"We put in tube skylights."
Justin and Kristin Gonzalez, Vista, California

How They Work: About 10 to 20 inches in diameter, tubular skylights channel natural light where windows or skylights can't. A tube lined with reflective material is inserted through a hole cut in the roof and lined up with a second hole cut in a room's ceiling. A clear plastic dome tops the rooftop end, and a ceiling fixture caps it below. Sunlight bounces off the mirrorlike lining and spills from the fixture, so you don't waste money turning on lights.

What These Homeowners Did: Last fall, while renovating the 1,400-square-foot ranch Justin and Kristin share with their 2-year-old daughter, they learned about tubular skylights just as recessed light fixtures were being installed. Since the house faces a busy street, they keep the blinds drawn in several rooms, so they need a lot of light. The couple invested in 10 tubular skylights made by Solatube, a local company, for their kitchen, family room, a hallway, two bathrooms, and the master closet.

What They Learned: "All that natural light just makes you feel better," says Justin. "It makes the whole house feel more relaxing." It also changed the way they live. From about 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., they don't turn on a single light—or pay to power one.

Keep in Mind: An array of plastic bubbles may not improve the look of your roofline. To preserve your facade, you can place the tubes in back and angle them across the attic—with a small sacrifice of light—to their desired location.

Payback Period: 10 years
Their Cost: $5,000 for 10 tubes, installed
Yearly Savings on Electricity for Lighting: $500
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