Homeowners envision a habitat that is just as healthy as it is beautiful. Actually achieving a healthy home can seem difficult, perhaps even insurmountable. You can’t simply flip the healthy switch. It requires a plan and a concerted effort. But once you’re able to define that process, fostering a healthy home environment is not nearly as difficult as it may seem. With that in mind, here are the ten most important steps to achieving your dream house:
- When building or renovating, use healthy materials. Left to their own devices, any builders will use a wide range of materials that have a questionable effect on human health. Why risk it? At the very least, avoid all materials that are on the Red List this list, maintained by the Living Building Challenge, identifies legal materials suspected to have negative health effects associated with them.
- The optimal modern building approach is a tight build with proper ventilation. Most U.S. states have building codes in place that actually enforce this in new construction and renovation. Do not settle simply because you live in an area that does not. The approach makes a home much healthier, comfortable and energy-efficient. Keep in mind that most codes do address indoor air quality. Ensure that your HVAC contractor includes proper fresh-air ventilation for appliances and the like.
- Maintain and clean your air ducts regularly. It is particularly important to prep the system prior to a remodeling project and then to clean them immediately after the project completes. It also very important to perform an inspection immediately after the house is built or if you have never performed one at all before. Under normal circumstances, have the system checked every several years.
- Avoid moisture. Moisture is the primary cause of building failures, and due to mold, it can have a significant negative effect on health. The best way to achieve dryness is to have a proper ventilation system and run ventilation fans whenever appropriate. Bathrooms and laundry rooms are problem areas, so take particular care to ensure exhaust fans are operating properly. In some areas, it may be necessary to use a humidifier or dehumidifier to achieve the desired humidity indoors year-round.
- Manage off-gassing, which is the process by which contaminants seep out of a material. Always use materials that are labeled no- or low-VOC (volatile organic compound). Avoid using particleboard and pressed-wood materials, such as plywood, since these contain formaldehyde. When purchasing wood products, opt for those that are labeled to contain no added urea-formaldehyde. When purchasing any building materials, always opt for those third-party certified with a Green Seal or the like.
- Be aware of your water quality. Test it regularly. Even if you have city water, a problem can exist between the city pipes and your home system. Consider installing a house-water treatment system. A reverse osmosis system, for instance, can be expensive up front, but it is energy-efficient, water-efficient and cost-effective long term.
- Be aware of your indoor air quality. Most importantly, test for radon. Radon is an odorless gas that is one of the leading causes of lung cancer worldwide. If you have or are installing a basement, install a soil vent system, which will prevent gasses from entering the home. Other useful indoor air quality tests include those for VOCs, formaldehyde and mold.
- The greatest source of contaminants in a home is the stuff we track into it on the bottom of our shoes. Put a mat at both sides of each entrance to the home. Make it a rule that everyone removes his or her shoes before entering the home. Clean those mats regularly and replace them twice a year. Consider using a storage space near exits where people can keep their shoes.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpet. Carpet acts like a trap for a wide range of contaminants, including dust, dust mites, mold and even pesticides. Natural hardwood floors with a non-toxic, low-VOC finish is a much more preferable option. In areas where softness is desired, cover with washable, natural-fiber rugs.
- Use a HEPA air purifier. A HEPA air purifier, along with a consistent cleaning regimen, is the most important step you can take to ensuring optimal air quality in the home. A medical-grade HEPA filter removes 99.97 of all particles, down to 0.3 microns in size. In other words, it traps all particles that are a significant concern to indoor air quality. The best air purifier systems also contain an activated carbon component. This feature is responsible for removing all chemicals, gases and odors.
Due to increased focus on being health conscious and environmentally conscious, there are always alternatives on the market now when it comes to building materials, household cleaners and so forth. Always research products before bringing them into your home, and be willing to pay more for the healthier options. Keep in mind that in an unfiltered, under-ventilated home, indoor air pollution is always more severe than outdoor air pollution. This is why it is paramount that you take control of your indoor air quality, especially if you have children. The first step is to remove and avoid contaminants. The second step is to dust and vacuum often. The third and most important step is to use a quality air purifier. Start protecting your family today. Purchase your HEPA air purifier from Clean Air Plus.
Clean Air Plus is a veteran and family owned small business. We represent the leading manufacturers in HEPA filtration including Austin Air, IQAir, Amaircare, Oransi and Airpura. Shop online or call one of our friendly experts. We'll be happy to help.