1. Central Vac (aka Whole-House Vacuum)
What: A super-suction, built-in vacuum system that features convenient inlet ports throughout the house where you plug in 25-to-50-foot lightweight vacuum hoses. The collection bin is usually located in a basement or garage.
Why: No more dragging heavy vacuum cleaners up and down stairs and throughout the house. With central vacs all you need to schlepp is a lightweight hose fitted with a power brush.
Central vacs have up to five times the suction power of portable vacuums, and they store dust far away from where it’s collected — great for allergy sufferers. Some high-tech systems have retractable hoses that disappear into the wall.
Tip: Make sure you have enough ports — at least one for every 500 sq. ft.
How much: $1,500-$2,500 to retrofit a house; add about $500 for retractable hose.
2. Steam Shower
What: A sealed shower attached to a steam generator that turns the stall into a steam room. You can build a steam shower from scratch or buy a prefab fiberglass unit.
Why: Steam relaxes, opens sinuses, soothes muscles, and cleans pores. Installing a steam shower is a major project that includes wiring for the generator; vapor-proofing walls, floors, and ceiling; installing a tightly-fitting door; and having a bathroom fan outside the shower to suck up the extra humidity.
Tip: A sloped ceiling in the shower room ensures that condensation runs off.
How much: Fiberglass unit: $1,000-$5,000; framed-in unit and generator: $7,000-$10,000.
3. Heated Bathroom Floors
What: Thin, thermostatically-controlled electric radiant mats that install under tile.
Why: No more cold tootsies when stepping out of the shower in the morning. Many systems come with timers so warm bathroom floors await you each morning.
Tip: Heated floors help stem mold growth in humid places.
How much: $15.59/sq. ft. for material and installation (not counting cost of tile or adding 20-amp GFCI dedicated circuit with 110 volts, $97-$245).
Related: More About Radiant Heat
4. Super Skylights
What: Roof windows that let sunlight in. Upscale models feature insulated glass, solar-powered shades, and rain sensors that’ll automatically close an open skylight in bad weather.
Why: Nobody likes dark, dreary rooms and hallways. Skylights let the sun shine into areas you can’t brighten with windows — hallways, interior rooms, even closets. Skylights save you money on heating, cooling, and lighting bills.
Tip: If you plan to open and close skylights, order screens to keep out bugs and roof debris.
How much: $500-$3,500 (depending on size, glazing, and complexity) installed.
5. Towel Warming Drawer
What: A stainless steel, heated drawer that slips into cabinetry, plugs into an outlet, and warms towels.
Why: Because there’s nothing more snuggly than wrapping a warm towel around you after a bath or shower.
Tip: Towels take time to heat up — some people say as much as 45 minutes — so you’ll have to plan ahead to have a toasty one ready when you are.
How much: $1,700-$3,400.
6. Whole-House Electrostatic Filters
What: Also called “electrostatic precipitators,” these dust-removing wonders are incorporated into your HVAC ductwork. They charge polluted air with a high-voltage current, and then collect particles on plates with the opposite charge. Great at removing tiny particles that slip through regular fiberglass filters.
Why: Whole-house electrostatic filters remove smoke, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and dust, improving air quality and health. But they also create ozone as a byproduct which is a lung irritant, so the health benefits could be a wash.
Tip: The filters last indefinitely, but you’ll have to clean the plates, some say as often as once a week; others advise every 2-3 months.
How much: $600-$1,000 installed.
Do you have other home update or remodeling questions? Give us a call, email or text, we are happy to help!
-Steve and Sandra
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