(BPT) – With social distancing, remote work and digital learning the new reality, there’s no question that time spent at home has significantly increased. Keeping spaces clean and healthy is a top priority particularly as we head into winter months. Creating a healthy home is easier than you think — consider these five simple steps.

Step 1: Change air filters regularly

man working remotely

Your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system typically includes an air filter that pulls dust, contaminants and microscopic allergens out of the air. If you can’t remember the last time you changed the air filter, it’s time to add it to your list. These filters should be replaced at least once a season to help maintain a healthier home. During seasons that your system is more in use, such as daily heating during cold months, you may want to change it out more often.

Step 2: Use products with better ingredients

Some cleaners contain harsh chemical ingredients that can do more harm than good. Look for products that effectively clean with naturally occurring ingredients like hydrogen peroxide. For example, Bona PowerPlus Antibacterial Surface Cleaner kills 99.9% of household germs like influenza A, rhinovirus and E. coli and is available at most retailers, but is made of hydrogen peroxide.

Step 3: Kick off your shoes

Wearing shoes inside the home can track in unwanted dirt and germs. Place a shoe mat or basket at often-used entryways to keep organized and to encourage visitors to remove their shoes. Additionally, a doormat both inside and outside of the doorway can keep mud, snow and chemicals like salt melt off floors. As an added touch, snag some comfy house slippers so visitors have no excuse to go shoeless.

Step 4: Refresh and remodel with green materials

With extra time at home, more people are tackling home improvement projects. Whether you are refreshing a space or embarking on a major remodel, look for eco-friendly options such as paint, flooring and other materials with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which will ensure healthier air quality. Consider renovating rather than replacing cabinets, floors or furniture. These areas of the home can easily be freshened up with a stain or finish and it prevents these materials from ending up in landfill.

Step 5: Add plants

Greenery not only improves the appearance of a house, but the right plants can also help clean the air. The NASA Clean Air Study tested plants’ ability to remove indoor air pollutants. Peace lily, lady palm and snake plant (also called mother-in-law’s tongue) are a few indoor plants that had a positive impact on indoor air quality. Place these in high use spaces, such as the living room and bedroom, to add to the health and aesthetic of the space.

Step 6: Upgrade your insulation

Improving your air quality can lower the risk of lung-related ailments like allergies and asthma. “Asthma can be a life-threatening condition for many Americans and finding and implementing solutions for reducing asthma triggers should be a top priority for all,” said Kurt Riesenberg, Executive Director of the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance.  “Improving the built environment is one way to protect those who suffer from asthma.”

One of the key recognized benefits of spray foam is improved indoor air quality. The material provides a superb seal to the home or structure, acting as an effective thermal, air and moisture control solution. The improved air-tightness that spray foam provides allows for better control of indoor humidity, which reduces the occurrence of mold. Additionally, it dramatically minimizes the volume of exterior allergens and pollutants such as pollen, smoke, dust and airborne chemicals able to randomly enter the structure. A well-sealed building allows for controlled and filtered ventilation of the building. This reduction in asthma triggers benefits all owners, residents and visitors susceptible to the condition or other respiratory-related health issues.

Another key benefit of spray foam is enhanced energy efficiency. The ability of spray foam to effectively seal the structure reduces temperature variations as outdoor weather shifts, leading to a significant reduction in the heating and cooling demands of the home or building. Not only can owners and residents reduce their heating and cooling energy bills up to 40%, but this reduction in the structure’s energy demand equates to less fossil fuel consumed by the structure for electricity in heating and cooling. The “State of the Air 2016” report cites the generation of electricity as one of the biggest sources of pollution and cites a reduction in electricity use as a primary goal for curbing the air pollution that causes asthma and other health conditions.

These six steps will help you revamp your home’s health quotient so everyone can breathe easier.

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