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Another great way to get light into your home without bringing in a lot of unwanted heat is to install a solar light tube. These capture the low-angled winter light using reflective coatings within a roof-top dome, and are much easier to install than a skylight since they require no structural headers. Also don't feel limited to rooms right below the roof. The reflective tubes can be run down from the second floor to the first floor though closets or thick walls, and they can even make slight turns.
4. Use reclaimed materials. Most metropolitan areas now have several architectural salvage shops. While materials made from recycled materials are great, remember that it's reduce, reuse and then recycle.
Reclaimed materials are a great way to reuse. Go to your local salvage yard and think creatively. Here a wall is dressed up with old boards, some with the original paint on them. Reclaimed doors, light fixtures and tile are all great ways to give a space character. Don't be afraid to use something for a purpose other than what it was intended for; my coffee table at home is made of an old exterior shutter.
5. Choose quality materials. Finally, think about every aspect of your project with that first "r" — reduce — in mind. We're currently renovating a house in Philadelphia built in the 1700s. The floors are original; the plaster is original; the brick front is original. By using materials that last, such as brick, we reduce the number of times a home needs to be renovated. And that means less waste and less energy used making new materials (and less work for contractors like me). Of course, there will always be work building for a growing population and serving people's changing needs and tastes. I just hate tearing out a cheap floor that lasted only 10 years.
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