last year’s tally came to $1 billion. That kind of popularity represents a big boost for the environment, too, because most composites are made from waste: sawdust, used plastic milk jugs, and shopping bags. Every 20 feet of decking contains about 30 pounds of material that would have ended up in a landfill. Trex, the first and largest of the composite manufacturers, recycles 6 million pounds of plastic each year.

The fact that composites don’t feel or look like real wood is beside the point. Once in place, they just do their job and don’t need much more than an annual washdown, leaving you plenty of time to work on your nap.

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