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Natural light is achieved through windows and skylights which are better sealed nowadays than those produced in the past. Construction is tighter, so there’s reduced air infiltration around that frames. Multiple panes, improved coatings, and gas-filled spaces between panes can reduce both heat loss and unwanted heat gain. Some coatings filter out ultraviolet rays. When shopping, always consider your climate and the window’s orientation.
Lighting and ventilation can dramatically affect both your comfort and the appearance of your bath. Ambient lighting, which typically comes from overhead fixtures or wall sconces, provide overall illumination and, equipped with dimming capabilities, can be lowered to make bath time soothing and serene.
Task lighting illuminates a particular area, usually the vanity, for close work. Lights in the shower and over the tub are also useful and recommended to ensure safety. Arrange your lighting scheme so that task and general illumination are provided by different switches; otherwise, with both types turned on at the same time, the lighting will be too bright and harsh. For baths that measure 100 square feet or less, one overhead fixture is adequate; add another fixture for each 50 square feet of space. Supplement this with task lights around the grooming areas, over tub, and in the shower.
The third type, accent lighting, isn’t necessary in a bathroom, but it can add a decorative touch, Small strip lights or compact spotlights mounted inside a glass-door cabinet, under the mirror, beneath a raised tub, or recessed into a soffit above the vanity are excellent examples. They don’t give off a lot of light, just enough to create a mood.
Ventilation is a must to maintain healthy air quality and to combat the steam and condensation that can cause mold, mildew, and deterioration of surfaces.
How much light do you need?
In all bathrooms, ceiling-mounted lamps are necessary for sufficient general illumination. A good choice is recessed lighting. How much you need, of course, depends on the size of the room. If the bathroom is less than 100 sq. ft., one fixture is sufficient. Add another fixture for each additional 50 sq.ft. If the surfaces around the room are light-absorbing dark hues, such as mahogany-stained cabinets, deep-colored walls, or black granite countertops, you may have to compensate with stronger lamps. If the bulbs you are using don’t provide enough general light, you need to substitute them with ones that have more lumens, not with higher-wattage bulbs. Lumens per watt (LPW) produced by a bulb is mentioned on its packaging.
Lighting for tubs and showers
Light around the tub and shower area has to be bright enough for safety and grooming, adjusting water temperature or showerheads. Recessed down lights or any other fixtures designed for wet areas are fine. Shielded fixtures eliminate glare, and shatter-resistant white acrylic diffusers are the safest. Any light fixture installed in a wet or damp area has to be protected properly so that water cannot accumulate in wiring compartments, lamp holders, or other electrical parts.
Here’s a description of the most common types of bulbs and their advantages and disadvantages.
Like sunlight, incandescent bulbs emit “continuous spectrum light”, or light that contains every color. Illumination from these bulbs, in fact, is even warmer that sunlight, making its effect very appealing in a room. It makes our skin tones look good and even enhances our feeling of well-being.
The drawbacks of incandescent bulbs are: they use a lot of electricity and produce a lot of heat. However, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and applications. They can be clear, diffuse, tinted, or colored and they may have a reflecting coating inside.
These energy-efficient bulbs cast a diffuse, shadowless light that makes them great for general illumination. They are very energy efficient, but the old standard fluorescents are quite unflattering, making everything and everyone appear bluish and bland. Newer warm-white fluorescent bulbs render color in a way that more closely resembles sunlight. Fluorescents are available both in the familiar tube versions and in compact styles.
This is actually a type of incandescent lamp that operates at greater energy efficiency. It produces brighter, whiter light at a lower wattage. Although halogens cost more up front, they last longer than conventional incandescent bulbs. Halogens produce a higher heat output and they require a special shielding. The low-voltage version of halogen bulbs produces a 50 percent brighter light than standard halogen bulbs. These are compact and use less electricity, which makes them more energy efficient, too.
Xenon. Like halogens, xenon bulbs can be compact and produce a bright, white light that is very true to sunlight. But unlike halogens, which produce a lot of heat and emit harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, xenon bulbs have low-heat output, making them more energy efficient.
Adequate ventilation is a must in any humid environment. It combats the steam and condensation that causes mildew, rot, and deterioration of the bathroom’s surfaces and the surrounding rooms or exterior walls of the house. If you haven’t installed the proper moisture barrier between the bathroom and the exterior wall, you may face serious structural damage in addition to peeling and chipping paint. If you install glossy ceramic, stone, or glass tiles on bathroom surfaces, your ventilation needs are greater than if you installed an absorbant material, such as cork. Even glossy paints can resist absorption and create problems with mold and mildew. Beyond concerns for bathroom surfaces and structural elements, imagine the air quality in a stuffy and unventilated bathroom. Noxious fumes released into the air by cleaning solutions and grooming products, including hair spray, nail polish, pose a health risk. The most common side effects of this indoor air pollution include eye, nose, and throat irritation.
There are three types of ventilation systems available for installation in a residential bathroom.
A Recirculating fan. As its name implies, a recirculating fan simply moves the air around in the room. It doesn’t vent air in to the outdoors, but it does help dispel some of the moisture that has accumulated on surface during bathing.
A Ducted System. It discharges humidity in the bathroom by removing moist, stale air and odors and venting them through ductwork to the outdoors. The latest options offered by manufacturers of bathroom fans include remote-location units, built-in lighting, units that include heaters, multiple speeds, quiet operation, and automatic-on feature that is triggered by a device that senses high levels of humidity.
Room Exhaust Fans. Separate exhaust fans mount anywhere on a ceiling or outer wall of a new bathroom. The main thing is to connect the fan to the outside via a vent cap on the roof or sidewall. To remove moist air and odors effectively from a bathroom, you need to match the fan capacity to the room’s volume. Ventilating fans are sized by the number of cubic feet of air they move each minute (cfm). A fan should change all of the room’s air at least eight times each hour. For 8- ft ceilings, the following formula can help determine what you need:
Fan capacity (cfm) = Room width (ft) x Room Length (ft) x 1.1
Fans are also rated in “sones” for the amount of noise they produce. A fan rated at 1 sone, the quietest, is about as loud as a refrigerator.
Selected 2013 Cost vs. Value Report Statistics - Average Nationwide Return on Investment:
Source: 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, (REALTOR® Magazine, Jan. 2013).