How Should I Prepare My HVAC For Fire Season?
Smoke events can happen at any time. Your patients can prepare for fire season by taking the following steps. More information can be found in the Wildfire Guide factsheet Prepare for Fire Season (PDF) and on the EPA’s Wildfires and Indoor Air Quality website.
Before fire season, your patients should take the following precautions:
Know where to look for alerts
Direct patients to local sources for smoke and fire risk alerts and health warnings, such as air quality reports, public service announcements, and social media warnings. The most trustworthy alerts are issued by state, local, or federal government agencies.
Create a disease management strategy
Patients with heart or lung disease should be aware of the following: symptoms of disease exacerbation, medications that can help, and when to call or visit a doctor. Asthmatic patients should have an asthma action plan.
Stock up on medications and food
Having several days’ worth of medications and food on hand will assist your patients in avoiding the need to go outside during a smoke event. They should buy at least some groceries that do not need to be refrigerated and some food that does not need to be cooked in case the power goes out. Cooking, especially at high temperatures like frying or broiling, can introduce particles into the air; this should be avoided during extremely smoky periods.
Examine the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system
Patients should become acquainted with their home’s HVAC system so that they can adjust it to keep smoke out. Use of appropriate high-efficiency air filters and closing the fresh-air intake if the central air system or room air conditioner has one are important features to understand. Your patients might want to have a professional inspect the HVAC system and walk them through these features.
Most home systems employ a 1 inch thick low efficiency fiberglass filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 1–4. Replacing this filter with a medium efficiency filter (MERV 5–8) can improve indoor air quality significantly. Higher efficiency filters (MERV 9–12) will perform even better, and a true high efficiency filter (MERV 13–16) can remove up to 95% of particles that pass through it. Upgrading to a MERV 13 or higher filter can be especially important during smoky periods in order to effectively remove fine particle pollution from smoke in the indoor air.
Consider how to keep cool at home with the doors and windows shut
Patients who do not have air conditioning at home may need to purchase fans or window air conditioners as needed. During smoky periods, discourage patients from using portable air conditioners with a single exhaust hose because they can create conditions that draw more smoke indoors.
Consider purchasing a portable air purifier: Portable air cleaners are self-contained air filtration devices that can be used alone or in conjunction with improved central air filtration to effectively remove particles. Obtaining an air cleaner prior to a smoke event is especially important for patients in high-risk groups. It may be dangerous to go outside or drive during a smoke event, and appropriate devices may be in short supply. In particular, the portable air cleaner should have a high-efficiency HEPA filter and be the appropriate size for the room. California has compiled a table that categorizes California-certified air cleaners by brand, model number, and type. Their low (usually near-zero) ozone emissions and electrical safety are used to certify them. Patients may also want to consider factors like noise, which may influence how frequently they use the device.
Consider purchasing respirators
Patients should consider purchasing and learning how to use NIOSH-approved respirators (e.g., N95 respirators). They are available in a variety of home improvement stores as well as online.
Make an evacuation/relocation plan
If smoke levels are high and expected to remain high, patients in high-risk groups should consider making a plan for where they might stay, such as with friends or relatives. Organizing important items ahead of time, such as financial and personal documents, will help to expedite evacuation in the event that it becomes necessary.
Your patients can reduce pets’ exposure to smoke by including them in planning.
Are you Worried About Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) During Fire Season?
You don’t have to worry about your home’s IAQ this season if you call Superior Mechanical Services today for high-quality air conditioning service. We’re here not only during wildfire seasons but also after they’ve passed, so you can rest assured that we’ll take care of any concerns or problems while providing peace of mind knowing our team is onsite if needed in future years. As the effects of wildfire season continue throughout Northern California many homeowners find themselves feeling less comfortable due to smoke and other toxic particles that can enter through even seemingly tight structures. Superior Mechanical Services, Inc. began in 1948 as a family-owned business with a vision to provide value-minded service with a down-to-earth approach to customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. As the premier Commercial and Residential HVAC Service provider for Livermore, Dublin, and Pleasanton, Superior Mechanical can do it all, from heating and air conditioning services to boiler services, to plumbing services. Our technicians are certified professionals who will ensure every part of your project is done right using a careful checklist to guide and test each step. Contact us today for help ensuring your home’s IAQ stays healthy and clean every day of the year, regardless of the season!