Working out, eating fruits and veggies and drinking plenty of water are all great ways to improve your health. Another option? Updating your house.
It may sound far-fetched, but your home can actually have a huge impact on your well-being. Its HVAC system pumps out the air you breathe. Its pipes deliver the water you drink and cook with. Even its flooring and lighting can make a difference in the long run.
“We spend the vast majority of our lives in our homes,” says Joseph Allen, an associate professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the school’s Healthy Buildings program. “It’s obvious from that alone that how we design and maintain our homes has a massive impact on our health.”
Historically, most people spent about two-thirds of their time at home. But with the pandemic — and the quarantining, remote work and social distancing it’s ushered in, many people are now there more than ever.
“The increased amount of time people spend at home — in tandem with increased awareness around health and well-being during the pandemic, has prompted people to explore how to make their homes healthier places to be,” says Jie Zhao, executive vice president at wellness technology company Delos. “More than ever, people want to invest in their health and well-being — and there’s no better place to start than our homes.”
Want to be sure you’re spending the bulk of your days in a healthy environment too? Zhao and Allen say these are the home improvements to start with.
5 ways to invest in your health at home
Swap your basic air filters for MERV 13 ones
According to Zhao, who heads up Delos’ indoor health research arm, focusing on your home’s air quality should be priority No. 1.
“Better air quality is the most important feature,” says Zhao. “Poor air quality contributes to more disease burden than any other environmental risk factor.”
One of the best ways to start improving your home’s air quality is to swap out your HVAC filters with MERV 13-rated ones. These high-efficiency filters capture smaller airborne particles — things like viruses, mold, bacteria and allergens — than the lower-rated MERV 8s that are installed in most single-family homes.
“The typical filter that’s in your HVAC system is designed to protect the equipment, not you,” Allen says. “It captures a really small percentage of airborne particles. A MERV 13 will get you to 80 to 90% capture efficiency.”