Your Guide to a Clean, Sustainable, and Healthy Home
As the winter season settles in and brings colder temperatures to your home, you might have found yourself experiencing sniffles, a dry throat, and other cold symptoms. While this feeling of malaise is more common in the winter months, it could also be exacerbated by outdated building techniques that have resulted in an unhealthy home. If you are looking to create positive change for you and your family, read below to learn more about clean, sustainable, and healthy homes.
Know How You Can Achieve a Healthy Home
You can take multiple steps to be healthy at home. Ideally, you should incorporate these steps from the very start of your home’s design and construction. For example, homebuilders can consider air quality and energy efficiency in the strategic placement of windows, wall framing and insulation, and the HVAC system. Making these considerations from the start of a project can help create a healthier environment for homeowners later on. However, if you find yourself feeling unwell in your current home but aren’t yet able to move to a healthier choice, you can still take some actionable steps in how you operate your home to make it more comfortable for the time being. Regardless of what position you are in, though, it’s important to start by learning the basics about what a healthy home means.
What is a Healthy Home?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a healthy home is a home that is “designed, built, and maintained to support [occupant] health.” While homes should provide shelter, of course, this is not their only purpose. Homes should also provide safety and the structural features necessary to protect residents from harm. Societal views have changed drastically over the years about which building techniques help residents stay healthy at home; and, as such, most older homes were not built with these precautions in mind. However, research has shown that health should be a main priority in a home’s construction.
The Significance of Making Your Home Healthier
Studies have shown that humans spend about 90% of our time indoors, and COVID isolation requirements have only further exacerbated this number. The quality of our is more important than ever before, and the consequences for people living in unhealthy homes can be dire. Unhealthy homes can lead to both short and long-term health effects, including worsened allergies, increased cases of both childhood and adult asthma, serious respiratory illnesses, heart disease, cancer, toxin poisoning, physical injury, mental health problems, and more.
The Perks of Having a Home That is Healthy
A healthy home, on the other hand, will help homeowners build a healthy life. Studies have shown that improved indoor air quality not only helps to prevent the aforementioned health and safety problems, but it also leads to improved concentration and cognitive functioning. Furthermore, a healthy home can even lead to lower utility bills, as the home features will perform better, provide increased insulation during the heat of the summer and chill of the winter, and last longer if they are clean and well-maintained.
Principles to Creating a Healthy Abode
Whether you are searching for a new home and want to know which issues to address in your inspection, or you are interested in taking measurable steps to be healthy at home, it is important to understand the key principles for creating a healthier abode.
Energy-efficient homes are not only better for your wallet and for the environment, but they are also better for your health. Energy-efficient homes, like LiteHomes, allow for increased air exchanges in the home. These air exchanges filter out toxic contaminants and bring in fresh air without breaking the bank. Finally, energy-efficient homes have a well-sealed building envelope. There will therefore be fewer leaks and less moisture buildup that can cause the growth of harmful mold. There will also be fewer cracks that allow vermin and pests to sneak into the house.
Excellent Air Quality and Ventilation
As mentioned above, increasing the energy efficiency of your home will almost always improve the indoor air quality of your home as well. Though outdoor air quality is a common concern, especially for individuals who live in crowded cities, it is actually indoor air quality that contains far more pollutants. Studies have found that indoor air contains 2 to 5 times as many pollutants as outdoor air. Unbeknownst to many homeowners, these Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are commonly emitted from inconspicuous household items, such as cleaning products, carpets, beauty supplies, kitchen appliances, paints, and more. Investing in a high-quality HVAC system to ventilate your home will bring in fresh air and help clean out the contaminants, keeping you and your family safer and healthier throughout the day.
Safe and Secure
Building codes have come a long way over the years to encourage occupant safety in the home, but there are still steps that homeowners should take every day to prevent accidental injuries. According to the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, homeowners should store and properly label any items that could cause problems if mistakenly identified; keep poisons out of reach of children and pets, secure loose rugs that could cause occupants to slip and fall; install smoke and carbon detectors; keep fire extinguishers available in case of an emergency; and take steps to “childproof” any play areas by securing any loose sockets, wires, and sharp corners. Furthermore, any heavy, unstable furniture should also be secured to a wall to prevent it from falling over and causing injury.
The best way to fix problems is to prevent them from becoming problems in the first place. By taking steps to properly maintain devices and systems in the home throughout their lifetime, you will not only save money by preventing the need for early replacement, but you will also make your home a healthier environment. The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative encourages homeowners to “inspect, clean and repair your home routinely” and “take care of minor repairs and problems before they become large.”
While a home built with high-quality techniques should be easier to protect against pests, homeowners should still always take care to ensure that there are no leaks or cracks in the building that could allow pests to enter. Furthermore, homeowners should practice sanitation habits such as storing all uneaten food in closed containers and cleaning food-prep surfaces after use. Finally, if you determine that pest invasion is a problem, you should either hire a professional company to eradicate the problem or use traps and baits to mitigate the problem until you find professional help.
You should check for lead exposure if you live in a house that was built before 1978. Furthermore, you should immediately replace deteriorated paint to prevent lead-related damage. You should also test your home for radon if you have a crawlspace, cracks, or other concerning avenue by which radon could enter the home. Finally, homeowners should invest in low-VOC products and materials that release fewer toxic contaminants into the air.
Extreme heat and cold in a home can be a safety hazard for occupants. A home that focuses on maintaining thermal control will prevent occupants from suffering from extreme temperatures as the seasons change. HUD Exchange lists the following steps homeowners should take: caulk windows, seal ducts, install thermostats, ensure efficient HVAC equipment, and insulate walls. These steps will lead to a safer home free from extreme temperatures.
The Healthy Homes Coalition explains, “Moisture in homes has been linked to a wide range of health problems, from respiratory problems to lead poisoning, from accidental injury to asthma.” Moisture also attracts bugs and animals into the house, which can lead to adverse health and safety concerns.
A clean home will not only lead to fewer allergens from dirt and dust, but it will also keep pests out. A dirty home is more likely to attract pests who find scraps of food and open containers. Furthermore, a dirty home can lead to increased mold that can be harmful to occupant health.
Making Your Own Healthy Living Space
Once a homeowner understands the core principles of being healthy at home, the next step is to act in order to bring these principles to fruition. Take a look at the following action steps listed below.
This action item is twofold. Firstly, homeowners can install alarms that detect unsafe levels of contaminants in the indoor air environment. Many homeowners are familiar with carbon monoxide alarms, which every home should include, but there are many other alarms available as well that can address specific concerns. Secondly, homeowners can install intruder alarms to strengthen their safety within the home.
This step is especially important for homeowners who suffer from respiratory illness such as asthma. Decluttering the home will lessen the number of areas available for dust and allergens to collect.
Keep Your Home a Non-smoking Area:
Smoke emits many harmful contaminants into the indoor air that can cause both short-term and long-term health effects. Studies have also shown that “third hand smoke,” or the smoke particles that get interwoven into textiles and onto the surface of materials, are nearly impossible to remove even with deep cleaning. The best way to prevent smoke-related problems is to keep your home a non-smoking area in the first place.
Use a kitchen exhaust fan:
The kitchen is one of the most temperamental rooms of a house in terms of indoor air quality. Though many people say the kitchen is the heart of the home, it is also a “hot spot” for dangerous air pollutants from cooking. With this in mind, homeowners should make sure they use a kitchen exhaust fan to promote healthy indoor air quality in the kitchen.
Seal openings to the outside:
During the construction of your home, you should take steps to ensure a tightly sealed building envelope that does not have leaks or unnecessary openings to the outside. Properly sealing the home will keep unwanted air from seeping into the home unknowingly, and it will also help prevent moisture and rodents from entering.
Use natural ventilation for fresh air:
Homeowners can invest in an environmentally friendly HVAC system like a mini split in order to encourage healthy air exchange in the home. However, it is also important to incorporate natural ventilation. Homeowners should open windows when possible to get fresh air.
Check for water leaks from the roof:
If you find yourself suffering from extreme temperatures or moisture buildup that is causing health problems, check for water leaks from the roof. The roof is the first layer of protection from many extreme elements, and it is important to ensure its upkeep.
No matter the size of the home or the year it was built, homeowners should always take steps to keep their home clean. Cleaning out daily allotments of trash, the garbage area, the AC filter, and the furnace can make a world of difference for resident health.
Healthy Home, Healthy Family, Healthy Life
At redT, we believe that more healthy homes should be available at an attainable price for buyers in Denver. This is why we build new construction homes that are LEED Gold or higher certified, Indoor airPlus certified, ENERGY STAR certified, and Zero Energy Ready Home certified. We build homes that are thoughtful and designed to be healthier for homeowners and the community alike.