Rituals and care for the family regulate the fresh air in our homes

When we open the kitchen window in the morning, it is not the random event it might seem.

A new qualitative study carried out in Denmark shows that rituals, care and the need to be in control regulate when and how we let fresh air into our homes. The study was made for the VELUX Group by the Danish anthropologist Bettina Hauge.

When we open the kitchen window in the morning, it is not the random event it might seem. A new qualitative study by Danish anthropologist Bettina Hauge indicates that airing out at home is a highly ritualised affair, involving care for our families and the need to be in control.

Bettina Hauge's study – Anthropological study and analysis of the importance of outside fresh air in the home - commissioned by the VELUX Group, concludes that letting in fresh air from outside is particularly important to us in our homes in the transition periods of everyday life – when we get up in the morning, come home from work, return from holiday and with the change of seasons.

Our behavioural patterns vary according to the season and according to the uses to which we put our rooms. And for many people, these rituals or everyday habits give a mental picture that the house lives and breathes and is inhabited. The sociological study shows such mundane practices of life as airing out the home with fresh air are predominantly controlled by habit.

"The study gives unique insight into the habits and needs associated with airing out a home. This is knowledge that can be out to progressive use by the whole building sector in constructing or renovating buildings so that they meet user needs for self-control of the indoor climate," says Per Arnold Andersen, architect and manager from the VELUX Group.

We show we care with fresh air
Inadequate ventilation causes illness; airing out also removes unwanted smells from our homes, such as the stale air from the bedroom and bathroom. The study shows that by controlling and regulating the intake of fresh air into our homes, we feel we are showing care for our families at home because we can make a difference to their general health and wellbeing – we make sure that our children smell fresh and get fresh air.

According to Bettina Hauge, whilst the home is the framework for family health, it is also a set of odours that indicate who we are and how we would like to be perceived by those who visit our homes.

"The home reflects who we are as people – and the study provides clear evidence that home owners use fresh air to signal who they are. You could go so far as to say that your home is your smell. Very few people want to invite guests into a home that smells dank, with stale air and poor ventilation; they would much rather bid them enter a welcoming and fragrant home," says Per Arnold Andersen, architect and manager from the VELUX Group.

Our sensory experience of our homes also determines how and when we let in fresh air; that is also influenced by our general need for control in a socio-cultural context – the need to control the impression we give, to control how our home smells.

The study states that homeowners focus on creating a welcoming home that always feels fresh, sweet-smelling and recognisable to its occupants. That helps give them a sense of being on control of their homes in terms of domestic health.

Finally the study reveals a difference between men and women in behavioural patterns in airing out – woman open windows and men close them.

Results of the study:

  • Airing out (opening windows and letting fresh air in and stale air out) is very habitual. Home-owners air out at particular times – in the so-called transition periods when they come home from work, return from holiday, wake up in the morning and with the change of seasons.
  • Homeowners air out because they want to be in control of their homes, the indoor climate, their families' health, the sense of cleanliness and smell of the home –Airing out helps re-duce the irritation of damp and smells from rooms such as the bathroom. Homeowners air out to create air circulation indoors to ensure the air does not become stale.
  • Fresh air allows the homeowner to influence how guests perceive the home and its smells. They use fresh air to create a set of odours that are fresh and welcoming.
  • Typically, women open windows and men close them.
  • Fresh air in the home is associated with nature and the seasons – and the pleasure of ex-periencing a fragrant breeze. Many participants in the study stress that natural ventilation via the windows gives them the opportunity to sense their surroundings and the world about them, even though they are indoors.


About the study:
The study is based on in-depth interviews with and observations of families from different age groups and different sized towns on the island of Zealand. The participants were selected by the criteria that they were house dwellers and by their age and occupation to ensure a representative sample.

About Bettina Hauge:
Bettina Hauge graduated as an anthropologist from Copenhagen University and holds a PhD in sociology. She has conducted numerous research projects in technology and human interaction, the most recent being into user-driven innovation and intelligent homes. Bettina Hauge teaches at the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark.

About the VELUX Group
The VELUX Group creates better living environments with daylight and fresh air through the roof. The VELUX product programme contains a wide range of roof windows and skylights, along with solutions for flat roofs. The Group also supplies many types of decoration and sun screening, roller shutters, installation products, products for remote control and thermal solar panels for installation in roofs. The VELUX Group, which has manufacturing companies in 11 countries and sales companies in just under 40 countries, represents one of the strongest brands in the global building materials sector and its products are sold in most parts of the world. The VELUX Group has about 10,000 employees and is owned by VKR Holding A/S, a limited company wholly owned by foundations and family. For more details, visit