23 Mar 2022

How to Keep Wildfire Smoke Out Of Your House

Wildfire Smoke

Smoke from a wildfire makes the air outside dangerously unhealthy and toxic to breathe. The dense smoke and ash can travel into our homes and make indoor air dangerous to inhale, posing high risks to occupants’ health and safety. As wood and other organic materials burn, complex gas mixtures and fine particles result in dense smoke which can negatively impact our respiratory systems. In some cases, smoke can aggravate existing chronic lung and heart diseases, even causing fatalities. The fine particles in wildfire smoke can linger in the air for weeks. Until the air clears, additional measures to purify the inside air should be taken. First, we must understand the three main ways wildfire smoke gets in.

How to Keep Wildfire Smoke Out Of Your House

How does wildfire smoke enter the home?

Natural Ventilation

Even without the assistance of wind, wildfire smoke can enter through open windows and doors.

Mechanical Ventilation

Devices such as air conditioners, heating systems, and extraction fans can draw wildfire smoke into the home.

Infiltration

Less obvious and more sinister is smoke permeating through cracks, small openings, joints, and gaps around closed doors and windows.

Protection Measures and Preparation for Wildfire

Keep windows and Doors Closed

In order to limit the amount of smoke entering your home, keep all doors and windows closed. Use fans and air conditioning to stay cool for as long as possible. Adjust your HVAC system settings to help keep wildfire smoke out. For HVAC systems with high-efficiency filters set the fan to run in order to remove smoke particles while air quality is low.

Close Outdoor Intake Damper

Close the outdoor intake damper or turn the system to recirculate mode. Window air conditioners should also have their outdoor air damper closed. The seal between the window and the air conditioner should be as tight as possible.

Portable Air Filter and HEPA Filters

Think about buying a portable air cleaner or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. This will help to improve indoor air quality and purity. A portable air cleaner should not produce ozone (toxic gas). Avoid using single hose portable air conditioners in smoky conditions as these bring more smoke indoors. Double hose portable air conditioners should have the seal between the window vent kit and the window as tight as possible. Portable air cleaners should run regularly on the highest fan speed possible.

Avoid Evaporative Coolers

In smoky conditions, more smoke will seep indoors if you use evaporative coolers. Furthermore, more fine particulate matter is created indoors when frying foods, vacuuming, using gas, smoking, burning candles, and using aerosols. Therefore, you will want to avoid any of these activities.

Act Fast

If the smoke from a distant wildfire has spread to your neighborhood, the amount of smoke that could reach you may be overshadowed by local sources of particle pollution which is another health risk. A further danger is that dense smoke impairs visibility and can result in disorientation. This, combined with the difficulty to breathe, may result in the inability to find your way to safety if stuck outside. In cases where the fire is very close to your house, evacuation may be best, as the wildfire can spread rapidly. Carefully monitor local emergency alerts to evacuate if there is wildfire danger in your area.

Additional Reading: Wildfires and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

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