After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, public attitudes toward viral and bacterial infections have been altered forever. The ease with which the novel coronavirus is transmitted -- not to mention its fatal effects in half a million cases -- has conveyed a whole new appreciation for personal and household hygiene. The very fact that COVID is transmitted by asymptomatic carriers, many of whom are unaware of their epidemiological status, intensifies this concern. While public protocols (masks, distancing, hand washing) are helpful, homeowners look for ways to sanitize their immediate environment so infection is not spread among family members.

By the end of 2020, sales of disinfectants reached four and one-half billion dollars, a leap of 30 percent over the previous year. Indeed, public transit agencies like New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority spent nearly half a billion on decontaminating surfaces in trains and buses. Clearly, worry over contracting the virus has taken a financial toll. An advantage for homeowners is that they can incorporate touch-free fixtures and functions in order to minimize the risk of passing COVID on to family members and visitors. The really good news about this technology is that it applies to any contagion, not just the coronavirus.

Motion Sensors

Motion sensors work with lights and with plumbing. Many are familiar with security systems that utilize these to activate exterior lights when a person -- or animal -- approaches the house. They are also used in commercial buildings to conserve electricity, i.e. after a period of no movement, lights in a room will be turned off until it is again detected. These kinds of sensors operate on passive infrared technology that perceives a difference in temperature between a human body and the rest of the room or office. Meanwhile, other systems adopt microwave radiation to detect a change in radio frequencies when there is activity in a space.

Plumbing fixtures likewise benefit from no-touch technology, conserving water and protecting users. Here a solenoid valve opens and closes at the direction of the motion sensor, which is most often located at either the lip or base of the spout. As soon as hands, dishes or utensils are removed from a kitchen sink or wash basin, the valve immediately shuts. Toilets that flush automatically also employ these devices. Such enhancements are energy-saving, economically efficient and, for our purposes, help to create a more sterile environment as far as bacteria and viruses are concerned.

Treated Surfaces

Anti-microbial coatings and laminates promise to neutralize viruses on walls, counter-tops and doorknobs. Organosilanes are substances possessing a silicon base that creates a caustic and unwelcoming surface for viruses and bacteria to inhabit. Other chemical entities that destroy coronavirus-like organisms include quarternary ammonium compounds. Occasionally called quats, these are found in numerous spray disinfectants and are in widespread use in the food service industry. These can also be found in laminates on table and counter surfaces. At the same time, robot vacuum cleaners and wet vacs allow people to keep their distance from any floor contamination.

Smart Home Connections

Smart home technology, at its core, involves coordinating house functions without direct personal interaction. Connecting personal devices to appliances and fixtures allows for any number of efficiencies. Programming lights to function according to a pre-determined schedule is but one innovation. Remotely activating dishwashers and laundry machines from the smartphone is another. Other wireless applications embrace doors that will lock according to the command of a device operated offsite. Not only efficient and convenient, but such improvements also diminish the need for physical contact with household equipment. They also fortify home value.

Pre-COVID, many of these treatments might have appeared to be luxuries. After the pandemic, more people can see the value in lessening the exposure to any residual infectious disease that may remain on surfaces and fixtures. For the sake of home value and marketability, these enhancements become urgent.