by Kimberly Blackford
It is becoming more and more apparent that physical health can be directly related to the health of your home. There are many factors within a home that can increase the risks of health problems, including poor air quality, dangerous chemicals and mold. Similarly, a clean and comfortable household can do wonders for self-esteem and productivity. Maintaining a safe and healthy atmosphere is beneficial for the entire family. Some innovative products produce new forms of energy efficiency that can cut costs for homeowners as well as provide a safer environment. Practices, such as ergonomics and Feng-Shui, assist in creating a comfortable home that feels balanced and calm. There is a wide assortment of cost-effective methods, merchandise and resources available in today’s world that promotes a healthier and happier home.
For the safest building possible, pre-existing homes should be checked routinely for cracks and other needed repairs. The structural integrity of a home can be affected by multiple occurrences, including natural disasters, poor workmanship and daily deterioration. Load-bearing walls and joists should be examined carefully on a regular basis. Horizontal cracks can indicate differential settlement caused by a possible soil or drainage issue with the foundation.
Homebuilders, manufacturers and designers are readily accepting the trend to develop more efficient living for newly constructed homes. Many homes are being built with energy efficient walls that provide more insulation. These designs give consumers more options of building with healthier materials. Solar energy has become increasingly popular in new building construction. It can be used to heat your water supply and dramatically reduce energy costs. Many homebuilders install the solar panels on the roof to retrieve an ample amount of solar energy. Radiant barriers, usually included in the attic, are incredibly helpful for reducing heat and cooling costs by reflecting radiant heat instead of absorbing it. Some homes, primarily in the West, are being constructed of straw bails concealed with stucco for a highly sustainable exterior wall.
Proper Ventilation & Filtration
There are many appliances that can produce harmful emissions throughout the household. Water heaters, stoves and furnaces release combustible byproducts like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxide that can cause dangerous health problems. Some building materials and other home products may contain toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs. Sometimes people will experience side effects from exposure to such pollutants, like headaches, breathing problems, fatigue and even cancer. Many of these harmful toxins can only be detected with special equipment from a professional. Mold, mildew, moisture condensation, asbestos, dust and animal dander can collect and cause serious breathing issues in a poorly ventilated home. Even if your air seems stuffy, it is probable that poor ventilation is the culprit.
Adequate ventilation can protect your family from these serious hazards by removing excess heat and moisture from the air. In high moisture areas such as the bathroom and kitchen, a local exhaust fan is perfect for transferring humidity to the outside. Stoves, cooktops, furnaces and fireplaces should have carbon monoxide detectors nearby and need to be properly vented to the outdoors as well. It is beneficial for your home to have a continuous ventilation system to eliminate stale air and distribute fresh air from the outdoors, as well as proper attic and crawl space ventilation. Air purifiers can be placed in specific rooms that are more prone to moisture and other toxins. Newer, green homes often include excellent air sealing and moisture barriers that help keep pollutants away.
Awareness of leaks and proper water filtration are important for controlling moisture build-up. Slow drips and condensation inside the walls can cause damage to the structural integrity as well as promote mold growth. Be mindful of any possible plumbing leaks and holes that may allow rainwater inside. Position gutters and downspouts away from the house to avoid wet spots on basement walls and extra moisture. Additionally, a good water filter for your bathrooms and kitchen is another method to attain healthier living.
Decorative and interior features play a major role in creating a comfortable and healthy living space. The home is where we spend a great deal of our life, so it is important to keep it clean and content for a healthier environment. Low VOC paints, stains and other materials assist with keeping harmful contaminants out of the home. Many homeowners will chose to go natural with real wood cabinets, bamboo floors and organic furniture. Wood floors are easier to keep clean than carpets, and can be softened up with an organic-based fiber rub that is washable.
Ergonomics usually refers to increasing productivity in the workplace by eliminating worker discomfort and fatigue, but has been steadily making its way into homesteads. Tools that are ergonomically designed, like kitchen utensils and gardening equipment, can reduce stress on the body. Feng Shui is another practice that increases a healthy home atmosphere. It revolves around the creative placement of items, materials and furniture in ways that will maximize balance and tranquility. Positive energy can be created by the use of colors, water features, mirror placement and other elements of the Feng Shui system. The beginning basics for a healthy Feng Shui style home are clean air, sufficient lighting and a clutter-free area. Adjustable lighting options provide energy efficiency as well as comfort when accommodating different activities from naptime to work time.
Organization & Cleanliness
Tidy and clean spaces are the key to having a hygienic, wholesome home. A place that is primarily free of dirt and dust improves air quality as well as counteracts disease, pests and mold growth. Dust, some of which can be contaminated with dangerous toxins like arsenic and lead, supplies sustenance for unwanted pests, bugs, rodents and mites. These critters can lead to infestations and damage the structural integrity of your home as well as cause serious health issues. HEPA filter vacuums improve indoor conditions by removing almost all the allergens and tiny dust particles that settle on the floor. Additionally, keep the vents and air ducts as clean as possible, since they distribute the air and possible contaminants throughout the house. The best protection is keeping your home relatively clean so unwanted pests do want to move in.
Organization is important for the safety and health of your family. Workshop areas should have tools secured so they are out of reach of children and cannot fall. Cluttered stairs and hallways can cause serious injury and even death, especially for children and the elderly. To prevent dangerous falls, keep areas tidy, properly lit and use slip-free mats. It is a good idea to install bar rails in the bathroom, handrails near the stairs and fix banisters that feel loose and unsteady. Some homeowners create a yearly checklist to inspect the condition of the roof, chimney, furnace and water heater as well as other aspects around the home.
An important part of staying healthy is being aware of which products are used on and around your body. Many household cleaning products contain chemicals that can be dangerous if not handled properly. Cleaning products, medicines, cosmetics, pesticides and other potentially dangerous materials need to be stored in a safe location away from the reach of children. Some homeowners have decided to take a more “green” approach to cleaning products by creating their own natural cleaning solutions. One classic method includes mixing baking soda and lemon juice for an organic cleanser. Soaking dishes in apple cider vinegar and baking soda provides a safer alternative to dishwashing soap. Mix lavender essential oil and a bit of lemon in a spray bottle for a chemical-free alternative to a room fragrance spray.
Additionally, there is a large amount of perfumes and other fragrant items containing synthetic substances that can negatively affect allergies and asthma. A new trend in modern time, referred to as “soft health,” involves a form of relaxation in a therapeutic space with natural products. Ingredients such as green tea extract, grapeseed oil, olive oil and vitamin E are beneficial for your skin and your overall health. Many people find that using chemical-free products provide a more therapeutic effect and extra comfort.
For a healthy home, it is vital to pay attention to balance and comfort as well as the dangers that threaten it and your family. Safe construction, good air quality, non-toxic products and organization will help you achieve a secure and friendly atmosphere. According to your budget and lifestyle, you can choose which aspects that you want to incorporate to accomplish a comfortable and healthy home.
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