Wildfire season is here, and homeowners are doing their best to protect their property and loved ones. However, even those who are not directly threatened by wildfires can be affected by wildfire smoke. Things such as keeping your home tidy and staying on top of air filter replacements can help to reduce the effect of smoke in your home. Read on to learn how you can keep your home and family safe during wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest and surrounding areas.
SEE ALSO: How to Clean an HVAC Filter
A true-HEPA air purifier will remove harmful contaminants from the air in your home, reducing the chances of respiratory-borne illnesses, asthma attacks, and seasonal allergies. Wildfire smoke consists mostly of fine particles between 0.4 and 0.7 microns, so a regular filter will not be as effective in weeding out those smaller particles. When you first turn on your air purifier, let it run for an hour to quickly clear the air by running all the air in the room through the filter four to six times. Then, you can run it on low or automatic to maintain the cleanliness of the air. Most air purifiers are almost silent, so there is no need to worry that a noisy motor will distract from your everyday life.
A good HVAC air filter will protect you from most of the smoke in your home. Air filters are rated on the MERV rating scale, or minimum efficiency reporting value, which measures how well a central-air filter will remove particles from the air. The higher the MERV rating, the better it removes contaminants. Lower rated filters capture only pollutants visible to the naked eye, but not finer particulates like smoke. You’ll need to change your filters more often during the wildfire season because filters get dirty quicker. Ensure that your air filter doesn't look dirty, and there is no degradation of airflow; otherwise, the air filter will not clean your air properly.
We all know how regular cleaning can fall to the wayside when life gets busy, but families should make the extra effort to stay tidy during wildfire season as smoke enters their homes. Fine smoke particles eventually settle onto surfaces such as floors, furniture, and more. Try damp mopping your floors instead of vacuuming, which can blow the particles back into the air. They can also settle onto your clothes, skin, and bed. Change clothes when you have spent time outdoors, especially when there is smoke outside, and wash your sheets more often than usual. It can also help to take a shower before you go to bed. After wildfire season is over, clean everything and change all your filters.
While outside air usually contains fewer contaminants than indoor air, during a wildfire, the opposite is true. Prevent smoke from entering your home by closing windows, minimizing entrances and exits through exterior doors, and using a double door configuration (like a garage) to act as a barrier to smoke entering your home. If air is leaking in around windows and doors, use caulking supplies to seal any gaps or, if you do not have the right materials, put towels in front of the door and use tape to try and close them in the short term. When caulking, remember that you need to seal from both the inside and outside and use different caulk for the interior and exterior.
While we hope that your family never has to evacuate your home, it is better to have a plan to prepare for the worst. Emergencies tend to make people panic, and knowing what to do beforehand can make the situation less scary for your family. Create an evacuation plan that outlines an emergency meeting location outside of the hazard area, several escape routes from your home and community, plans to evacuate pets and large animals such as horses or cows, and a designated friend or family member who lives outside the area and can act as a point of contact among family in case of separation.
It is a good idea to assemble an emergency supply kit for each family member using recommendations from the American Red Cross, and keep a kit in your car if you are away from your house when there is an emergency. Keep a list of emergency contact numbers near your phone and in the supply kit, and use a portable radio or scanner to receive updates on nearby fires. Your family should know where your gas, electric, and water main shut-off valves are located and how to use them.
At Bob’s Heating & Air Conditioning, we provide reliable indoor air quality systems in Woodinville, WA, and surrounding areas to help keep your family safe during wildfire season and year-round. Because when you’re home, you should be able to breathe easily. Call us at 800-840-3346 or contact us online to learn more about our current services, products, and promotions.