It’s that time of year again, and I have to say I absolutely love it. It’s the time of year where you can really open up your windows, air out your house, and let the crisp cool air inside. In respects to a season where your house is probably the healthiest in terms of indoor air quality, this is it. Many of us have been running our air conditioner all summer long and we’ve been trying to block those amazing sunshine rays to prevent the heat from affecting our house. But now, with fall around the corner (or here in some parts of the Country), it’s that time to enjoy the unfiltered sunshine and breathe in the fresh air.
Fall is also a time to prep for winter. Just in years long ago when families would prepare their house and food supply, we too still do this in some ways. Planning ahead is a great way to ensure that you won’t have as many issues or unforseen problems with your home when the really cold weather hits in a few months (sorry to even mention that!).
I always plan best with a paper to do list and a mapped out idea of what I need to purchase and how I will execute my plan. I’ve created a seasonal checklist for fall that will help you not only know what tasks should be done around your house, but you’ll have an idea of what to prepare for and purchase before the snow falls. Plus this list is so easy, any homeowner can follow the ideas outlined.
Lately there’s been a huge push by many individuals and companies to really improve the quality of the indoor air we breathe. Anything from purifiers to monitors that will help us identify the contaminants seem to be everywhere. While it may feel gimmicky to some, it really is a huge part of our health and wellness. The air we breathe travels directly to our lungs and bloodstream, allowing oxygen and other unwanted particles into our bodies.
We know now that our air at home can be more polluted than the outdoor air, and for this reason, families everywhere are trying to improve their habits and reverse this problem. The great thing is there’s so much information out about ways we can avoid many of problems that have been arising when it comes to air quality.
The idea of adding less chemicals and toxins into our air is wildly popular, and many households are switching their cleaning habits and products. This is a huge step in the right direction, but there are other ways that can help improve the indoor air quality at home. These items are all things you can take care of outside your home before winter rolls in.
This week marks the official “Back to School” week for my kids and many other kids around the US. Some of you have already been back at school, but when it’s after Labor Day, it’s definitely back to the school year. Or in our house as we say, “Back to school…..back to sniffles.” I know the first month or so back to school is tough on my girls’ immune systems, and I’ll do everything in my power to prevent illness from taking hold.
I’ve learned over the last few years that there are some very important parts of my daily routines and house habits that can drastically improve our chances of staying healthy. I firmly believe that our houses can be a great building block to help keep us and our immune systems healthy. Supporting your immune system and your kids’ immune systems can be the difference between a miserable school year or a positively enjoyable school year.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think illness can be completely avoided, but I do think it can be prevented and I believe our bodies are stronger when we give them the right tools. There’s always an inevitable cold or virus here and there -- and I have come to expect that. What I used to expect was having someone sick every other week in my house. After changing some of our routines and working hard to make healthier choices, I no longer see weeks upon weeks of illness in the winter.
Obviously a lot of staying healthy has to do with getting proper nutrition and sleep, but today I also want to share with you some ways your actual house and home environment can help support your family’s immune system. Just a few small changes to daily habits can make all the difference.
One of the most forgotten areas of a healthy house is the water we use. Water quality in the United States is often completely forgotten about as we leave our treatment up to cities and counties and trust the water is clean and safe. But the truth is as homeowners and citizens, it’s our responsibility to double check and verify that we are in fact using water that isn’t harming our body. Most of us don’t even think twice about checking our water. But why would we? It looks clean and tastes fine, so it’s probably okay. We trust the cleaning agents that are added and feel confident our water is completely pure. This, unfortunately, is a naive way of viewing our water. Water is one of the most important parts of healthy living, so it’s imperative to make sure it’s completely safe and completely pure.
Depending on where you live in the world, water can have different levels of risk. My family lives in the Twin Cities, and our water has a variety of natural contaminants. Mostly we see a lot of iron and hard water. However some areas also see high levels of chlorine from the city treatment facilities. Other areas near a lot of agricultural land and farm communities might have trace amounts of pesticides or other chemicals. The water that eventually comes out of our faucet has traveled underground and through aquifers before it arrives at the treatment plant or our home. This means that chemical contaminants like pesticides or improperly disposed of chemicals can leach into the water and travel for a great distance.
Our water quality deserves a little bit more attention when it comes to creating a healthy home to match our healthy lifestyle. But where do you even start? First, let’s look at some of the top contaminants that are affecting water within many homes around developed parts of the world. Then I’ll give you my fool-proof water filter plant to keep your water safe to drink, bathe and play in. You can also get my Healthy Water Toolkit to help you clean up your drinking water at home
If you’ve recently bought or sold a home, you probably know the term Radon fairly well. But while half of the country still doesn’t require any sort of testing for this toxic gas, it can be confusing to know if it’s a real concern or not. In truth, Radon is everywhere. The gas is outdoors and in every building to at least some extent. The real problem occurs when the levels inside a home are elevated. An elevated level of Radon inside a home can cause long term health problems.
Maybe you’re feeling skeptical about just how truly harmful Radon is. I get it. As a home inspector I run into a lot of home buyers who just don’t seem to think Radon testing is necessary and it’s a bit of a hoax. While I do think there are health risks involved, there are even financial reasons to get a Radon test when you purchase your home. About half of the states in the United States do not require any sort of testing be done to indicate the Radon levels in a home. In Minnesota, we have no rules or regulations on performing this testing….right now. For example’s sake, let’s say a home buyer does not get a Radon test when they move into a home. Time goes by and in five years they decide to sell their home. As a seller, they have no idea there is an elevated level of Radon in the house. If the law has changed to require a test, or the new buyers simply want their own test done, the seller is now responsible for installing a Radon Mitigation System, which can be costly depending on age of the home.
This is one of the many reasons I recommend my home buyers get a test done. It not only protects their health, but their financial burden as well.
From a health perspective, Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. The first step is knowing if your home has elevated levels of Radon and then to learn about how to remove it if it does.
Sleep is a vital part of a child’s life and it’s one of the largest contributors to a healthy life. If you’re a parent or even if you’ve been around babies and kids, you know that a well rested child is often happier and less irritable. Sleep comes easy for some children and for others it can be a bit more of a challenge. But what if the reason for some sleep issues simply came from a poor sleep environment? What if the way we took care of our house and in particular, our child’s room so that the room was conducive to sleep?
There are the obvious ways to make a room a better place to sleep; the same ways that are laid out in every parenting magazine when it comes to the topic. But there are also ways to improve the environment in a room that go unnoticed. The study of the home as a contributor to our health is known as building biology. Building biology as a whole is the idea of creating a home that acts as a third protective barrier from the chemicals and toxins in the world. The second barrier from the world is our clothing and our first protective barrier is our skin.
The amount of time a child spends in their room the first few years of their life is often times just as much as the time they spend out of their room. This is just one more reason that a healthy environment within their bedroom is so vital to their health. A room filled with chemical toxins, organic growth and bacteria is obviously not a place we want our children. The problem is many of these places that bacteria, chemical toxins and organic toxins are is not well known. Parents and grandparents looking to create a healthy space often have to seek out the information.
Not all these solutions will be viable for every family, but changing even one of these things in your child’s room will help improve the indoor air quality and environment of the room. Taking action and taking one step forward will make a different and will improve the health of the room.
If you have young children, you probably know that asthma and allergies are a fairly common occurrence presently. While there are many theories as to why there is such an increase in these conditions, one thing is certain: Our indoor environment plays a huge role in preventing and minimizing symptoms.
The International Institute of Building Biology describes a home as a second skin if you will. Think of the way our skin protects our entire body underneath. Our skin absorbs what is around and on it in and carries it to our bloodstream. Our homes and indoor environment can offer the same protection as our skin if we create a healthy indoor environment. Making sure our home protects us and doesn’t introduce harmful contaminants, both biological and chemical, is key to keeping a healthy space to thrive in.
This is especially true when it comes to homes that have children with asthma or allergies. These little ones can be especially sensitive to allergy inducing irritants found in homes every day. If you have kids with allergies or asthma or you know someone who does, these habits will help create a safe and healthy environment to grow in.
Home renovations can span anywhere from updating flooring in a room to a full-fledged kitchen demo and rebuild. The home renovation process itself can be very unhealthy with the introduction of toxins, chemicals and harmful materials in the process. While you may be doing construction in just one room, the remainder of the house can quickly and easily be affected. Dust and fumes travel from one to another through open doors and ductwork in the home. And believe it or not, it’s actually a lot easier to make a home renovation or project healthy and safe for you and your family. All you need is a little bit of information and a plan in place before you start in order to keep contamination and toxins to a minimum.
When the journey of purchasing a new home is full of excitement, but it can also be full of overwhelming and apprehensive feelings. This is why I encourage all buyers to walk with me the entire inspection and dig through the home’s systems together. When I meet with buyers at their inspection, I can see these feelings are in full force. I love puting their minds at ease in sharing that all things about a house are fixable. It’s more about how much you’re willing to spend and how much you’re willing to maintain. For many this is a welcomed insight.
But knowing what questions to ask when determining if this is the right house is critical. That’s why I’m sharing the best questions to ask your inspector at the inspection. And if you’re about to hire an inspector, don’t make your calls without my Before You Hire a Home Inspector Worksheet. It will save you from hiring the wrong inspector and getting a top notch inspection and report.
Humidity levels within a house can affect many different aspects of our home and lives, yet often times we pay little attention to it. Whether you live in a dry or humid climate, the indoor climate of your home can have a huge impact on the health of your home and ultimately the health of your family. Not only do they affect the general comfort of those at home, but the amount of moisture in the air affects biological contaminants in a home like mold, mildew and dust mites.
Indoor humidity is the measure of moisture within your indoor air. Most homes will have excessively high humidity levels without the homeowners even being aware. There are many ways to tell if you have high or low humidity indoors, but the best way is to use a hygrometer or indoor air quality monitor.