The Importance of a Healthy Home Environment
Your home is your sanctuary. It is where family gathers, memories are made, and life happens. While you cannot control everything, like noise pollution and the weather, you can and should take precautionary actions to safeguard your health within your home. Did you know that the air you breathe while relaxing in your home could contain the same irritants that trigger your allergies and the electrical panel you probably haven’t opened in months could be harboring a fire hazard beyond your knowledge? We know protecting your family’s health is your top priority, so why wouldn’t you start at home?
Explore our comprehensive guide to making your home safer and healthier for you and your loved ones. From improving air and water quality to preventing electrical fires, there are a variety of actionable steps you can regularly take to ensure your home is fit for a lifetime of love and cherished memories.
Treat Your Home as if You Were a Guest Staying in it
The best way to approach your home’s health is to look at it from an outsider’s angle. Over time, we grow accustomed to certain smells and sounds that don’t particularly bother us –– but a guest may easily notice them. These signs could be an indicator of something more serious at play. For instance, musty odors are typically excused in older homes, however, in many cases, that smell is a tell-tale sign that mold is present. And for the elderly, mold is more likely to exacerbate existing respiratory conditions, like asthma and allergies, or create new ones. Walk through your home monthly and keep these points in mind while you do:
1. Ensure your Home is Clean and Clutter-Free: Regular cleaning and decluttering are essential to eliminate dust and allergens, and can uncover other potential health and safety hazards, such as mold. Dust and vacuum frequently, especially in high-traffic areas of the home, and keep countertops, floors, and furniture clutter-free.
2. Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Products: Choose natural, eco-friendly cleaning products to avoid harmful chemicals that can affect indoor air quality and pose health risks.
3. Invest in Indoor Plants: Houseplants not only add beauty to your home, but also purify the air by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen. Some excellent air-purifying plants include spider plants, peace lilies, and pothos.
4. Avoid Smoking Indoors: Cigarette smoke is a major indoor air pollutant that can cause respiratory issues among other health problems. Create a designated outdoor smoking area to prevent smoke from lingering inside and adversely affecting your family, friends, young children, and pets.
5. Promote Natural Light: Open curtains and blinds during the day to allow natural light to enter your home. Natural light has numerous health benefits, helping to regulate sleep patterns and improve mood.
6. Regularly Check for Water Leaks: Water leaks can lead to mold growth and structural damage. When water sets in, mold can rapidly grow within 24 to 48 hours. Regularly inspect your faucets, pipes, and roof to identify and fix any leaks promptly.
Let WIN, your trusted home inspectors, check-in on your home annually to assess areas often forgotten amid life’s busy moments. With our Healthy Home Check, you can increase your home value, proactively identify and mitigate hazards, and live more comfortably in your home. Our core services include a Home Maintenance Assessment, Air Quality Testing, Infrared (IR) Scans, and Sewer Scope Inspections. These services are critical for determining the current condition of your home and addressing health and safety.
Tips for Working from Home Healthily
Our post-pandemic world grants more opportunities for working from home. While many may be pleased with the ease of waking up and attending meetings without a commute, there are some disadvantages associated with working from home, especially when your home environment is unhealthy.
Apart from the general stuffiness you may experience from keeping windows closed, there are a variety of other physical ailments you may develop. Incorporate these tips into your daily work life to ensure maximum productivity and happiness while working from home.
1. Create an Ergonomic Setup: Invest in an ergonomic chair and desk to support good posture and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal issues.
2. Designate a Workspace: Create a dedicated workspace free from distractions to enhance focus and productivity. Try to keep it distinct from areas you typically relax in to create a sufficient work-life balance.
3. Take Regular Breaks: Take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, move around, and rest your eyes to avoid sedentary habits and eye strain.
4. Set Boundaries: Set clear boundaries between work and personal time to prevent burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance. For instance, make sure to silence your notifications once the workday ends, so you can ease into relaxation for the evening.
5. Incorporate Movement: Integrate movement into your work routine, such as standing during meetings or walking on breaks, to stay active during the day.
Attend to Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality is crucial for maintaining a healthy home, and it is a common issue. Pollen can easily enter through cracks and open windows and doors, and pet dander is an ongoing issue for those with furry family members. But despite these allergens being so common, they are nonetheless dangerous and heavily degrade your indoor air quality.
Poor air quality can lead to respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis and can agitate existing conditions, like allergies. Both children and elderly individuals are at the highest risk of heath complications from poor indoor air quality. Here's how you can ensure your family is breathing easy at home.
1. Get an Air Quality Test: Consider getting an Air Quality Test to identify potential pollutants and allergens in your home. Professionals, like WIN Home Inspection, can help assess your home’s air quality and recommend appropriate measures to take. Homeowners can get an Air Quality Test as a stand-alone service or as part of their yearly Healthy Home Check.
2. Improve Ventilation and Air Circulation: Proper ventilation is vital to allow fresh air to circulate and push out indoor pollutants. Utilize the exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms and change your air filters regularly.
3. Use Air Purifiers: Air purifiers with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters can effectively remove airborne particles, such as dust, pollen, and pet dander, thereby enhancing indoor air quality.
4. Control Humidity Levels: Maintaining the right humidity levels (ideally between 30-50%) can prevent mold growth and reduce the spread of allergens. Use a dehumidifier in damp areas to help regulate humidity levels in your home.
5. Keep Pet Areas Clean: If you have pets, ensure their living areas are cleaned regularly to minimize pet dander and allergens.
Other Health and Environmental Issues Commonly Found in Homes
Identifying and addressing potential health hazards in your home is vital for maintaining a healthy living space. Unfortunately, many environmental issues are difficult to detect, especially when they are colorless and odorless. For instance, consistent exposure to radon in your home can lead to lung cancer – but the carcinogen itself is impossible to detect without a test. With 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. having high levels of radon, you shouldn’t risk the health and safety of your family by avoiding testing. Take note of these environmental hazards and get your home tested, today!
If your home was built before the 1980s, it could have lead-based paint or building materials made with asbestos. As witnessed with the 2014 Flint Water Crisis, lead can wreak havoc on the central nervous system, severely affecting childhood neurological development. Children can ingest lead orally through drinking water or through eating paint chips they peel off the walls. Educate your kids, but also get your home tested for lead to reduce the risk of lead poisoning.
Asbestos can be present virtually everywhere in the home. From roofing to textured paint, the chemical is distributed throughout and is unidentifiable to the human senses. Exposure is usually signified by its health effects, like persistent coughing, but continuous and heightened exposure to the chemical can lead to lung cancer.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, and radioactive gas that can seep into your home through cracks in the foundation, tap water, or other openings. It is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, and the leading cause of lung cancer altogether. Smokers, beware that radon exposure raises your risk of developing lung cancer dramatically. Due to radon’s high prevalence, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends people test their homes for radon every 2 years.
4. Disease-Carrying Pests
Keep your home free from pests like rodents and insects by maintaining a clean home and sealing any cracks or gaps. Such organisms can carry numerous diseases, like Lyme disease and rabies, that can affect your and your children's health.
Home Safety for Kids
Children are curious, exploring the world around them unknowing of the health and safety risks that surround them. Kids do not have the knowledge and brain development to understand risks in the same way you do, so keeping a safe home environment is crucial. Protect your kids, and implement these safety tips across different areas of your home:
Pool Safety for Kids:
- Install a pool fence with a self-locking gate.
- Supervise children at all times when near the pool.
- Teach kids to swim between 6 months and 4 years of age, or as soon as possible, and enforce pool rules.
Electrical Safety for Kids:
- Cover electrical outlets with safety caps.
- Keep cords out of reach, and use cord organizers to prevent tripping hazards.
- Teach kids about electrical safety and the importance of not playing with electrical devices.
Fire Safety for Kids:
- Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and in all sleeping areas.
- Develop a fire escape plan and practice it regularly with your family.
- Keep fire extinguishers in key areas of your home and ensure everyone knows how to use them.
Home Safety for Older Adults
- Remove tripping hazards and create clear walkways throughout the home.
- Install grab bars in bathrooms and near stairs to assist with balance and stability.
- Consider installing a medical alert system for seniors living alone.
Septic and Sewer System Maintenance and Safety
Lastly, maintaining a proper septic and sewer system grants you peace of mind when guests and family are visiting. Diseases like Hepatitis and Cholera are prevalent in sewage, and telltale signs of spillage, like stinky smells, are not as apparent in certain seasons such as winter when snow covers them up. Get a Sewer Scope or Septic Inspection with WIN and live freely knowing that your pipes are free of blockages. In the meantime, note signs of septic system damage when you can: slow drains, foul odors, and wet spots in your yard are all symptoms of poor operation.
Pumping your septic tank every 3 to 5 years is necessary to prevent solid waste buildup and maintain the system's efficiency. Avoid flushing hazardous chemicals and non-biodegradable items including feminine products and diapers.
As you continue with your homeownership journey, your home will continue to shift, settle and adapt to life just as you and your family do. An annual Healthy Home Check is the best method to increase your home’s value and safeguard you and your family’s health.
WIN Home Inspection is here to support you through life’s biggest moments. When you first purchase your home, we ensure you are set and safe to move in. If you decide to renovate or remodel your home and enhance your investment, we are here to ensure the structural integrity of your home before and after, as well as check for loose debris and compromised air quality as a result from construction. Once your children pack their bags for college and you look to downsize, we are just a phone call away for a Pre-Listing Inspection, which can help you maximize your return on investment and set the next family up for a strong future. For all of life’s moments in between, WIN is here to conduct annual Healthy Home Checks to ensure you’re maintaining your home and your family’s health and safety.
By following the tips and tactics mentioned in this article, you can create a space that fosters good health, happiness, and productivity. Remain vigilant and trust your instincts. If something feels off with your home, call us! We are your one-stop shop for all your home inspection needs. Let WIN do what we do best: safeguard your family.