How To Use Your HVAC System During Fire Season
When a fire threatens your home and community, your first priority is obviously the safety of your family. Pay attention to public health messages on local radio and television, and if they advise you to evacuate, do so.
The radius of affected households, on the other hand, typically extends well beyond the immediate path of the flames. Smoke from fires wreaks havoc on air quality, creating toxic conditions that can make you or your family members very sick. Although healthy adults can usually tolerate low levels of exposure, people with asthma, cardiovascular problems, or lung disease may be significantly harmed by smoke inhalation. According to, young children are especially vulnerable.
Check out the EPA’s Air Quality Index Forecast to get a sense of the air quality in your area, which displays at-risk areas at a glance. If their read-out for your home appears to be negative, take the following precautions:
- Stay as much as possible indoors. Don’t go outside if local advisories advise you to stay inside.
- Outside, put on protective clothing. If you must go outside, wear a protective N95 or P100 respirator mask—do not rely on paper masks, which do not effectively filter out smoke.
- Keep all windows and doors closed. Try to keep openings closed as much as possible to keep the air quality inside (more on that later). Don’t smoke, burn candles, vacuum, or use your oven—these activities will just exacerbate the problem.
Improving Indoor Air Quality Using Your Home’s Cooling Systems
When the air quality outside keeps you stuck in your home, you may be able to effectively use your home’s air conditioning and filtration system to improve the air you breathe indoors.
Change Air Filters
The first thing you can do is change all your HVAC air filters. You’ll want to get a new one because fine particles are still getting in through the roof, gaps around windows and doors- even when they’re closed! A clean filter will be able handle an increase of particulates while an HEPA type would also help if available for purchase at home. Some advanced units have ratings on their efficiency so that people know how well their environment was taken care of during testing periods too; this way everyone has more peace knowing exactly what conditions prevail where his/her house resides.
Turn on Your Air Conditioning, But Close the Fresh Air Intake
Running your air conditioner will circulate air in your home through the filters of your unit, effectively purifying the air (this is why clean filters are so important). Many units, however, have fresh air intakes. These small filtered vents typically help improve air quality because the air outside is typically fresher than the air inside. However, during a wildfire, they can cause unhealthy air to enter the interiors of your home. Close the intake damper to keep smoky air outside. The fresh air intake is typically located in your attic or ducted to the return side of your home’s central air handler.
Keep Bathroom Fans and Window Units Turned Off
Bathroom fans and window box fans commonly pull outside air into your home, so they should be shut off during a fire advisory.
With luck, you’ll never have to use this advice, but if your community receives a fire warning, using your HVAC unit effectively can filter out a significant amount of particulate matter in the air. Until then, be careful out there!
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!