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Let in Some Sunlight

There's at least one place in your house—a dark stairwell, a north-facing bathroom, a rear hallway—where you can't see what you're doing without turning on a light, even in the daytime. That's the ideal spot for a light tube, which lets you bring in the sun's rays without the hassle or expense of installing a conventional skylight. These so-called "sun tunnels" capture light through a plastic lens mounted on the roof, bounce it down through the attic inside a reflective tube, and beam it out through a plastic diffuser in the ceiling. From the inside looking up, you see what appears to be a no-frills light fixture. (Some models have bulbs inside, so you can get light day or night from the same spot.)

True, you don't get a sky view, but you also don't have the energy loss associated with standard roof windows. Tubular skylights are much easier to install, because the tubing fits between roof rafters and frees you from having to build a shaft to get the light through the attic. If you're handy, it's a half-day project. And if you're not, you can hire a pro and still come in under the $500 cap.

18 inch Tubular Skylight Kit - Pitched, Prismatic Diffuser from About $360
18 inch Pipe 2 foot section: $50 each
Total: $410
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