If you are planning to renovate your home any time soon, take the opportunity to do whatever you can to make it more healthy. Not only is a healthier home better for your health and wellbeing it will also increase the value of your property.
A Dodge Data & Analytics SmartMarket research study on Green and Healthier Homes found that 83% of builders and companies that specialize in remodeling single-family homes say homeowners are prepared to pay more for healthier homes. But the caveat is that homeowners want to know how the professionals will make their home healthier. This means that engineers and other specialists are often called in to specify and/or design systems that add value to home improvement projects, with reason.
Also, homeowners have different needs and demands. But in general terms, there is a clear synergy between energy efficiency and healthy features.
What do Home Improvements Entail?
Before we even look at how home improvements can make a home a healthier place to live, let’s discuss what kind of home improvements people tend to tackle.
Some home improvements entail construction work, like enlarging or altering rooms, replacing floor surfaces, renovating bathrooms and kitchens, and installing systems and appliances that will improve the heating, air-conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) in the house. Other processes are more superficial like painting and reupholstering or replacing furniture and furnishings.
The decision of what to do will depend on your needs and your budget and, of course, just how healthy (or unhealthy) your home is right now. But certainly, if HVAC is a serious consideration, it will be worthwhile consulting with a company offering HVAC engineering services in Chicago, New York, Moscow, Mumbai, Johannesburg, or wherever in the world you live.
How to Improve the Health of Your House
Make sure it’s clean
First and foremost you need to make sure your home is clean. That might sound like a no-brainer, but dirt and grime can harbor disease, and dust and animal dander can result in conditions like asthma.
Remember that a shabby chic interior is generally worn and dilapidated, but it isn’t grubby!
Avoid paints and other products that contain VOCs and other toxic substances
If you decide to repaint, avoid paint products that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that emit harmful gases, even after they have dried. Even though there are now strict regulations worldwide that limit the VOCs in paint and other household products, so-called “low VOC paint” can contain between 5 to 380 grams per liter of these harmful compounds. Rather invest in eco-friendly paint products, preferably those that are certified, for instance with the Green Seal.
VOCs are also often found in certain synthetic fibers and plastics, as well as solvents, adhesives, and protective coatings of various kinds. They are known to cause irritations to the eyes and respiratory tract as well as dizziness. Additionally, there is evidence that they can cause cancer and can damage internal organs and the central nervous system.
There are many wood treatments that are also toxic, particularly old-fashioned treatments designed to prevent insect attack. Many of these contained arsenic, one of the best-known poisons known to man. Pentachlorophenol is a wood preservative that, like arsenic, can cause cancer as well as damage the liver and kidneys, the immune and nervous systems.
Coal-tar creosote, commonly used to prevent posts and poles from rotting, is the most toxic form of creosote and, it too, is known to cause cancer.
Use safe products for renovation
Some products raise serious environmental concerns, and they should be avoided. There are several deadly materials that must never be used, and if they are discovered during renovations should be removed and replaced. They include:
- Asbestos, a popular material used for pipes, flooring, and roofing until the 1960s, eventually found to be a common cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is now banned in most parts of the world and, if found during home renovations, should be removed by a specialist.
- Lead, another common material used for pipes and roofing, accumulates in the body and slowly destroys the nervous system. It was also a common component in paint, designed to accelerate drying and increase durability. It has been banned as an ingredient in household paints in the U.S. since 1978 and the European Union since 2003. There are, though, millions of homes and apartments all over the world where something inside has been painted with lead paint of some sort. In the U.S., when more than six square feet of a lead-painted surface inside a house built before 1978 is disturbed, the home must be certified by a qualified professional.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a lightweight, low cost, and very common material used for many different elements of a house including electrical cables, gutters, wall coverings, and flooring, is classified as carcinogenic. Not only does the material contain harmful toxins, but it may also emit VOCs. As such, it poses a serious health risk to everyone who is exposed to it.
Invest in eco-friendly HVAC systems
Air quality is paramount when it comes to the health of those living in a home. Efficient HVAC equipment, with air filtration systems, will maintain air quality as well as providing energy-efficient heating and cooling mechanisms. A reputable firm offering proven engineering solutions in Chicago or any other major global city will be able to offer various solutions for different geographic areas.
Properly designed HVAC solutions ensure optimal comfort, distributing heated or cooled air through indoor spaces safely, with your health in mind.
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Michael Tobias is the founder and principal of New York Engineers, an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America. He leads a team of more than 30 mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers from the company headquarters in New York City, and has led numerous projects in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Singapore and Malaysia.