A Healthier Home and a Healthier Planet
Achieving optimal physical and mental health takes more than eating your veggies and managing your stress–you need your home to be healthy, too.
While most people want to lead a healthy life, the pandemic brought the issue of wellness to the forefront of everyone’s minds. More people recognized that, as Gandhi said, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
While studies show that getting outside in nature can be beneficial, Americans typically spend 65% of their lifetime at home, according to research by The Harvard School of Public Health. Naturally, it pays to create a healthy environment where you spend most of your time.
Survey data from Green Builder Media shows that a healthy home is a top priority for millennials and is identified as extremely important when making a decision about where to live.
But what does it mean to have a healthy home?
Researchers at The Harvard School of Public Health came up with a simple list of nine foundations for a healthy building, which includes homes, offices, schools and other private and public buildings. The nine foundations that need to be addressed to improve the health outcomes in buildings include:
- Air quality
- Water quality
- Thermal health
- Lighting and views
- Safety and security
- Dust and pests
Building on that research, Harvard’s experts next focused on steps to take specifically for a healthier home.
A key element of a healthier home is fresh air. Approximately 25 million Americans have asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, but poor quality air in your home contributes to other physical and mental health issues including dizziness, fatigue, heart disease and cancer.
Air pollutants are often two to five times higher indoors than outside, according to Harvard’s research. You can improve your indoor air quality with simple steps such as opening your windows to let in fresh air and leaving your shoes at the door to reduce the dust you bring inside.
Other options include installing a whole home ventilator such as one from Carrier that floods your home with fresh air without losing energy through open windows or skylights. An air purifier can be used to filter and remove particles and germs to reduce exposure to diseases. The Carrier Air Purifier can automatically sample incoming air and adjust fan speeds based on air quality.
Portable air purifiers and humidifiers can be especially valuable in your bedroom, according to the Harvard report, because you spend one-third of your life in your bedroom.
The kitchen is a prime location where you can improve your air quality. Particle levels can be 10 times higher than the maximum health limits for outdoor air when you cook with an unvented stove, according to Harvard’s research. Use your exhaust hood whenever you cook, preferably one that is vented outdoors.
Vacuuming with a machine with a HEPA filter can eliminate particles throughout your house, the Harvard researchers recommend.
In addition, it’s best not to use scented candles and incense because they release chemical particles into the air. Air fresheners send chemical particles into the air and should also be avoided. An indoor air quality monitor can track VOCs that may be in your home.
Keeping Your Cool–and Warmth
Thermal health is important for your home and your body in several ways, including simply feeling comfortable in any season. While managing the temperature in your home and limiting your energy use are important, ideally, you’ll also track the moisture in your air and on surfaces in your home.
Keeping moisture low can prevent the growth of mold and spread of germs. Using fans in your bathrooms as well as whole house ventilation systems can reduce moisture – or just open windows when you can to let fresh air flow inside.
Your climate and the season will dictate whether you need a dehumidifier or a humidifier. In cold, dry weather, adding moisture to your air is good for your skin and respiratory system, plus it decreases the amount of time flu germs survive in the air, according to the Harvard researchers.
Depending on your location, your home’s configuration and your budget, you may want to consider a geothermal heating and cooling system or a highly efficient solution such as Carrier’s Infinity 42.5 SEER ductless mini-split system that provides optimal temperature control and has a humidity sensor. You can control the temperature and humidity levels from your smartphone.
Sleeping Better Than a Baby
In addition to making sure you’re breathing fresh air while you sleep, the Harvard researchers recommend monitoring the noise, light and temperature in the room so you get optimal sleep. White noise machines can cover up sounds from outside and create a soothing atmosphere for deep sleep. The researchers suggest avoiding blue light from screens before bed and using blackout shades to eliminate light from outdoors.
Sleep disruption due to too cold or too hot bedroom temperatures is linked to mental health problems, loss of productivity and diminished cognitive function, according to the Harvard report. Your room temperature should be between 65 and 70 degrees for comfort while you sleep.
Staying Safe and Secure
Security and safety are important elements of a healthy home. The Harvard report recommends installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and checking them frequently to make sure they are working. Check radon levels in your home with a simple inexpensive kit to see if you need to do any radon mitigation to control it.
Don’t let your car idle in your garage, especially if it’s attached to your house. The Harvard researchers found that car exhaust worsens asthma and can contribute to heart problems and respiratory illnesses. Diesel exhaust is a carcinogen that can be highly dangerous, according to the researchers.
Safety also includes having adequate lighting to prevent falls, keeping your sidewalk and steps clear of debris, and, if you have a pool, making sure that no children can get into the pool perimeter without adult supervision.
Security systems for your home, including locks, deadbolts, motion-activated lights and an alarm system are all options to consider to keep your home safe. Monitors can also be installed on plumbing systems to alert you to a possible leak that could damage your home and lead to the growth of mold.
Simplicity for a Healthier Home
A key element for managing a healthier home is to keep it simple. Connecting your home systems to your smartphone makes it easier to monitor everything from your air quality to your lighting to your temperature to your alarm system.
You can install an Infinity control system that learn your habits and adapt your system automatically as well as allow you to make changes from your smartphone.
Take a careful look at your home to identify areas where you can improve your health and increase your safety. Many health related home improvements require simple changes rather than expensive fixes and are also better for the health of the environment, such as using fewer chemicals.