Millions face hazardous air quality from wildfire smoke, including people hundreds of miles from fires. Public health officials recommend staying inside with doors and windows closed. To keep your indoor safe and healthy, follow the tips below.
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Get A True HEPA Air Purifier
HEPA filtration is the world’s most trusted way to remove harmful particles from the air. It’s why both the CDC and the EPA recommend using HEPA purification protect against smoke’s worst effects. A purifier will effectively remove smoke particles and help improve your wellness all year.
When choosing an air purifier, be sure it’s the right size for your room. Select a purifier with a max coverage area slightly larger than your room, as this figure is based on the unit’s highest fan speed. This way, your purifier can do its job effectively on a lower, quieter speed 24/7.
Avoid unproven and unsafe technology: electrostatic, PECO (photo-electrochemical oxidation), and ionic (ionizer-based) air purifiers are ineffective at removing particles. Ozone-generating purifiers are both ineffective and pose serious health risks
Upgrade your HVAC filter to a higher MERV rating
For home HVAC filters, MERV rating stands for the minimum efficiency reporting value and measures its filtration ability. An average filter has a MERV rating around 8. According to the US Department of Energy, filters with a MERV rating up to 13 can provide additional wildfire smoke protection and still be compatible with most systems.
Tighten Up Your Home
The main idea here is to keep out harmful smoke particles while ensuring you can quickly evacuate if needed. Shut off mechanical ventilation like bathroom or kitchen fans that vent to the outdoors. They create negative pressure and pull air in from outside. If your HVAC system or window air conditioner has a fresh air option, turn it off or close the intake. And if you have cracks or openings around doors or windows and your area has unhealthy or hazardous air quality areas, consider sealing openings to prevent smoke infiltration.
- Use painters tape around exterior doors and window that do not seal.
- Close your chimney flue and seal chimney openings with painters tape and plastic.
- Use wet cloths or towels to cover exterior vents (kitchen, bathroom, chimney)
Create A Clean Room, Especially If Your Home Does Not Have Central AC
According to the EPA, a clean room can help reduce your exposure to dangerous or unhealthy wildfire smoke while indoors. Here is how the EPA’s recommends creating a clean room:
Choose a room. It should be big enough to fit everyone in your household and comfortable to spend time in. A bedroom with an attached bathroom is a good choice.
- Prevent smoke from entering the room. Close windows and doors in the room, but don’t do anything that makes it hard to get out. If there is an exhaust fan or range hood in the clean room space, only use it for short periods.
- Stay cool. Run fans, window air conditioners, or central air conditioning. If your HVAC system or window air conditioner has a fresh air option, turn it off or close the intake.
- Filter the air in the room. Use a portable (HEPA) air cleaner that is the right size for the room. Run the portable air cleaner continuously on the highest fan setting if you can.
- Avoid activities that create smoke or other particles indoors, including:
- Smoking cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.
- Using gas, propane or wood-burning stoves and furnaces.
- Spraying aerosol products.
- Frying or broiling food.
- Burning candles or incense.
- Vacuuming, unless you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Dust or mop surfaces in the clean room with a damp cloth as needed to keep settled particles from getting back into the air.
- Spend as much time as possible in the clean room to get the most benefit from it. Avoid exercising while in the clean room to help reduce exposure to any particles that may enter the room.
If You Can't Get A HEPA Purifier, Make A DIY Purifier
If you are experiencing poor air quality and don’t have a purifier or are waiting on yours to arrive, a homemade purifier can help. The New York Times made one by securely taping a standard 20x20 HVAC filter to a 20-inch box fan and. They reported that it cut particulate load by 87%. That’s not nearly as good as the 99.99% possible with True HEPA filtration, but any additional filtration is better than none in adverse conditions.