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7 Tips to Building a Healthy Home
By Mike Holmes
Wednesday, March 31st, 2021 @ 2:51pm
The pandemic has forced us to pay more attention to our health and spend more time at home than we ever imagined. It became critical for us to create a healthy home environment that keeps us and our families safe. During this time, I took the opportunity to research and improve my own air and water quality. In this article, I am going to discuss tips for building a healthy home.
For starters, there are many factors that contribute to our overall health. Some of these factors include, the air we breathe, the humidity levels in our homes, and the water we consume. So what steps can we take to live a healthier life and improve the quality of our homes?
#1 Improve Indoor Air Quality
The air we breathe has a direct impact on our health. Poor air quality can indicate the air contains unhealthy toxins —like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mold, lead, and even cancer-causing gasses like radon.
I sat down with Building Biologist, Andrew Guido to talk about simple steps to a healthy home in Episode 1 of the Holmes On Homes Podcast.
An easy thing for homeowners to do is to properly ventilate the house by regularly opening the
windows for a few minutes a day. This is something you can start doing right now. Having fresh outdoor air run through the house is important as studies have shown that increasing the fresh air supply in a home improves respiratory health, according to the National Centre for Healthy Housing.
Buying a stand-alone air cleaner with a Hepa filter for each floor of the house is something I recommend. This is relatively inexpensive and will help filter out the dust, spores, pet dander, and toxins, without the need to replace your entire air filtration system.
The majority of furnace filters need to be changed, at minimum, every couple of months. However, you may want to consider having the ducts cleaned if the filter is clogging up sooner.
#2 Fix Any Sources of Air Leaks
Does the house feel a little extra cold lately? Have you been noticing cold drafts or spots around the house? There could be an air leak that needs attention.
Addressing the air leaks at home will allow the warm air to remain inside and help you save on your home energy bills too.
Common spots for air leaks include:
- Attics and Cold Spaces
- Doors and Windows
- Recessed Lighting
Two common solutions for sealing air leaks include adding more insulation in your home and re-applying caulking to windows and door frames where necessary.
The best outdoor caulking material is rubberized, because it provides longevity and flexibility. This means it moves with the natural expansion and contraction of the house.
If you want to add a skylight to let through more natural light, I highly recommend getting a tubular skylight. This type of skylight has a lower chance of leaking.
#3 Reduce Radon Levels
Radon is a radioactive gas found naturally in the environment —with no visible color, odor, or taste. If not addressed promptly, in enclosed spaces radon can reach dangerously high levels. Exposure to radon gas can severely affect your health. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
The Radostat device attaches directly to your heat recovery ventilator system (HRV), and is a less invasive solution to building design, being the simplest to install.
In order to prioritize energy efficiency and indoor air quality, the Radostat operates only when needed. If high radon levels are detected, the device will trigger an air exchange in your home to pull radon-infused air outdoors and redistribute fresh, new, treated air back into your home.
Radon can also be found in your water, if you rely on well water. It is important to get your water tested and consider getting an Airwell installed to reduce radon levels in your water by 97%.
There are short-term and long-term radon test kits available.
#4 Control Humidity Levels
Ideally, humidity levels in the home should be 40-60% to create a healthy environment that is also good for your respiratory system. If you have recently been experiencing nose bleeds, it could indicate the air is too dry. It can also be an indicator that the humidifier on your furnace is not working properly or your filters need replacing.
Mold and rot are another critical issue caused by excess humidity, presenting a health risk and allergy and asthma symptoms if inhaled. Without fresh air coming into the house, there is no outlet for the moisture-filled-air to escape. Over time this can cause major damage to your home by getting inside the walls.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can reduce indoor humidity by 30-60% by properly ventilating the house, using the exhaust fans when you cook, run the dishwasher, and in your bathroom, and using air conditioners and a dehumidifier to pull excess moisture out of the air.
If you have recently been experiencing nose bleeds, it could indicate the air is too dry.
#5 Improve Water Quality
Water is an essential part of our life, we consume it and use it in daily tasks. If your water tastes funny, appears cloudy, or leaves behind white chalky deposits, it is important you schedule a water sample test to determine what contaminants likely exist in your system.
Based on your test results, it may be important to consult a professional water expert on the best water filtration and treatment system to get installed. While there are specialized filtration systems, a whole house water filtration system is a great solution to ensure all the water flowing in your home is clean.
You can watch or listen to Episode 4 of my Holmes On Homes podcast to learn more about water quality.
#6 Improve Indoor Lighting
Lighting can have a strong impact on your sleep patterns and in turn your health. To help you get a goodnight’s sleep experts recommend sleeping in a dark room. This means sleeping with your door closed to block out any light coming in from the outside. Purchasing window treatments can help you block out the street lights at night and allows for natural light to come through in the morning.
With the advancement of technology nowadays, you can also have a circadian lighting system installed in your house. These systems control the light brightness or colour temperature throughout the day to help support our body’s system and ease us from daytime to nighttime.
The Intensity tuning system is the most popular and cost-effective solution. This system works by maintaining a specific colour temperature while reducing the brightness levels through a smart dimming system that correlates with the time of day. This allows our bodies to naturally adapt from day to night.
Eaton’s LED dimmable nightlight receptacles combine an adjustable LED nightlight with a variety of receptacles and safety options (including tamper resistant shutters and GFCIs). These devices are ideal for bedrooms and hallways where you want the way-finding benefit of the nightlight, but do not want to disrupt sleep with an overly bright light.
#7 Choose Healthier Building Materials
When you’re renovating, it’s important to watch out for the kind of materials you choose for your home. All building materials from couches, cabinets, countertops, and paint can offgas VOCs which can negatively affect your health. You know that new car smell? Those are VOCs at work.
Depending on the type of material, it can take years for VOCs to completely dissipate. That’s a long time to be breathing in toxins. You’ll often see more VOCs in low quality paints and furniture. On the other hand, materials like granite or quartz finishes offgas very few VOCs.
When planning your next renovation, choose products that offgas fewer to no VOCs. Many paints come with no VOCs now, and are just as effective as ever.