Our homes can have a bigger impact on our health than we realize.

Florence Nightingale said that two of the five basic requirements for securing health in the home are pure air and daylight.

In the 1870’s, scientists discovered that daylight actually kills bacteria. Even when shining through glass (windows). So throwing open your windows and airing out your rooms on a regular basis is an age-old wise tradition.

Our bodies need sunlight to make vitamin D (for bone strength) so it’s vital we get a good balance of natural light each day.

These days we spend about 90% of our time indoors, so the quality and quantity of daylight that we receive indoors is essential to our health and well-being. We want to avoid spending too much time in low light levels.

Consider the following when choosing the placement and type of windows for an accessible home.

Window placement

Place side lights (windows) beside the front door, or all exterior doors for enjoying views, letting in extra light and viewing security when visitors come knocking.

Set windows lower in walls to allow someone in a seated position to enjoy the view and feel more connected to nature. Go one step further and install floor to ceiling windows to let in an abundance of daylight. These lower windows work well in rooms or areas where you spend the most time, such as living rooms and kitchen eating areas. Window hardware and locks should be 32in/81cm from the floor to be easily reached by people who are either seated or standing.

awning window

Casement or awning windows (see image) that use a crank for opening and closing are a better choice than double-hung windows for ease of use. Sliding windows are also a good choice. Make sure all the crank and locking mechanisms are large and easy to use for all household members. You could buy automatic openers for casement or awning windows which would make them a breeze to use, but the mechanisms are expensive. TIP: they may be useful to install on a few key windows, however.

I lived in Switzerland for many years and they have the most fantastic casement windows (and doors) that tilt-open inwards. The beauty of them is that they;

  • are easy to clean on both sides
  • don’t get damaged by the weather when open
  • do a great job in keeping the weather out due to the inward tilt
  • are secure when open
  • have lever style handles which are easy to operate
  • shut tightly for energy efficiency.

Check out the tilt and turn windows here.

Bedrooms are required by the B.C. building code to have a window that can be used as an emergency exit. You could take this one step further and install a glass-paneled door leading to an accessible and covered outdoor area. This adds to the safety and comfort of the rooms’ occupants and could increase the light levels in the room significantly.

Don’t overlook skylights as a great way to bring daylight indoors. They work well in vaulted ceilings and hallways and at front doors to light up more confined areas where windows are not possible.

Choosing the best windows for you

The best way to determine which windows are easiest for you and your family to use is to go and test-drive them in person.

There are many local manufacturers who should have a well-stocked showroom with all their offerings. Try out the locking and opening mechanisms and decide for yourself if you prefer a casement, sliding or the tilt and turn window.

The decisions won’t end here however, as you will then need to decide between vinyl, aluminum or wood windows (or even a combination). The window manufacturer will be able to answer your questions on this.

Action plan

As with any good decision it pays to take your time and think through your options. Don’t rush into anything.

In order to choose the best location for your windows; look at your house plans and determine where your furniture is most likely to go. Doing this the other way around may lead to compromises in the accessibility of your homes’ interior.

So which windows could be replaced in your home that would increase your enjoyment of being indoors?