Your home and how you live in it can affect your health in a bunch of ways – both good and bad. Much of it comes down to the very basics of life – air quality, adequate sunlight and a good night’s sleep.
How your home is designed and built, and the systems you have in place, can all play an important role in how your home helps or hinders your family’s health.
But no matter whether you’re planning a new home or renovation, or working with the structure of an existing home, there are a host of ways that you can work with nature to improve air quality, optimise sunlight effectively and sleep better at night. A healthier home means a healthier family.
Let me be upfront here. I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on the Internet. In this article I talk about the potential effects of things like Wi-Fi and a lack of sunlight on people’s health. This is based on information I’ve read or received from trusted sources. Please get advice from an expert if you have particular health concerns.
Air quality – Relax and breathe deeply
It’s amazing how little thought can go into the very stuff that sustains us – the air we breathe, even in our homes. This is particularly true in the ‘wet areas’ of our homes, such as bathrooms and laundries. Lack of airflow leads to the development of mold. Mold leads to airborne bacteria. And bacteria can lead to poor health and disease.
Ultimately, good air quality comes down to good airflow. It’s all about push and pull, and the process of convection where hot air rises and cold sinks.
The best way of introducing airflow is passively, opening an external window or door. But what if you have no external windows or doors, or you prefer not to have them open at certain times for safety reasons?
This is where modern automated systems can help. Automation gives you the capacity to actively control and regulate airflow.
The key here is getting rid of the humid air while it’s still moisture and before it settles on the walls and surfaces and turns into mould. Simple humidity sensors can help here. These measure the humidity in the room and can be setup to automatically open a window or trigger a fan when the humidity reaches a certain level, or both.
The bathroom mirror conundrum
All this talk of humidity brings me to one of the big misconceptions that people have about bathrooms and laundries. Taking an obvious example, people are often confused by why their bathroom mirror continues to fog up when they turn on the extraction fan. This is because you can only pull out as much air as you’re reintroducing to a room. Many bathrooms and laundries aren’t built to do this, and this leads to the same issues of humidity build up mentioned above.
The solution? Heat rises, so ideally you’d design a bathroom with high and low windows on opposite sides of the room. Cool air enters low and warm air leaves high. Is this common? No. One option to solve this a supply air fan that gently introduces air from outside, so that the humid air is pushed out rather than having to circulate out.
Don’t have a window? Then the solution is two fans: one that introduces air into the room and one that pulls air out of the room. In a medium or high-density development these fans might connect to a ducted air system.
Moisture and mold can be a problem throughout the home, particularly in tropical climates. Don’t forget about the humble ceiling fan. Simply being able to circulate that stagnate air can really help.
Sunlight – Harness its power for good health
There’s very good evidence about the important role sunlight plays in good physical and mental health. Physically, sunlight’s role in helping us produce vitamin D is well known. So too, sunlight plays an essential role in our mental health. It doesn’t take a scientific boffin to tell us that enjoying the sun’s rays in the right place and at the right time makes us feel good.
When it comes to your home, the sun can be both friend and foe. It all comes down to control. The key here is to introduce sunlight where and when it’s wanted without heating the home unnecessarily.
If you’re in an existing home or high-density development, there’s not much you can do about the building’s orientation or major design features, but there are ways you can optimise the amount of sunlight you receive and when.
Automated external awnings and louvers and internal blinds are a good way to do this. It’s all about opening the parts of your home to the sun when it’s desired and blocking it when it’s not. For example, automated blinds can be set to open at 6am automatically for a pleasant and natural way to start your day. Use a simple automated controller to adjust overhead louvers to shield your afternoon outdoor chill-out spot from the wilting summer sun.
In dark indoor areas, a motorised skylight can prove a godsend. It can introduce sun when it’s needed, provide a shield when it’s not, and with an automated open and close feature, it can also extract air for natural convection and airflow.
If you’re building or renovating a home, a little research, advice and planning can really help optimise your home’s capacity to passively control sunlight and the internal climate.
Many of these features can be automated to control the climate of your home even while you’re away, and make adjustments simply via an app on your smartphone.
Sleep – Switch off for physical and mental well-being
There is a growing body of thought that’s questioning the long-term effects of radiation emissions from Wi-Fi on the human body, particularly when we sleep. The thinking is that when you’re asleep and your body is in recovery mode, it’s more susceptible to this form of radiation.
Definitively proven? No. But whether this concerns you or not, the benefits of a good night’s sleep on the body and the mind can’t be denied.
Controlling when Wi-Fi is active at night can have a variety of beneficial effects. With simple automation technologies based on timers and sensors we can easily control the hours that Wi-Fi is functioning at night, without any imposition on our lives.
This combination of technologies means that the home can intuitively determine when your family is awake and when it’s safe to switch Wi-Fi off for an undisturbed sleep.
For more ideas on how to automate your home for better living, download the first chapter of Sam’s book Homes with a Heartbeat for free.