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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Bright Ideas for Kitchens

Lighter and brighter. That s a winning combination in most rooms, but in the kitchen it s a slam dunk.

Experts say to lighten cabinets, countertops, walls and floors and you re halfway there. Add skylights to fill the room with healthful natural light, plus more ventilation, and you ve economically upgraded one of the most used areas of your home. And skylights don t take up wall space like vertical windows, so you have more space for shelves or cabinets or for decorating.

According to Joe Patrick, product manager with VELUX America, light from above makes all rooms more functional and livable. But kitchens are especially enjoyable for family and guests when they are bright, cheerful, and free of cooking odors, heat and humidity, Patrick says. Venting skylights in the kitchen release hot air, moisture, and odors while admitting additional light for more pleasant cooking, dining and entertaining.

Skylights, along with accessories including blinds and shades, can be controlled manually or by remote control with the touch of a button. Electrochromic glass is also now available in skylights. This new technology allows homeowners to lightened and darken the glass with the touch of a remote and the view of the sky is never lost.

The trend toward additional daylighting in kitchens is driven not only by homeowner desires for bright, open, energy-efficient spaces, but also by health considerations. Adding more natural light to the kitchen, where families tend to gather much of the time for studying and socializing in addition to dining, has many health benefits. Studies show that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), evidenced by emotional depression, a drop in physical energy, increased appetite, and need for more sleep, is directly linked to a lack of sufficient daylight. Also, we need vitamin D for calcium to be absorbed by the body to strengthen teeth, bones and tissue to maintain a healthy skeleton throughout life. Research shows that two sources of vitamin D are diet and sunlight, and in healthy human bodies, 80 percent of vitamin D is produced in the skin when it is exposed to natural light.

Lighting designers and other housing professionals can help homeowners select a combination of natural and artificial lighting methods that will make kitchens even more pleasant and functional.

For government information on window and skylight energy efficiency, visit www.energystar.gov, and for independent agency information visit www.nfrc.org or www.efficientwindows.org.

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