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"Garden windows add light and openness to any room"

Click here to see a descriptive illustration showing several types of garden window kits.

Dear Jim: I cannot afford a sunspace or large bay window so I am considering installing a mini-garden window kit over my kitchen window. I want to grow some plants and get more natural light. What is available? - R. F.

A: There are many new designs of garden window kits available with nearly every option and design variation imaginable. If you are handy with tools, it is not difficult to install a kit yourself.

If your window needs to be replaced anyway, a garden window kit is an excellent choice. Installing one can make a room appear more spacious and open. Some models use special curved insulated glass to eliminate the center frame member for a more contemporary open appearance.

Garden windows are constructed to be energy efficient. With the bottom seat and shelf designed to hold a planter or flower pots, they must be insulated well to maintain a fairly even year-round temperature for healthy plants. Since garden windows extend out from the exterior wall, they catch even slight breezes in the summer for effective natural cooling. In the winter, the super-efficient glass options and airtight seals minimize heat loss.

Side opening casement window configurations are often used. These can have the hinge side near the house or away. They also have double lock latches on each side for security and an airtight seal when they are closed. Other window options are a front awning (hinges at top and swings out) and a top venting (hinged at the top near the house). These configurations are ideal in rainy areas so the window can be kept slightly open.

Many use vinyl frames and are available in white, tan and brown. Vinyl is maintenance-free and the channels inside the frame improve insulation. Some vinyl frames are filled with foam for extra insulation. There are also attractive natural wood frame garden windows that can be stained or painted.

If the plants you select are very sensitive to cold, choose a garden window with a special insulated seat (also called muffler) and sides. A layer of rigid foam insulation is sandwiched in the seat and sides.

If your budget is limited, build a do-it-yourself garden window. Since it uses single pane glass or easy-to-work-with clear acrylic plastic sheets, leave your existing window sashes in place for winter efficiency.

To reduce summer heat gain, make a slanted clear roof covered with 1x4 lumber slats mounted on edge and spaced about five inches apart. The slats allow diffused light to enter from above, but block the sun's direct rays.

Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 658 - buyer's guide of 20 garden window kits listing frame materials (solid wood, aluminum, vinyl), color of frames, styles (awning, casement, top vent, single hung), glass options, features, prices, installation instructions and do-it-yourself instructions for making a low-cost garden/greenhouse window.

Dear Jim: Whenever I take a shower and someone flushes a toilet or turns on cold water, I nearly get scalded. I keep my water heater set at 120 degrees to save energy. Should I set it even lower? - E. H.

A: Lowering the water heater temperature will not help much. Your problem is caused by a pressure imbalance when cold water is being used elsewhere.

Your best solution is to install a new pressure-balancing, anti-scald shower valve (about $90). It senses a pressure drop when another faucet is opened and automatically compensates to reduce the hot water pressure too.

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