Create a Healthy, Winter-Ready Home
When chilly weather arrives and the days get shorter, chances are good you’ll spend the majority of your days indoors. Before you start your hibernation, it’s a good idea to ensure your home is up to the task. Put your well-being at the top of the list with these ideas to help ensure a health-conscious home that’s ready for the dark days of winter.
Encourage better air quality
When the house is closed up tight to keep out the cold, you may be trapping in some undesirable air pollutants. A well-sealed house may not have the best circulation, and that’s the ideal environment for dust mites and other allergens to accumulate.
A thorough cleaning is the first step toward better air quality. Do a deep vacuuming of all carpets, including under furniture and around baseboards. Be sure to launder linens that aren’t typically part of your regular washing routine, like window treatments and comforters.
You may want to consult a heating and cooling specialist to determine whether your ductwork is due for a cleaning. Especially if your system didn’t get much use through the summer months, there may be a fair bit of dust just waiting to infiltrate your home once the furnace begins to blow.
Be sure to change filters, clean vents and air returns and, if necessary, consider adding an air purifier that helps filter any remaining particles for the best quality air. When opening windows isn’t comfortable during cold winter weather, letting the sunshine in can still help to improve indoor air quality. A study by the University of Oregon’s Biology and the Built Environment Center showed rooms with increased sunlight have fewer viable bacteria.
“Until now, daylighting design has been primarily about visual comfort or circadian health, but now we can say daylighting influences air quality,” said Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, co-director of the BioBE Center and co-author of the study.
Let in light
Natural light plays an important role in overall health, and reduced daylight in the winter months can have a big impact on productivity and sleep, according to a recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Velux. For example, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe daylight affects their productivity and mood. Light is also an important cue to the body’s circadian clock, and proper exposure to natural light during the day can help support better sleep when darkness falls.
What’s more, sunlight is a natural antidepressant, and there is ample scientific evidence that associates daylight with better health and quality of life, such as improved mood, less fatigue and reduced eyestrain.
It may be tempting to keep the drapes closed when it’s blustery outside to ward off a draft, but with well-sealed windows, there’s no reason to block that all-important natural light. In rooms with ample natural light available, take advantage, especially in the morning when exposure to daylight can benefit your circadian rhythm.
However, not every room is situated to maximize your access to natural light, and that’s when you can get creative. One solution is skylights, which add natural light to virtually any space. An option like a Sun Tunnel Skylight offered by Velux Skylights lends brightness to even the smallest spaces, like a bathroom or hallway. For a larger room, a fresh-air skylight can help address air quality concerns, and some models offer smartphone connectivity to open and close the skylight and even raise or lower blinds with a few quick taps of the finger. Learn more at whyskylights.com.
Keep out the cold
As a child, you were probably warned to bundle up in cooler weather to avoid catching a cold. As an adult, you likely realize that germs, not temperatures, cause illness. However, there is some truth to the old wives’ tales associating cold with getting sick. The viruses that cause colds and the flu thrive in cooler temperatures, for example. This means that, at least indirectly, a cold environment may indeed make you sick.
To ward off a chill in your home, safeguard against drafts around windows and doors. If seasonal weather-proofing is impractical, consider temporary solutions like draft stoppers or mats you can place at the base of doors. Add insulation, if needed, in areas that commonly release a significant amount of heat, such as the attic and garage.
Daylight Makes a Difference
As the days become shorter and colder, the importance of getting enough daylight is even more acute to sleep patterns, mood and productivity. These tips can help you get a better night sleep:
- Increase your exposure to natural light during the day. Take a lunchtime walk at work or, if you can’t get outside, sit by a window while you eat.
- Install blackout curtains in your bedroom to block light from street lamps and the moon.
- Turn your thermostat down in the evenings to create a cooler bedroom to sleep in.
- Establish a good bedtime routine. For example, read a book instead of spending more time looking at a screen. Blue light from electronic devices mimics daylight and can trick your brain into staying alert.
- Use red or orange bulbs in kids’ night lights as these are some of the least disruptive to sleep.