man wearing mask during fire

How Wildfire Smoke Impacts Indoor Air Quality in Homes

As of early October, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reports that since 2020 started, there have been over 8,400 wildfires in California. Over 4 million acres have burned. Additionally, the wildfire smoke from all the West Coast fires combined has blanketed the region’s skies with pollution and worsened air quality for weeks on end.

Unfortunately, the adverse effects of that smoke don’t just keep to the great outdoors. The EPA reports that wildfire smoke affects indoor air quality as well.

How Wildfire Smoke Can Worsen Your Indoor Air Quality

Even though you can’t see it, smoke from a nearby fire can enter your home through cracks, joints, and gaps in your doors and windows. It can also come in through equipment that vents to the outdoors, like the fans in your bathroom, kitchen, and attic.

Smoke is made of a combination of gases and microscopic particles. The particles are what pose the biggest threat to your health, especially when they enter your eyes and respiratory system. When this happens, you can develop a runny nose, burning eyes, and headaches. Prolonged exposure to smoke can increase children’s and teens’ risk of developing lung diseases like asthma. Smoke particles can also aggravate chronic heart or respiratory conditions to a life-threatening degree.

How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality During Wildfires

If you can’t evacuate an area with extremely poor air quality due to wildfire smoke, take the following steps to help keep your indoor air clean.

  • Keep your windows closed.

  • If your HVAC system has a fresh air intake, close it, or set the system to “recirculate” mode.

  • Run your HVAC system frequently so that the smoke particles will get trapped in the air filter--and don’t forget to check your filter to see if it needs to be changed.

  • While running your HVAC system, for superior filtration, use an air filter with a MERV rating of 13 or higher--as long as your system can handle it. If you put in a filter that’s rated too high for your system, you’ll block airflow into the equipment and cause it to overheat.

  • If you want to save money while running your system, just turn on the fan instead of setting the system to “cool,” “heat,” or “auto.” That way, your system will still circulate air and trap smoke particles in the filter without using extra energy to cool or heat air.

  • Use a portable, ozone-free air purifier for problematic areas, or “scrub” the air throughout your home with a whole-home air purification system that integrates with your HVAC system.

Remember: smoke isn’t just unpleasant to breathe--it’s also extremely unhealthy. If someone in your household is wheezing or experiencing shortness of breath that’s growing worse, don’t hesitate to contact emergency services.

At Monarch Home Services, we offer a comprehensive range of indoor air quality solutions and services for homeowners in Bakersfield and throughout the San Joaquin Valley. To learn more about the benefits of improving your indoor air quality, call (800) 830-9054 or reach out to us online.

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