Coronavirus Sparks Huge Demand for Clean Home Technology Innovations

Vital Vio
  • A recent survey finds that homeowners are looking for new sanitization tools and a majority are willing to pay more to either rent or live in homes with automated cleaning technology.
  • Homebuilders including Taylor Morrison and M/I Homes are rapidly upgrading housing technology as a result of Covid-19, currently without added cost to owners, which includes touchless faucets, antimicrobial LED lighting and door knobs, and new air ventilation and filtration systems.

The coronavirus pandemic is altering every aspect of how we live, especially what we want from our homes. Beyond design and space, housing cleanliness is now paramount. New technology that claims not just to clean, but sanitize our living spaces, is in high demand.

"Everybody has the spotlight on these germ problems right now. A lot of germ issues were here before the coronavirus and, unfortunately, people are taking a harder look now at how are we really investing to make cleaner and safer places," said Colleen Costello, CEO of Vital Vio, an eight-year-old company that specializes in antimicrobial LED lighting.

Its technology uses visible light to alter the action in cells of bacteria, mold and fungi — but not in those of humans, pets and plants — provoking a toxic reaction within the cells that leads to death.

Vital Vio's lighting goes into various other products, like Ellumi brand's under-cabinet lighting and Wisconsin-based maker of residential ventilation systems Broan-NuTone's antimicrobial ventilation systems. Vital Vio's lighting does not specifically kill coronavirus, but better air circulation and filtration can inhibit contagion. Consumers seem less concerned about killing the virus and more concerned about creating the cleanest possible home environment.

"A lot of the customers that we have are not using a single tool, they're using a variety of different tools, whether it be different light spectrums, different traditional cleaning chemicals and things along those lines," said Costello. "It's really an ecosystem that if you can help drive down the overall organism growth environment, you're doing better off to make it inhospitable for other things to grow in those spaces."

Since the pandemic began, Broan-NuTone has seen a jump in online sales and is now stocked at Home Depot. Vital Vio's Costello says inquiries at her company are up 40-fold since the pandemic began.

National homebuilders move quickly on clean tech

Some of the nation's biggest homebuilders are paying attention. Vital Vio technology will soon be in Ohio-based M/I Homes, specifically the Broan SurfaceShield ventilation system. It's basically a room fan that incorporates Vital Vio's antimicrobial light, thereby cleaning the air as it passes through.

Arizona-based Taylor Morrison recently introduced "TM LiveWell," a new initiative offering consumers, "in-home products for safer and cleaner living," according to a company release. It is also going to start putting SurfaceShield into its new homes. 

"Consumers are consciously aware of the health benefits and perceived risks in virtually every environment they're entering today — stores, schools, planes — so naturally, they're just as tuned in to the health of their homes," said Sheryl Palmer, Chairman and CEO of Taylor Morrison. "Our focus on cleaner air and water and less exposure to chemicals is only the beginning."

In addition to the air filtration, Taylor Morrison is also installing touchless faucets from Moen to help control the spread of germs.

Moen touchless faucets are among the clean home tech innovations that while not specifically created for Covid-19, have added appeal now.
Moen touchless faucets are among the clean home tech innovations that while not specifically created for Covid-19, have added appeal now.

While the homebuilders say they are doing these upgrades at no additional cost to the consumer, a recent survey by Vital Vio found that more than half of respondents said they are now looking for new sanitization tools for their homes. A larger 64% said they would be willing to pay more to either rent or live in homes with automated cleaning technology.

Another company seeing big growth is Inox, which makes antimicrobial door handles. The products are mostly sold in Europe and Asia, but are now available on Amazon and Lowe's websites.

"Both the building product manufacturers and homebuilders have shifted their focus to touchless entry (such as ButterflyMX), one-piece products (such as AcrylX bath/showers), air quality (such as Lennox PureAir) and a wide variety of antimicrobial surfaces, including going old school with copper," according to Tim Sullivan, senior managing principal with Myers Research, a real estate data and consulting firm. "An important factor with this pivot is to minimize the impact on overall home price to the consumer."

As more of this technology is also incorporated into commercial buildings, like offices and hotels, consumers will likely want it even more for their homes. The coronavirus will eventually loosen its grip on our daily lives, but it will have a lasting impact on how we live at home.

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