(ARA) - When it comes to home improvement, you can spend money in two basic ways: on things that make your home look better and things that make it function better. Under the first category, you'll find all the things you want to do, like replacing narrow casement windows with a lovely bay window. Under the second, falls all the things you must do, like replacing those drafty windows with something more energy-efficient.
When "want to" and "have to" meet, they create the opportunity to make a smart buying decision - and choose an upgrade that will look good and improve the livability of your home. The key to making smart home improvement decisions is to recognize these opportunities and take full advantage of them.
Here are a few "have to" improvements that have the potential to turn into a good-looking, energy-efficient, enjoyment-enhancing "want to."
Replacing the hot water heater.
You probably don't care what a new hot water heater looks like sitting in your garage or basement - or wherever it resides in your home. But the right replacement water heater can help your house achieve a lovely shade of green. High energy-efficiency water heaters can help reduce energy usage, thereby trimming your energy bills and your home's environmental impact. Solar water heating systems take the beauty a step further by using the power of the sun, collected through low-profile solar panels on the roof, to heat water - at a monthly savings that's about 80 percent less than the cost of traditional heaters.
Getting some light in here.
Do you really need a bunch of scientific studies to tell you that a home filled with natural light just feels better? Probably not. Illuminating your home with natural light is a smart buying decision on multiple levels. First, you don't pay to power the sun. Second, natural light delivers a host of mood-enhancing benefits. If you have the wall space, by all means add some windows.
But for rooms where a window is impossible (like a powder room) or where you don't want to sacrifice privacy (like a master bathroom) a tubular skylight is a good alternative. Some, like Velux's Sun Tunnel products, are easy enough to install that a seasoned do-it-yourselfer could accomplish the task. They cost less than traditional skylights and bring natural light to hard-to-light areas like closets, hallways and other small spaces.
Getting some air in here.
Just as natural sun is good for your mood, ventilation can be good for your health. An Energy Star qualified venting skylight is a great way to passively vent stale, moist air from inside your home, especially from baths and kitchens. While some skylights are "fixed," those that do open can be controlled by a remote to open when you want fresh air and close when you want to retain warmth. They can also close automatically in case of rain. In addition, they introduce free light into your home. Adding blinds - also remote-controlled - can help you better control the amount of sun a skylight admits into your home. And blinds are not just functional - you can get them in colors and patterns to complement your decor while increasing energy efficiency. Compared to other venting solutions, a skylight is a relatively low-cost, great-looking way to address ventilation issues while adding drama to a space. Log on to www.veluxusa.com to learn more about skylights.
When one door opens ...
Beat up, weathered garage and front doors not only look bad, they can be a source of air leaks that make your heating, ventilation and cooling system work harder. Exterior doors aren't something you buy every day, but they can have a big impact on how your home looks and on its energy efficiency. They can definitely be a smart buying decision if you opt for doors that not only look good, but are also highly rated for energy efficiency. If you're not sure how to choose, look online, where you'll find guides for buying garage doors and front doors.