By Beth Fedor, REALTOR®
Like it or not, after months of quarantining, we’ve become acutely aware of the pros and cons of our homes. Whether you are embracing your current abode or longing for a more suitable space to shelter, consideration should be given to improve your surroundings to benefit your health and well-being. Although coronavirus is far from over, home design experts predict a shift towards more health-conscious home design.
Past pandemics have altered home design. The perennial trend of white kitchens and the popularity of the powder room, closets and screened porches all have roots in the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. The white tiling used by builders to make hospitals and other public places safer made their way into kitchens as homeowners became more cognizant of proper sanitizing. The half-bath was a place where homeowners, wary of potentially exposing themselves to illness, would direct workers and guests to wash their hands before entering further into the home.
It is said that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and it appears that the viral threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic will be a primary motivator in shaping the features that home buyers may be looking for in the future.
- Bathroom Bidets Americans are finally taking notice of what has long been a fixture in Asian and Southern European countries. Already gaining popularity as an eco-friendly option, bidet sales have been further fueled by the recent frenzy for toilet paper. Options vary widely in pricing and features. You could spend thousands on an independent fixture with automatic open/close, self-flush, ambient lights, Bluetooth music-sync, and heated seats and water; or, for less than $100, you may simply add a spray hose that attaches to your existing toilet’s water supply line. “Since we don’t have very cold water here, a simple spray attachment is an easy add-on that doesn’t require an electricity source,” said Tina Roesler, showroom manager of Benjamin Plumbing supply. Roesler also advocates the health benefits of Toto Washlet seats, which combine the function of toilet and bidet, for those who experience diminished mobility with age.
- Better Mudrooms- Return of the Vestibule With evidence that coronavirus can cling to the soles of shoes and be tracked inside, we may soon experience a societal shift towards removing shoes at the front door. This could make the existence of mudrooms at the home’s entryways more appealing than ever. Look to Jo Parson’s monthly article for ideas on how to create a welcoming vestibule at your front entryway that encourages visitors to enter the home germ-free.
- Germicidal Lighting While the public is far more cognizant of hand washing, Dan Barnes, co-founder of PhoneSoap calls phones “the third hand you never wash,” claiming that your phone’s surface can harbor 18 times more bacteria than a public restroom. A hinged box equipped with UV-C lights can “clean” your phone within minutes. While many of these products are presently on backorder, local retailer Sun Lighting has medical grade germicidal lamps in stock. Owner Danny Levcowicz said that his staff can train you on the proper care and caution required with the use of the lamps, which may be used to sanitize larger items, including shoes, purses, and face masks.
- Closed-off Private Spaces Lengthy quarantining has increased the desire for discrete areas within the home, where partners may escape one another to work, exercise, pursue hobbies or engage in a video chat. Open floor plans won’t go away, but properties that have a spare room or casita, or Arizona room that can double as a home gym or office, will be increasingly popular. See Jo Parson’s May article on how to convert a closet into an efficient home office.
- Hands-Free Fixtures Alexa automation with smart devices, including connected LED bulbs, smart hubs and smart switches offer hand-free automation not only to lights, but entry and garage doors. Manufacturers including Moen use motion sensor technology for auto turn-on, while Delta requires the touch of a forearm or wrist to activate. Similarly, a single handle bathroom faucet can be turned with the flick of a wrist, an ergonomic advantage for arthritic hands.
- Antimicrobial Copper In 2008, the EPA confirmed copper as the first solid metal to possess inherent antimicrobial properties; and researchers confirmed in March that while the novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic survives for days on glass and stainless steel, it dies within hours of landing on copper. Around the world, copper alloys are being used in hospitals and public transit systems. Used for decades in plumbing, copper and its alloys, brass and bronze, are excellent metals for the home for both doorknobs and fixtures given they are naturally germ and corrosion resistant. Far from looking like your grandfather’s trumpet, copper-nickel fixtures are almost indistinguishable from stainless steel. The use of a copper sink is touted to make your kitchen a more sanitary environment for food preparation and dishwashing.
- Air Filtering and Purification
Since we’ve all been spending more time indoors, we have been exposed to more allergens from pets, mold and dust which can reach higher level inside our homes than outside. Designed to help you breathe easier, newer HVAC systems are also thought to play a positive role in minimizing disease transmission by supplying cleaner, filtered air from outdoors and cleaning and exhausting indoor contaminated air. The Mayo Clinic has found that air cleaners attached to whole-house systems are more effective than freestanding air cleaners. If it’s time to upgrade your HVAC, you may want to invest in a comprehensive air conditioning system like Lennox’s PureAir Air Purification System. If your present system is in good working order, you may want to consider a whole home in-duct air purifier like the Reme Halo. “It utilizes a UV light that produces hydrogen peroxide which disbursed throughout the house to help eliminate odors and bacteria by more efficiently filtering out particulants,” said Brandon Hughes, service manager of Rite-Way Heating and Cooling. Hughes also advocates the frequent cleaning of air filters, and duct cleaning every 7-10 years.