It’s back to school time again (at last)! Unfortunately, that often means back to cold and flu season too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Common colds are the main reason that children miss school (and adults miss work). Adults have an average of two to three colds per year, and children have even more.” Having experienced the toughest year ever for most of us, most parents want to avoid those pesky bugs and not have their littles out of class again. Your home can help!
You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of hands-free technology, even if you don’t have it in your home. Also called hands-free, sensor, touchless or touch-free, it’s what makes the faucets turn on and off when you put your hands under them in public restrooms. It opens the doors to your favorite home center as you approach. It senses your presence and turns the lights on when you enter a room.
While many of these systems were created to save water or energy, they also reduce your contact with other people’s germs on shared surfaces, and that can reduce the number of cold and flu viruses you bring home to your loved ones.
Hands-free at home
You can add hands-free functionality to your faucets and lights too—along with other home features—either on your own with some DIY know-how or by hiring a skilled professional. Voice control is the latest way to add hands-free functionality and can be part of a larger smart home system. It is fast becoming the most popular way to improve a home’s wellness potential.
Kitchen faucets are among the most popular hands-free offerings, for good reason. They’re among the surfaces your entire household repeatedly touches throughout the day. Reducing germs there, (including foodborne varieties while preparing meat for dinner), can cut down on a lot of shared illness in a household.
Since most hands-free faucets don’t include temperature control or adjustment, voice-controlled models with that capability are the best bet for cold reduction. (There’s even one on the market that will time the CDC’s recommended 20-second hand wash cycle.)
Voice control also adds the convenience of remote measuring and easy operation when your hands are full; you can tell the faucet to pour two cups of water, or another quantity needed for your recipe without having to grab your reading glasses.
There are hands-free faucets for bathrooms too, but voice-controlled models have been slow to reach that space. (It’s likely that they will once manufacturers get past the backlog on fulfilling existing orders.)
This isn’t about clapping your table lamp on and off, but it has the same potential to light up a room or walk path without touching a switch. That too has germ-reducing benefits. It also adds safety when you can turn on a light without fumbling for a switch in the dark. This capacity will be helpful at the entrance to all of your home’s shared spaces.
Those can include kitchen, living, dining or great room, and bedrooms and bathrooms used by more than one household member. You can opt for voice control or install a hands-free “wave” activated switch at key points individually. They work similarly to the hand sensors in public restrooms, but with more style.
No one likes to think about the germs living on their toilets, but their handles are one mechanism that can be swapped out for hands-free operation to remove germ-spreading potential. This is a worthwhile fixture choice for powder rooms in homes that see frequent social gatherings, and in shared hall baths.
There’s cabinetry hardware that can open doors and drawers without touching them as well. Touch-latch openers are the easiest to add and are widely available. There are more elaborate electronic and mechanical systems available for those who are building or remodeling.
If you’re replacing any of your kitchen appliances, you can look for models with hands-free opening. Dishwashers and refrigerators are among the easiest to change—shortages notwithstanding—and both are available this way. There are some wall ovens too. As this trend increases, there will likely be a broader selection.
One of the easiest items to replace with a hands-free substitute is a soap dispenser. You can add one to each shared bathroom, utility room and kitchen sink. No installation required!
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach and the author of three books on design and remodeling, including Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness (Tiller Press, 2020).
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