Q: We live in a 2-year-old condo with west-facing windows. The afternoon sun is very bright and hot at times. Someone told me that you can have a film professionally applied to the inside of the windows that will still allow all the light to come in, but will cut the ultraviolet rays and it will stay a little cooler in summer and keep it a little warmer in winter, as well as cutting down on sun fade for carpet, etc. Do you know anything about this and if it really helps? What should we look for in a product, and how do we find a reliable installer? –Eleanor S.

A: There is actually a wide range of window films that can be applied to your windows, including ones that will block UV rays and heat from entering, while actually helping to reduce heat loss back through the glass, so you also get some benefit in the winter. Depending on your needs, you can get films that are completely clear or ones that are tinted so that people on the outside can’t look in.

To find an installer, check the Yellow Pages under "Windows — Tinting." As with hiring any person to work on your house, you need to make sure that the company you hire is properly licensed, bonded and insured. Ask that they make a site visit to examine your windows, and that they bring samples of the different films. Also, ask for local references of people they have worked for so that you can see some of these films in an actual house, and also check on how the past client felt about the company. Finally, be sure you get at least two competitive estimates; make sure that you fully understand the price, warranty, and services they’re providing; and be sure you get everything in writing.

There are a couple of other things to be aware of. With many types of insulated-glass windows, the application of a tinting film can void the window’s warranty. Be sure that you ask the tinting companies about that, and also check with the window manufacturer to verify what you’re being told. Also, window films can be something of a gray area with condo associations. Technically, the condo association owns the window, and a window film is usually considered an alteration of the window itself, not just a window covering. So before you install a film, be sure to check with your condo association to avoid any conflicts.

If it turns out that a tinting film is not a viable option for you, you can also install interior or exterior roll-up sun shades that will accomplish the same goals.

Q: I would like to self-install a ceiling fan with lights. I can follow instructions well and if I get into trouble have friends that I can call upon. My question has to do with how to identify what I am starting out with. We have a capped ceiling outlet that is wired to two wall switches. Obviously I have what I need for the fan and a light kit but this isn’t the issue. Does this wiring indicate that the "box" in the ceiling is the type for a fan installation? There is much overspray up there and no markings on the box itself. (It is actually round with a plastic or nylon cross bar with a center hole) The box thing looks flimsy to me … but I do not know how to identify a box for a fan installation as opposed to a box for only a light installation. –Connie D.

A: You have an interesting situation. The typical ceiling fixture box, especially a plastic one, isn’t intended to handle the weight of a ceiling fan and light.

However, I’m a little confused by what you describe. You said that the ceiling outlet is capped off, and that it’s wired to two switches. That sounds like a situation where the builder had intended the installation to be for a ceiling fan, so it’s possible that the proper type of box is already in place.

There are two types of boxes you can use. One looks like an upside-down saddle bag, and is intended to straddle the ceiling joist and be attached directly to the joist. This type of box is easy to identify, since it’s not a uniform depth inside — instead, half of the box protrudes up on either side of the joist. If that’s what’s there, you’re fine.

The other type of box is suspended from a steel rod that’s attached between two ceiling joists. The box slides along the rod, and is then secured in place. From below, you can usually identify this type of box by the nut or screws in the top of the box that secure the box to the rod. There’s actually a third style as well, which is a shallow metal box that’s screwed directly to wood backing, but that doesn’t sound like what you’re describing.

If you don’t have either of these types of boxes, you’ll need to install one. If your current box is attached to a joist, and you have some slack in the wiring, then removing the old box and replacing it with the joist-straddling box may be an option. If you have access to the attic, the box with the rod is a good choice, since it’s easy to install and has the additional advantage that the box can then be slid along the rod and secured anywhere you want, so you can align it over the old hole.

Both of these boxes will have weight ratings, but they should handle just about any type of fan/light combination. You can get them wherever you bought the fan, and the dealer can help you with selecting the type of box that’s best for your application, as well as verifying that it’s sufficient for the weight.

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