Green Home, Healthy Home, Wellness House: What's the Difference?

Updated: May 2


Show notes for Blooming! A Healthy Home by Design Podcast eps. 21 

What is a Healthy Home?  Is it a GREEN home? or a Wellness House?  Sometimes I think it be can pretty confusing so, I’m going to cover all the differences between the three and also give you the 10 basic fundamentals of a healthy home, that way you’ll be able to use this information to create a healthier environment for you and your family!


So when I talk about a healthy home, I think can be sometimes pretty vague and not quite clear as to exactly what is meant.  Healthy is one of those words that has a lot of different meanings to different people and in fact with nutrition, there can be a huge disparity between the beliefs people have of what is healthy and what is not.  Luckily when you are talking about home health, there isn’t any contradicting science, but there ARE some terms that can be confusing because they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. 

First let’s talk about the Differences

  The focus of a GREEN Home is sustainability and energy efficiency.  There is also some emphasis on air quality and water quality.  Home Certifications like the Pearl certification gives points for each high performing asset in your home that contributes to a more health, comfort and energy efficiency.   A Healthy Home is focused on family well being.  There are going to be GREEN features in a healthy home for sure, but it takes GREEN a step further by ensuring that the features and amenities of the home are considerate of family wellbeing rather than just sustainability.  For instance there are more ways to remove toxins out of your home than just looking at air and water.   I like to think of a Wellness House as a Healthy Home taken to the next level.  So depending on the added amenities and features you put in your home, no two wellness homes will be the same, but the point is that there is thoughtful design around the home supporting wellness.

There are 10 basic principals of a healthy home.   8 are standard requirements and the last 2 are going to be what helps determine whether or not you consider your home to be green or designed for wellness.  


#1 Clean Home

First on the list is having a Clean Home.  This is basic but very important, because dirt and grime isn’t just unsightly it can actually promote all sorts health problems if you let it.    According to the National Sanitation Foundation a kitchen sponge stays wet and moist with plenty of food for bacteria to eat.” In the NSF study, 86% of sponges had mold and yeast, 77% contained coliform bacteria and 18% were filled with staph bacteria. That’s so gross and many types of bacteria can double every 20 minutes. Potentially, one bacteria can multiply to more than 30,000 in five hours and to more than 16 million in eight hours.  This isn’t meant to gross you out other than to just bring awareness how even though we can’t see germs right away, they are likely there so it’s important for our health to keep things clean.    Benefits of having a clean home are:  Less Stress, Cleaning gets you moving, You might eat healthier, You’ll get sick less frequently.  Here's a link to the 9 germiest places in your home.  

#2 Dry home


Moisture creates a favorable environment for mites, rodents, molds, and roaches, all of which are associated with asthma.

Here are some startling stats:  7 million deaths per year are linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution. (World Health Organization, 2014) Of the 21.8 million people reported to have asthma in the U.S., approximately 4.6 million cases are estimated to be attributable to dampness and mold exposure in the home. (EPA and Berkeley National Laboratory, 2007) At least 45 million buildings in the United Stats have unhealthy levels of mold. (Moldy, 2017) Infants who are exposed to mold in their living environments have nearly a 3X greater risk of becoming asthmatic than those who did not have extensive mold exposure in their first year of life. (Michael Pinto, 2018) 93% of chronic sinus infections have been attributed to mold. (Mayo Clinic, 1999) On average, professional mold remediation costs $500 to $6,000 – but the price can soar into the tens of thousands if the problem is severe. (Houselogic, 2009) (Source: https://realtimelab.com/mold-statistics/)  So it’s so important to not let mold get out of hand and check for issues before they become problems. Molds are very common in buildings and homes. Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.

Mold can enter your home through open doorways, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can also attach itself to clothing, shoes, and pets can and be carried indoors. When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or where there has been flooding, they will grow.

How do you know if you have mold?  

Large mold infestations can usually be seen or smelled. Inspect buildings for evidence of water damage and visible mold as part of routine building maintenance, Correct conditions causing mold growth (e.g., water leaks, condensation, infiltration, or flooding) to prevent mold growth. Inside your home you can control mold growth by:

  • Controlling humidity levels between 30-50% all day long.  air conditioners and dehumidifiers help with that.

  • Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows, and pipes;

  • Thoroughly cleaning and drying after flooding;

  • Ventilating shower, laundry, and cooking areas.

  • Be sure your home has enough ventilation. Use exhaust fans which vent outside your home in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure your clothes dryer vents outside your home.

  • don’t use carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.

https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm

#3 Ventilated Home 


Indoor Air quality is very important in a healthy home. Studies show that proper air circulation improves the air quality, reducing the risk for asthma and other respiratory health problems. We have better insulated homes nowadays but that air tight building envelope can trap contaminates in the home.  Ventilation helps control moisture - so there’s 3 types of strategies, Natural, Spot and Whole house.  Natural would be things like opening windows and doors, spot would be like the exhaust fans in your bathroom and over your range or cooktop.  Whole house options can vary - there are about 4 so I would suggest if you are having humidity issues or not enough circulation in your home to call a certified HVAC technician to come service your systems.  It could be that they are just nearing their useful life.   https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm


When a Furnace hits the 15-20 year mark / it’s time to think about replacing 

  • pilot light keeps going out 

  • you have increased bills 

  • uneven heating 

  • or you hear loud noises 

New Furnaces can have smart home features and are super energy efficient as compared to one that is 20 years old.  So they will likely save money in heating cooling bills.   Signs it’s time to replace and AC unit that is more than 10 years old. 

  • leaking refrigerant 

  • uncomfortable warm or humid inside 

  • noisy when operating 

  • increasing electricity costs for the same usage 

So the same goes for new AC units. Replacing an older unit with a new more energy efficient one will pay for itself in comfort and in lower energy bills going forward.  


#4 Safe Home


Most childhood injuries occur at home with falls, poisoning, and burns being the 3 most common.  Even adults and especially elderly adults will want to take measures to ensure our homes stay safe to avoid injury.   So these are some surprising statistics about home injuries and it’s so sad to know that these are preventable deaths.  125,300 preventable injury related deaths occurred at home in 2018. the leading cause of   62,100 deaths were from poisoning, gases chemicals and drug overdoses.  The next leading cause was falls 36,600 people and it’s the number cause of death for those 65 and older.

https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/home-and-community/home-and-community-overview/introduction/

So what can we do?  


  • Child proofing your home is a good idea if you have young kids and babies.

  • You can also buy non toxic cleaners

  • Keep medicines up high

  • Cover electrical outlets

  • Put safety gates or have a chime or alarm on your back door if you have a pool and small children.    


Things you can do if you have someone older living with you, or if you want to go to your parents or grandparents home and make sure they don’t have trip hazards around.

  • Remove clutter and make sure there aren’t electrical cords or throw rugs that might cause them to trip.  

  • Arrange furniture so there’s plenty of room for walking put essential items within reach for them

  • Add grab bars inside and outside the bathtub or shower 

  • Put railings on both sides of the stairs

  • Make sure there is adequate lighting  make sure the outdoor walkways are well lit.

#5 Toxic Free Home


While it may be extremely difficult to completely remove 100% of the toxins in our home environment, it's a good idea to become aware of the contaminants and to take measure to eliminate them as much as possible.  Homes have many potential contaminant exposure risks, including lead, radon, pesticides, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, and asbestos.

This one is such a big topic, I’m going to do another episode to dive deep on what the toxins are and strategies to remove them.  


So for today, I’m going to say when buying products for a remodel - be sure to ask for low or no VOC paints and carpets, choose natural materials over synthetic and stay away from products that have added toxins applied like antimicrobials and scotch guard and things like that.  Those toxins off gas in your home and can be making you sick especially if you don’t have good air circulation.  


And then as far as other toxins - they will be household and beauty products.  Your body absorbs 65% of what you put on your skin and your skin is your body’s largest organ so it really does matter what you put on it. So don’t buy products with paragons, sulfates, preservatives like formaldehyde and antimicrobials like triclosan these are all hormone disrupters too and are linked to reproductive problems, auto immune disorders and even cancer. 

Actually did you know that the EU is much more strict than the US about this.  In cosmetics alone the EU has banned 1300 chemicals and the us has outlawed or curbed 11.  And of the more than 40,000 chemicals on the market in the US, the EPA has only banned 6.  I happened to be in Europe last summer and I was talking to my friend who lives there about it.  She says that even us companies who have products in the US and the EU have to reformulate to be able to sell in Europe.  But they keep the cheaper toxic additives in the US version!  So it’s a buyer beware situation for all of us.   I’ll find a link to pop in the show notes to some links if you want to do some more research.  

So You can make some of your own cleaners and there are lots of products that are just coming out because there is an increasing demand now that people realize what in their products are making them sick.  

I have to be honest though, I don’t have time for that, some people swear by their lemon and vinegar but I don’t think that will work for me.  I’ve recently joined a wellness shopping club and it is AMAZING - it’s been around for decades but it’s new to me!  in fact my new products work even better than the toxic stuff and they are not any more expensive than what I was paying for at the grocery store.  So no brainer for me.  -but I don’t want this to turn into a segment about that, all I want to say is that there are alternatives that are safer for your family that still work.

I’ve got an affiliate link if you want to learn more it’s at healthyyourhome.com   And my business partner is holding info sessions on the company practically every day, because everyone wants better safer products delivered to your door right now, so if that’s you - go to healthyyourhome.com and fill out the form so we can get you in on the next info session. Totally worth it.  


#6 Well Maintained Home


Neglected homes are at exposed risk for moisture, pest, and accidental injury.  As realtors we all know buyers want to buy a well maintained home and so it’s important for us to educate on all the reasons why maintaining your home is a benefit to you.


Did you know?

Every $1 spent on maintenance saves you $100 spent on repairs.

While it's true, maintenance takes some money, dedication and hard work, in the long run you save much more money than if you didn't do maintenance. Why is this? According to Your Money: the Missing Manual, for every dollar you spend on preventative maintenance around the home, you save approximately $100 in future repairs. That's because taking care of small problems now (a dirty filter or clogged drain) makes it so you don't have the problem worsen over time and develop into a larger issue (a burned out HVAC motor or burst pipe.) Those bigger problems that tend to crop up after not maintaining a home cost significantly more than a new furnace filter every month or so. Click here for more info.


#7 Pest Free Home


Pest are not only unsightly and annoying, they can carry diseases that you don't want introduced into your home environment.  Pests belong outdoors not inside or on the exterior of your home. The fewer pests you have feeding, harboring, or breeding outside your home, the fewer issues you will have inside. Eliminating conditions in your home that appeal to pests will help reduce the attraction that brings them in and prevent damage in your home.


  • Plants and Mulch Trim back any tree branches or shrubbery that touch your home to eliminate pest “bridges” to the house. Mulch, such as wood chips and pine straw, provide ideal shelter for pests. Instead of using these in areas that touch your foundation, place less pest-attractive ground cover, such as rock or stone. Doors and Windows Because pests can wiggle through tiny cracks and gaps, inspect and repair any warped or broken doors and windows, and those that simply don't fit well; repair rips or tears in screens. Use screen meshes size of at least 200 holes per square inch; these are generally available at home stores.

  • Cracks and Gaps Inspect the exterior of your home for other cracks, crevices, and gaps through which pests could enter. Check for foundation cracks, loose siding, missing roof shingles, and gaps around incoming utility lines, including pipes, electric and cable wiring. Seal any openings with copper mesh, coarse steel wool, sheet metal or mortar. Expanding caulk is not as good to use because many pests can chew through it.

  • Trash and Litter Keep yards, patios, decks, and garages free of litter, weeds, and standing water. Ensure trash cans have tight-fitting lids and clean the cans and area regularly to remove debris and spills, on which pests can feed.


#8 Well Lit Home


Poor lighting can make a home feel drab and dark.  But why is this important in a healthy home?  Well, it’s because lighting can play and important role in influencing our mood and behavior.   Insufficient lighting can actually contribute to depression and low energy levels.  Adding things like sky lights, or additional lighting fixtures can brighten up your space immediately.  And even using color psychology to design your space can make it feel more light and bright!  We talk about color psychology in episode 7 of my podcast and while color isn’t the same thing as lighting, it certainly can be used along with lighting to enhance the mood your are trying to create in a space.  And these are the types of considerations you should take when designing a home for wellness.  


Ask yourself, what mood do I want to be in when I’m in the kitchen?  Probably light and bright so it promotes energy and socialization.  But perhaps in a bedroom you would want something more calming and subdued that promotes relaxation.  

Lighting also is an important safety consideration like we discussed earlier.  It’s important to have outdoor walkways and entranceways of your home lit to prevent accidental injury.  

#9 Energy Efficient Home


Energy efficiency helps our pocketbooks in the form of reduced electricity, water and gas bills. And while it also makes our homes more comfortable to live in, being energy efficient also helps the planet by using our resources wisely, so we can all feel good about that. 

So where do you start?  

  • The easiest thing to do is to change out your lightbulbs to LEDs or energy efficient light bulbs.  You can also use timers or smart hubs so your lights don’t get left on all night.  You can check your windows and doors for drafts.  

  • Replacing the weather stripping is a super inexpensive way to solve that draft issue if you have it.  You can also upgrade your windows if you have single pane windows you will notice a huge difference in getting low e windows instead.  

  • Next check heating and cooling systems. Use programmable thermostats and consider upgrading or repairing your systems if they aren’t working properly.  

Here’s something interesting, is this a myth or fact? Eco friendly products are more expensive than non eco friendly products.  

Myth! While that was true for many years, The fact is that costs have come way down in recent years due to increased supply, competition and technology advancements!  So if you haven’t checked out smart technology you should!  They offer more control and convenient use of the systems in your home, from climate control, security systems and lighting systems, smart technology can even control your window shades, entertainment, and even your appliances!  Samsung has a new refrigerator that has smart technology in the door, it allows you to play music, order your groceries online, look up recipes and more. pretty cool!  

  • So those are things you can do inside but you can use less energy outside your home by switching over your landscaping to more native plants.  Have less grass so you don’t use as much water.  

  • Use irrigation timers and drip systems  

  • And of course you can install solar panels.  

  • And if you are doing a huge remodel, or replacing the roof or siding, you might consider doing a deep energy retrofit at the same time. You’ll need to hire a professional to assess your particular needs, but they will likely test the pressure of your home and see where energy leaks are.  Seal those up and insulate, upgrade your HVAC systems and install energy generation systems like solar, but doing it can have big payoffs like 50-90% reduction in your energy costs!  

#10 Wellness Features & Amenities 


Homes that are designed to meet today's healthy lifestyles support our wellbeing in a variety of ways.  designing a home for wellness contributes to a desire to stay in your home for years to come because it just feels good.

Featured listing in Rancho Santa Fe, CA


 Features and amenities can be quite interchangeable terms, but I like to think of Features as the intangible things that make our homes more enjoyable to live in.   Things like site orientation to promote energy efficiency and comfort,  positioning trees to promote shade, having rooms that flow and promote social interaction like an outdoor living space, spacious master suite or an amazing view are great examples.

Amenities are things that you can add in to your home for enjoyment, like sport courts, pools, outdoor kitchen, fire pit, hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, spa bath amenities, an outdoor garden, you get the idea.  Even the home maintenance and energy efficient systems we talked about earlier end up being added features and amenities to your home like a new water filtration system or smart home automation.   There are also lots of ways you can add furnishings and other accessories to promote wellness, like game tables, furniture layouts that promote conversation, even buying appliances like a Vitamix or juicer promote healthy habits in your kitchen! Incorporating wellness amenities into the home are an added benefit for all of the occupants. These are the items that make it easy for you and your family to lead the healthy lifestyle you desire.  And it’s great news if you already have lots of these things in your home because now you are aware of why you enjoy them so much and you can start thinking of ways you can easily improve the enjoyment of you home!  Because that’s actually good for your health!   OK so just to recap:  The focus of a GREEN Home is sustainability and energy efficiency.  The focus of a Healthy Home is family well being and may have many GREEN features. A Wellness Home is simply a Healthy Home with a lot of extra wellness features and amenities added in.  The 10 basic principals of a Healthy Home are:

  1. clean home

  2. dry home

  3. ventilated home

  4. safe home 

  5. toxic free home

  6. well maintained home

  7. pest free home 

  8. well lit home

  9. energy efficient home

  10. a home with wellness features and amenities 

I hope this brings new awareness and understanding between the differences and overlap of green, healthy and wellness homes so that you can get started on developing a more healthy living environment for you and your family.    

Click here for my FREE Downloadable guide to looking for a Healthy Home.


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