Home Sweet Home

Semi-detached? Terraced? Apartment? We all call somewhere home and the recent pandemic has resulted in us all becoming much more acquainted with it. After spending more time at home than at any time in living memory, many of us have focused on home improvement in some form. From getting around to painting that spare room, renovating the bathroom or installing a doorbell that connects to our phone, many of us have found joy (and a fair amount of frustration) from making our homes just that little bit better. In this Top 10 list, we celebrate the things that have added lasting positive impact to our homes.

1. The Smoke Alarm

Whilst we’ve all been subjected to the ear piercing shrill as a consequence of a piece of burnt toast, smoke alarms save lives. Introduced in the late 1970s and now available for not much more than the price of a good cup of coffee and a sandwich, these simple devices are lifesavers. Statistics from the UK fire service suggest that without a smoke alarm you are twice as likely to die in a house fire. With 140 house fires per day in the UK alone, there no reason not to install and regularly test. Sadly, way too many of us remove (and forget to refit) batteries – so if you do one thing different today, go and press the ‘test’ button to check yours is working.

2. The Vacuum Cleaner

The humble vacuum cleaner has been with us for just over 100 years and has changed the quality of our daily life in myriad ways. Benefits range from improved air quality and reduced allergens as well as significant improvements in general household hygiene (as well as countless hours of time saved). With the vacuum cleaner now becoming an increasingly coveted, robotic, app controlled lifestyle product, perhaps the misery of lugging a vacuum cleaner around will soon be a distant memory. Well, once they can do stairs…

3. Cordless Tools

In 1978 Makita introduced the first battery tool. Since then advancements in technology – especially that of Lithium Ion batteries, means that your keen DIYer has never had a wider range of cordless tools at their disposal. With considerable safety and convenience benefits and a huge range of tool options including screwdrivers and drills as well as more obscure (yet arguably essential!) products such as the cordless coffee maker, DIY has never offered so much fun or opportunity for more gadgets to purchase!

4. Smart Systems

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the concept of talking to your fridge to turn the lights on in the next room was simply science fiction. Yet as we all know, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and other Smart Systems have transformed much of our daily life. Improving safety, increasing convenience and dare we say it – providing a little fun, the Smart System is here to stay. Just make sure you don’t read 1984 when determining what Smart System to adopt!

5. Sustainable Building Materials

The fundamental building blocks (ahem) of our homes have changed considerably in recent years. The impact that our homes have on the wider environment is widely understood and both legislation and public pressure now drives us to have a lighter, more sustainable footprint. From more eco-friendly materials such as bamboo and straw bales to an increased use of recycled materials, especially plastics, our eco-consciousness is driving positive change as well.

6. Smart Heating

It’s well understood that we need to be more energy efficient. Yet most of us (if we’re honest) know that we’ve been less than efficient with the way we manage our heating systems. Thankfully, the advances in technology have led to many of us installing Smart Thermostats – enabling us to accurately control our heating systems – improving our quality of life, reducing our carbon footprint and saving money. And of course, who would choose a utilitarian plastic box on the wall in the hallway if there was an option for a device that looked more like a piece of art.

7. Youtube

Controversial – but if there’s one thing that has given people the confidence to tackle projects in their home with confidence, it’s Youtube. Despite perhaps 20 minutes of trying, your author found it impossible to enter a topic that wasn’t met with pages of seemingly credible videos about how to solve the challenge in question. The issue is – does wading through all the content to determine the best approach take longer than the job itself? Perhaps…

8. Home Security

Recent events have driven an exponential growth in the installation of security technology that makes our homes feel safer. Closely linked to the rise of the Smart System, many of us now have doorbells and camera systems linked to our phones and levels of security that were previously reserved for our laptops. With biometrics and the IOT becoming as commonplace, it won’t be long until the dread associated with losing our keys is a thing of the past.

9. The LED Lightbulb

Whilst seemingly minor, don’t underestimate the positive impact that the LED lightbulb has had. With a lifespan of up to 25 times that of incandescent bulbs, a six-fold increase in energy efficiency and much greater safety as a consequence of lower heat, the benefits of LEDs are obvious. By simply changing a traditional 60w lightbulb to an LED generating a saving of 160kg of CO2 per year, its clear than the LED is here to stay.

10. Health & Safety Awareness

It’s fair to say that many of us would shudder if we looked at some our DIY related exploits in our earlier lives. Thankfully, organisations such as RoSPA and others have progressed safety to a point where the majority of us adopt a “safety first” approach. Gloves, safety glasses, ventilation, masks -they all make a huge difference. But with the home being the most common place for accidents and approximately 6,000 deaths every year in the UK as a result of home accidents, we’ve a long way to go. Planning some DIY this weekend? Perhaps spend a few minutes thinking about how you could work safer – and hopefully avoid a trip to A&E (or worse…)

And of course, don’t forget that all important cup of tea to celebrate a good job well done...