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Jan 23, 2013

Looking Good: How Changes to Your Home Can Help Battle the Winter Blahs

By Dave Toht

As days shorten and temperatures drop, most people tend to slow down and feel less energy.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a big-time case of the winter blues — a very real type of
depression. It affects as much as 20 percent of the U.S. population, spiking among people living
in northern latitudes.

Turning on a few extra lamps is a natural response, but what your body really craves is more
daylight. Simply switching on a few more lights won’t do the trick. Typical artificial light can’t
hold a candle to the power of daylight.

For example, standard indoor lamps produce only 100 to 1,000 lux (a measurement of light
intensity). Compare that to the 50,000 to 100,000 lux of a sunlit sky. That’s why good interior
lighting, although cheering, doesn’t get to the heart of our biological need.

Instead, you need to boost the daylight inside your home, known as daylighting. Try these

1. Trim tree branches and shrubs that block sunlight. An added benefit: cutting back foliage
so it’s at least 2 feet away from your house helps prevent water damage to your roofing and
siding. Cost: $50 for pruning tools.

2. Add a solar light tube. A 10- to 14-inch reflective solar tube is a relatively simple way
to bring outdoor light into otherwise dim areas of your home, such as hallways. Cost: $500,
installed on a one-story house.

3. Add a skylight to your home. A skylight provides 30% more light than a window. Cost:
$2,500 and up, installed.

4. Add windows. If you have the wall space, consider letting in more daylight with a new
window. Cost for a 3-by-5-foot window: $1,000 to $1,500, installed.

5. Add a bay or bow window. These windows bring in a lot of light and give a room a sense of
spaciousness. Cost: $5,000 and up, installed.

6. Replace a solid exterior door with an all- or partial-glass door, or a door with glass
sidelights. An upscale door replacement is $5,000 to $10,000.

7. Open curtains and blinds so they don’t block natural light. Make a habit of opening your
window coverings first thing in the morning. Cost: $0

8. Rearrange furniture in your living room, office, or den so you’ll be closer to bright
windows. Place large pieces of furniture against walls so they don’t block light. Cost: $0

9. Get outside. Whenever possible, take a long walk or tackle an outdoors chore. Cost: $0