How to Make your Home Healthy – Part 1

How to Make your Home Healthy – Part 1

Shan Jenkins Architect Builder

From the Waterways Magazine article, Summer 2019

I hope you’ve been enjoying my “Ask the Builder” series in Waterways magazine. This is the first issue in that series and is part 1 to a 2-part answer. Many of the questions I get asked relate to creating a healthy home. We want our homes to be the safest and healthiest places they can be…and rightly so. I like to describe the healthy home as four major contributors to good health. In this article, we discuss the first two of those components.

The Air We Breathe

The air inside our homes can be more polluted than the air outside. Factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality include pollutants, such as glues and adhesives used in building materials, household chemicals such as bleach and ammonia, and airborne allergens such as mold, pollen, and dust. Many of the products that we bring into our homes, like rugs or carpeting, can produce chemicals or pollutants for days, weeks, or even months. To combat these, it’s important to start with a well-sealed home. Keeping pollutants out (particularly the gas and carbon monoxide in the garage) is the first line of defense. A proper air barrier on the shared wall of your garage and home is one of the more important and most overlooked components. Once the home is properly sealed, adequate fresh air and superior filtration are the second line of defense. Not to be overlooked, properly-sized equipment is critical for controlling humidity for air quality as well. Most airborne allergens, particularly mold, require higher humidity levels to bloom and grow, and we don’t want that. A well-designed system with appropriate filters will also handle the allergens and toxins found in most day-to-day household products. Then, it’s also important to run that system year-round to keep humidity levels optimal inside the home. Many HVAC systems contain a sensor for humidity levels and cause the system to kick on when humidity gets too high. I always recommend humidity sensors for your HVAC system. In some cases we even recommend a separate de-humidifier (especially for larger lake homes) to keep humidity optimal. Finally, keep a close eye out for plumbing or roof leaks, which can allow moisture in and result in mold. As we all know, mold can cause major health issues. Those allergic to mold should consider periodically testing for mold using a home test kit.

Food & Water

Austin and Central Texas’ water is rich in calcium (hard water), so we plumb every home we build for a water softener.  In addition, we like to install whole house reverse osmosis (RO) to all the drinking faucets (including the bathroom sinks if you drink water before bed or after brushing your teeth) and to all ice makers.  Most water we drink is disinfected with chlorine (a known carcinogen), whether it’s municipal water, or certainly if it’s well water, so we also like to make sure the water entering your home is filtered with activated carbon (we do the same with your indoor air by the way).  If whole house filtration isn’t an option, at a minimum, we recommend point-of-use filtration for all drinking water and ice makers.  The Pentair Everpure system is a great example of this. Our drinking water is first priority, but the water we bathe in should be free of toxins as well. In addition to the water we drink, don’t forget about food as well. A good refrigerator and well-ventilated dry food and vegetable storage will help keep your foods fresh. I recommend a commercial grade refrigerator like Subzero or Thermador to my clients because it will keep foods fresh for up to a week longer than other models.

A healthy home is a place where we can go to feel restored and rejuvenated. It is a place that is designed to care for us, keep us safe and healthy. It’s one of the best investments we can make, an investment in ourselves.

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